I've reached the chapters in the Gospels where everything begins to unravel (from an earthly perspective) for Jesus.
Even after begging God to "take this cup of suffering away" from Him, Jesus stands in the darkness of Gethsemane and feels an aloneness that surely crushed His spirit as much as knowing what was still to come.
Even after praying so fervently to have his cup removed that Luke describes Jesus' sweat as being "like great drops of blood," He faces the reality of why He came to our planet.
First, Judas shows up, greeting Jesus with a kiss designed not only to identify Him in the dark of night to the mob of men with clubs and swords but also to set in motion the beginning of the quickly spiraling end of Jesus' time on earth.
Second, Peter passes up an opportunity to acknowledge that he is one of Jesus' disciples by verbally saying, "No, I am not," when asked by a woman, "You're not one of that man's disciples, are you?" To add insult to injury Peter then joins the servants and guards of the high priest to warm himself by their fire.
Finally, Jesus is slapped across the face by a Temple guard as He attempts to respond to their questions which are designed to find a reason for killing Him.
Nothing about what I read this morning is pretty.
Nothing about what I read this morning makes me feel a sense of hope, peace, or promise.
Nothing about what I read this morning makes sense to my human mind.
I read cringing at the thought of anyone betraying Jesus, denying Him, or slapping Him across the face; and yet, I know deep inside that I have been guilty of all three from time to time in my life.
I've been Judas.
I've been Peter.
And I've been the Temple guard.
My sins aren't as blatant as theirs most of the time. Sometimes that makes it even more difficult to feel the guilt I should feel.
But I know that without Him, there's nothing pretty about me.
There's no reason for hope, peace, or promise when I leave Jesus alone in Gethsemane.
There's nothing about my life that makes sense when I try to walk through even one day without Him by my side.
I'm just living............
And "just living" isn't really living at all.
So, as a reader of the events that lead up to Calvary-
events that remind me so much of what Jesus faces every day in a world that so often betrays, denies, and slaps Him,
I find myself facing the nothingness of that night in the garden with a sense of urgency, wanting all this ugly to pass so that I can get to the good part.
The part where Jesus has the victory.
And yet I know I'm going to have read a few more days of ugly before I get there.
Knowing this reminds me that in life there are going to be times where facing the ugly is not an option in order to get where I need to be.
Life gets ugly.
Life gets hard.
Life gets complicated and painful and sometimes it just doesn't make sense..........
we have a reason to not stop turning the pages of life, even when they hurt, if we just keep reminding ourselves that ultimately Jesus is going to win.
He has gone before us, conquering death and paving the way to eternity.
Because of His willingness to face the ugliness and the loneliness of the days leading up to His resurrection, Jesus once again modeled for us how to live in the midst of difficult times.
He didn't run.
He didn't complain.
He didn't question.
Today, you may be facing a very difficult day.
You may feel the ugliness of this life or the loneliness the devil loves for us to feel. I believe one of satan's biggest tools is discouragement, and today you just might feel discouraged.
If you find yourself in the darkness of a modern-day Gethsemane where even your closest friends feel far away, I want to encourage you to do what Jesus did.
Pray, trust, and persevere.
Victory is on its way.
Turn to Jesus with all your hurt and know that He understands more deeply than any earthly friend could anyway.
He walked the road you are walking so that He could be trusted with your pain.
My reading this morning didn't have a happy ending.
It ended with the words,
"Then Annas bound Jesus and sent Him to Caiaphas, the high priest."
With those words, I know that more pain is coming, more ugly moments.
And sometimes in life we take a deep breath and realize that happy endings aren't always quick and easy.
We long for them just like children reading fairy tales.
I think God instilled in all of us a longing for words like "happily ever after," because He created "happily ever after" for all who accept His Son.
But reaching that place often requires battles with bad guys and betrayal and loneliness.
So, this morning I challenge you to remember this,
HAPPILY EVER AFTER IS COMING FOR ALL OF US!
Until then, face your story with the courage of the Hero of the greatest story ever told.
And know you are loved with an everlasting love by Him who wrote the story......in which you are playing a beautiful role.