Step Into the Story

The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners Mark 14:41 (NIV)

Here’s an invitation to be creative, to use your sanctified imagination, to step into the centuries old story …

Picture yourself in an upstairs room, stuffy, with the smell of sweet lamb, bitter herbs and wine. You’re helping tidy up after the Passover meal. Stepping out of Peter’s way as he heads for the door, you watch Jesus and the disciples go, no doubt off to Gethsemane as they’ve done in the past, to relax in the olive groves and enjoy the fragrance of the spring blossoms.

You rush to finish your work. The thought of getting out of the stale confines of Jerusalem is appealing. Taking your cue from the disciples you cross the Kidron Valley in search of a place to rest (cf. John 18:1) and making your way through a garden you see a man whose body language indicates that he’s “deeply distressed and troubled” (Mark 14:33). It’s Jesus. He’s alone. You can faintly hear someone snoring, the sound drifting down to you from somewhere close (cf. Mark 14:37-41). Leaning against the gnarled trunk of an old olive tree you watch from the shadows as He falls to the ground, praying, “Abba, Father, you can – can’t you? – get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want – what do you want?” (Mark 14:36 Msg).

He’s obviously “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38) and you wonder what agony would bring such torment and despair. He appears to be utterly forsaken. His profound depth of loneliness is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. He continues on, persevering in prayer, desperate and pleading, and His sweat is “like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

These are no pious, formal platitudes. His entreaties are torturous pleas with ominous sounding words that seem to anticipate some terrible prospect. Your heart goes out to Him. His absence of consolation or comfort is palpable. It sounds like His prayers are left hanging. Deprived and abandoned He must carry His burden alone.

Flickering torchlight and the rattling of weapons causes you to move back into the deepest shadows. A detachment of soldiers and Jewish officials, led by Judas, unexpectedly materialize out of the gloom. Judas goes directly to Jesus and kisses Him (cf. Mark 14:44). The soldiers swiftly encircle and arrest Him (cf. John 18:3-12). You waste no time in leaving. As you melt into the darkness you notice a soldier grabbing a young man, a follower of Jesus wearing nothing but a linen garment. The young man struggles frantically then manages to escape by slipping out of his clothes and running off naked (cf. Mark 14:50-52). Jesus in contrast is held fast. Securely bound, He’s led away. His desolation is complete.

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