On an evening under open skies only moments before His arrest, Jesus was face down to the soil in tormented, chest-heaving prayer.
Just before the scattering of those Jesus had walked with, prior to the interrogations, floggings and the crucifixion – there was the most intense prayer ever uttered by human lips.
Love, in the hour of Darkness.
A prayer for hope on the eve of destruction. Passionate words of unity for all. A cry spoken moments before almost everyone would abandon Him.
Seeking strength between the tears of anguish, Jesus knew exactly what was about to unfold.
He knew and yet He still walked willingly into the cauldron of death. He could raise the dead to life, heal any and all human ailments – but this – this step forward; to bring an end to spiritual separation and religion was His step alone. He could see past it. He saw the hope, He saw the unity, and His vision was the victory of love just beyond this step. Jesus knew those who had walked with Him would scatter …only to be sifted for what would come next – when they would be witnessing with fire to the world.
For now, they would rebuke Him. They would flee from any claim of being associated or connected to Him. They would disown Him. And yet by the Holy Spirit they would each be reconnected, one by one, as One.
This is Jesus’ prayer:
“I pray also for those who will believe in Me…”
Future generations are seen and prayed for.
“…through their message…”
The foreknowledge that these disciples would return to tell the world.
“…that all of them may be ONE”.
He knew unity was just a breath away. That breath was His to give up, to let go of and with it – everything would come.
“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me”. (John 17:23)
Jesus prayed for unity as those He loved ran away from Him. “I do not know the man!”
Something so changed the men and women who had followed Jesus, served with Him and witnessed a ministry unlike any they had seen before. And then, to watch this Prophet, leader, Rabbi, teacher; a man who could heal with a spoken word – be killed right before their eyes…
It must have been Spirit-crushing to have it all end in this way.
Each one of those who had followed so close, and had welded their life to this man must have been asking themselves “Was it for nothing? What were we thinking?” as the reality set in.
Add to this feeling of utter loss and dissolution; the sky went dark, and a storm came. The Earth shook as if to bring it all down.
Done. Violent. Dead.
What they had – or thought they had, was lost. If there had been a fire of hope, it was now forever extinguished in a flood of blood. Snuffed out cold.
Three years of following this man, having abandoned jobs, leaving homes, letting go life goals and the very calendar of days to walk into… Nothing?!
How to deal? How to pick up the pieces and start living again a ‘NORMAL’ life.
Some left at once, as soon as the guards came to the garden with their swords. Others followed Jesus into the night of interrogation and a morning of brutal punishment. A few more watched at a distance as He was led to execution.
Only a few, three women and one man are recorded as having stayed to the end, bearing witness as He exhaled His final Breath. Everyone else had left to reassess life, to avoid being arrested, and to bash their heads against the wall in bewilderment. Why why why!
That was it. All for this. All to be taken to the wine press and crushed until the lifeblood was extracted.
On Sunday, after Passover – there was an empty tomb and the frantic news of a missing body. This news was what brought some of the group back together. Word of someone who appeared to be ‘like’ Jesus caused great trouble, and this called for a meeting.
Jesus showed up and well… when a man who was crucified, dead, and buried is standing in your midst – talking and very much alive – word is going to get out.
Disciples became Apostles. Hope was restored. Unity as One.
Love, given by Christ in His words and anointing – fueled something so radical and new, no one could keep silent. God with Us. Here. Now.
It is a common truth that when hope is dashed, we cave.
Combine the ultimate loss of hope – to have witnessed His death and then to see Him alive… It changed a group of people so much that each one would walk into fire because of it.
They did not have to.
They could have chosen to start new lives or return to what they were doing before meeting Jesus. Yet these people, humans to the very core – all set out from seeing a dead man alive again, changed and exchanged for something radical and new. It would take everything they had. It would take their very lives.
Jesus had been poured out as an offering for them to take and carry into the world
They had become containers of new wine.