the obscure Easter story: before the cross

A tree in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed before the crucifixion. iStock photo, courtesy of tkachuk.

Do you ever get so behind on something you were excited about?

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have a slight obsession with anything that author Alicia Britt Chole puts out. Every single word that is posted on her page is worth sharing, reflecting, and internalizing. Several people have joined me on her 40 day Lent journey, 40 Days of Decrease. This is my second year reading through it, and I could not wait.

Enter springtime after two years of COVID. We have had sickness in our house for three weeks straight. Both of my kids were finally back in school a few days ago. Anyway, there are 40 days in Lent. Easter is less than a week away. I am absolutely stuck on day 28. I’ll let you do the math, because I’m certainly not going to.

Let me tell you what, though. Every once in a while I find a topic that reinforces to me why I felt passionate enough to write a book on how God’s ways are so backwards. And day 28 did that here for me.

We get pretty caught up in Easter, don’t we? Eggs and chocolate and springtime and baskets. I have nothing against those. But if we put ourselves in the context of the history, and not just the idea of an event, we see the truth of Jesus’ character. We see ridiculous acts of obedience that look so upside down to us. We see the darkness that truly led up to the darkest moment.

Here is Chole’s synopsis of one small, but crucial moment in the dark garden:

“John’s account of what happened after Judas’ kiss is stunning. Jesus asked the crowd who they were looking for and they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.” When Jesus responded, “I am He,” John documents that “they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6). When they recovered, Jesus repeated the question and they replied with the same answer (though perhaps with a bit more hesitancy in their voices). This time, the One whose “I am He” had leveled a mob used His voice to shield His suddenly awake disciples: “if you are looking for me, then let these men go” (John 18:8).

Peter had no intentions of being “let go” at all, let alone without a fight. Drawing a sword, he whacked off the high priest’s servant’s ear. Then Jesus healed Malachus (the man who had come to arrest Him) and rebuked Peter (the man who had risked defending Him).”

We tend to compartmentalize the pieces of Jesus, don’t we? And maybe we even dehumanize Him a little bit – like He wasn’t fully man being completely torn apart without cause.

Here’s my takeaway today: Jesus was obedient every step of the way. Not just the direction of the cross, not just the end result. He was committed to obedience in every unfair scenario that led Him to His purpose. Throughout His whole life He was obedient, but from the last supper, through His arrest and unlawful trial and everything horrendous that followed – He submitted fully to the will of His Father.

I’ve been wondering lately if we have this kind of consistent obedience. I mean, I can answer for myself and the answer is for sure not. In my heart, I feel committed to obedience and following where God wants me to go. But in my mind and my actions, am I obedient every step of the way?

In becoming the person we believe God has created us to be, do we hold grudges against those who have offended us?

As we’re headed to what we think is our destiny, do we step on other people to get there, unconcerned with what happens to them as long as we move forward?

Are we focused on creating the best outward version of ourselves, unaware of our integrity and character that God is longing to develop?

Jesus was one hundred percent committed to the process of His destiny, even if it looked like He helped His enemies and turned away from His closest friends.

Now, none of us are Jesus. Our destiny is not going to be redeeming the whole of mankind. But God promises that He does have futures for us that will bring Him glory.

Are we committed to the process that it takes to get there? God is not concerned with our end result. If He were, He wouldn’t have taught on or allowed us to wait. If He was focused solely on what we did for Him, we would surely get wherever we were going much faster. True integrity and obedience grow on our way to where we think we’re going.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Are you feeling frustrated or impatient today? Do you see your promise in front of you, and you feel stuck in quicksand, maybe taking one step forward and what feels like ten steps back?

Don’t forget: the cross was the epitome of God’s backwards kingdom. The worst moment in history doubles as our best case scenario: salvation. And yet, Jesus lived out over thirty years in momentary obedience for the sake of God’s glory and our eternal freedom.

As we lead into Resurrection Sunday, take time to reflect on on the kind of process Jesus endured for those around Him and for you. Ask God to search your heart and reveal to you where you may be attempting to skip His process and miss out on what He has for you right here and now.

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