Today, I am thinking about Gethsemane and the struggle of Jesus, driven face first into the ground, driven down by the weight of his burdens.
These thoughts are coming to me because of my struggles with this Sunday’s text from Matthew 26, because it is the one year death anniversary of a six-year old girl from our church, and because of a recent post by Peter Rollins.
As strange as it sounds this also led me to begin hearing in my head the 1997 Sarah McLachlan song, Angel, from her disc, Surfacing.
You know the song, a sorrowful lament, which I am suggesting, perhaps, offers us a juxtaposition sound-track of sorts for Jesus’ garden suffering.
The lyric presents the human condition -- a dark cold hotel room and the endlessness that you fear -- with its accompanying hunger for release and relief and escape...
it’s hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction
Oh beautiful release
Memory seeps from my veins
Let me be empty
And weightless and maybe
I’ll find some peace tonight
O, let memory seep from my veins, let me escape where...
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You’re in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here
In view here seems to be escape through drugs, but it could be anything, really, anything that promises a movement away from...
the straight line
And everywhere you turn
There’s vultures and thieves at your back
And the storm keeps on twisting
What the sacred texts tell us is that, so distressed was Jesus, he is driven into the ground even as he sweats blood and prays with tears for release from his calling and burden. We are told that indeed angels did minister to him, but only after he finally resigned himself to his own personal human condition -- his own personal dark hotel room -- the cross. So, instead of escaping from the hellish siren of suffering, he moves toward it. That is what was decided in the Garden.
"We see suffering as something that comes to us from the outside and therefore as something that we can protect ourselves from through medication, surgery, prayer, entertainment, worship, relationships etc. But even when we are able to protect ourselves from the suffering that comes from without we cannot protect ourselves from the suffering that bubbles silently within. We may repress it, ignore it, shout at it, bargain with it, but we cannot banish it."
And he ends with:
"It is natural for us to feel this and it is natural for us to want our cup of suffering taken away, but in the Passion we glimpse the possibility that life might only be found when we grip it in both hands and gulp it down… "
I am amazed that Jesus agreed to the cross. I am amazed that he willingly drained the cup of suffering. If we somehow think that Jesus was not afraid, that he was not overcome with dread and anxiety, then I think we somehow miss the power of the Kenosis.