We know the story. At least parts of it. The party gathered together and ate their dinner. At some point He raised the glass and bread to make a toast, only this was not typical. He proclaimed of his soon-coming betrayal and death. In argument, His friends refused to believe such was possible. As the dinner proceeded, I would imagine that there was a certain amount of anxiety within the group. None thinking they were capable of betrayal. None being innocent. A select few were taken to a garden, quiet place to gather thoughts and rest. Only the purpose of that solitude was for strength in prayer for Him. You see… he needed it. What was coming was much worse than any would have imagined. Much darker than ever known. He needed the strength to fulfill his task…the only one that would ever matter. The select few could not even round up enough strength to stay awake to support their dear friend. That was the first betrayal, though small; they were weak and gave into their own need. The time came as the night drew darker. Soon a dispatch of soldiers came to take Him. This was the betrayal to which he spoke only hours before. Betrayed with a kiss- a kiss of honor and respect- he was handed over to the army of soldiers that awaited his arrest. He did not fight back. Instead he willfully went with them knowing that the next moments to come would…mean…everything.
His friends abandoned him one by one. They left. Some simply fled. Some hid. Some cursed. Some denied. One escaped by taking his own life. He was soon handed over to the governor who refused to give Him trial and instead sent him to the king. The king also refused finding the allegations ridiculous and unimportant. So back to the governor He went. Only this time… this time he gave in to the vicious crowd screaming for punishment. Death. So death he was granted, however painful it was. He was buried and placed in a tomb. Labeled as a heretic by some, a lunatic by others, and a rebel by almost the rest.
We know this part of the story. But what about the moments to come? The hours in between the arrest of Him…Jesus… and his death.
From the moment he was taken from the Garden, I would bet that his treatment was anything but polite. I would bet that he was chained or tied with ropes as most criminals would have been. From the Garden he was taken up the steep incline of the Kidron Valley on the side of the Temple Mount. He was brought first to the House of Caiaphas, the Temple High Priest where he held captive, in the darkness of the night in secret. Worse than any criminal. The High Priest and Pharisees were so terrified of a rebellion of Jesus’ followers that they hid him. He was not placed among the other criminals in the dungeon area. Instead he was placed in an empty cistern ten feet down further…through a hole where a grown man could barely fit through. And worse he had to have been lowered via rope. It was dark. Cold. Damp. He was alone. For hours…alone. The strength he prayed for in the Garden was the very strength he needed in that moment. Already bruised and beaten, he was now completely alone, hidden in secret.
I believe he would have continued to pray. What else would you have expected him to do in his solitude? When I sat in that very cistern three years ago, I have never felt so broken. My faith became real in that moment. I touched the walls- the cold, damp stone walls. I sat on the floor. I looked through the hole to which Jesus would have been lowered. We read from Psalm 88…
LORD, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.
I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.
You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief.
I call to you, LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you.
Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
But I cry to you for help, LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me?
From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.
Though I know this is not what Jesus’ prayed, it does show some of the aspects of his final moments, the unrecorded ones. Jesus was alone. More alone than most of us could ever or will ever know. Those moments were not recorded in the Bible for a reason, or at least I believe for a reason. It adds the loneliness Jesus would have felt. The hours unaccounted for, the pain unseen, the prayers unheard by anyone else. For me, experiencing this true site of Jesus’ captivity, completely changed me. As alone as I might feel sometimes, or as hurt, lost, empty, broken, or whatever else I might feel… Jesus knows and understands. He is not one that cannot understand what you or I go through. He gets it. He knows what you are going through. You are not alone nor are you forgotten. Jesus stands in that gap so no one will ever be alone like he was. I believe when he was alone he knew why he was alone. He knew your face, your life, your struggles. Everything he went through that evening from the dinner to the prayer in the Garden to the arrest, captivity, and solitude…and even to death, was entirely with purpose…You.