Daily Resurrection Power this Easter Season:
Day 2- Witness
One could hear the sound of their voices before they reached the watchtower. The boy there was dozing as usual. The rise and fall of the interchange and laughter between friends was soft on the night air. Their voices were familiar to me for they often came whenever they were in Judea. They would meet to sit and talk beneath my branches and then go up to the Mount for prayers.
His conversations were different from most. He addressed the Holy One as “My Father” in a way that made me know that it was true. Though the Father He spoke to, never showed Himself I was sure He was there that night. Somewhere just beyond the shadows cast by the moon through my thick foliage.
There had been a stir about Nazarene. He was accustomed to keeping watch among us in the garden—Gethsemane, the oil press. Sometimes He would crouch in my shade, leaning His back against my side as a sigh escaped Him, as if He carried the weight of the world and there was no one to support Him. I lent Him such strength as I could but I never saw Him before or after like He was on the last night He came.
He paced, seemed agitated. Sometimes wringing His hands. He even rebuked those friends who came with Him, but only once.
“Could you not even keep watch with me one hour?”
They seemed ashamed. They had all been feasting. They roused up for a little while before the effects of their wine and supper outran their best intentions and they drifted off again. Their heavy breathing mixed with the night air.
It was Pesach. Passover, the night of the lamb. In the distance a cur howled as it roamed about under the cover of dark alleys in search of some reward. The rest of the city was filled with the sound of the Feast. Reminiscence hung on the atmosphere. Jerusalem picked up her glittering skirts and tripped backwards in time. She was gathering her children as a hen her chicks. She bore them back retelling the great deliverance. That night they all remembered. Around every Pesach meal they were resettled for a moment along the banks of the Nile in Egypt, the old fathers repeating to their children what the Lord had done. They were in Goshen. And while Egypt fumbled in darkness, Israel had light.
The blood of the lamb freshly struck on post and lintel as midnight approached, Jacob’s children prepared for Exodus. Their time of escape had come. The time of going out from bondage amidst the sounds of the cry of the firstborn of their captors.
The Man lay prostrate on His face at my feet. Once He reached out and took hold of my roots for His anchor, as if the floor of our garden were a ship tossed and I might keep Him from falling away into a great storm.
I would have held Him had I arms that could reach around Him. His friends slept. He cried out. His head was wet with passion and tears and once when He raised His troubled brow, I saw that He was red. Sweat drops of His own blood covered that graceful countenance. Drops of it fell on my root and soaked into the earth where I was planted.
I had heard His words the many times He came here with His own before that night. Right words. Words of Life. Words of promise. Word of God. He cried out in anguish. What could He be so troubled for?
“If it be possible let this cup pass from Me!”
He was wrestling against powers, malevolent spirits that swirled about us in my garden. They pulled His strength from Him. I wonder if His slumbering friends could have helped at all except that, had they even sat with Him sympathetically, awake, He might have been supported some.
Before, when He used to come here with His friends, He was only ever gentle and assuring. And I was witness to His wisdom. I had seen His joy. But on that night He had none. When His blood burst through in drops upon His brow I wanted to put my branches down to lift Him up. I would have bent against nature if I could have—to give Him strength from my reserve. I would have lent Him oil for the pressing He endured. His heart was an olive. His blood and sweat were crushed beneath the millstone. He was being pressed out and it seemed that I was groaning, too.
I longed to wake those other men and draw them to His side. But then the angel came and strengthened Him. It was a most wondrous sight. The shining creature, strong and mighty, direct from heaven as its aide. But gentle, bending soft and low the shining creature came. Like a mother over her child and whispering to Him things that went down deep as other food and wine. Then earth’s Warrior brightened. He sighed and low I heard Him speak again to His Father.
“Have Your way and do with Me that for which I came.”
The vanguard came with torches, swaggering and threatening Him as if He were some formidable foe. They were armed to the teeth as if coming for a thief or murderer. They were afraid. The sleeping boy in the tower awoke and ran away without his clothes.
They didn’t know which one it was that they were looking for. But then one of His, a friend that used to come here with Him, stepped out from the midst of the armed men. The bleeding Watchman rose up from where He had been praying as His former friend came toward Him. The Watchmen took him in with clear eyes.
“Rabbi!” the betrayer exclaimed, stretching out his arms in greeting as if he had not seen Him for awhile. And then he greeted Him with a kiss. In return the blood-sweated Man said something that I could not hear. And turning He addressed those soldiers.
“I am He. I’m the Man.”
If I’d had a voice like them I would have laughed out loud as those armed men fell down when He spoke. They were like thugs, like beasts of prey compared to Him. They bound His hands and took Him from the garden. And He resisted not a bit.
Then a strange silence settled over the garden after He was gone. His friends had all fled. The yellow torches danced slowly across the Kidron and up the hill to the High Priest’s palace. Their light outlined His dark head and broad shoulders as the mob climbed up with Him as their prisoner.
I didn’t see Him again after that. He never came to me anymore to keep His watch and pray. Some time later others that seemed to know Him came. They sat in huddles at my feet whispering about what had taken place. His fate had joined Him to another tree outside the city gates. There, they told one another, He had been hanged up as a traitor. And on that other Tree, they said, He died.
That was the night Heaven wept, and the earth around the garden opened, up and down the valley where the graves are. They said the Temple veil was rent in two from top to bottom. And they said the friend who came and kissed Him embraced a tree of his own doing down near the Potter’s Field—the Field of Blood.
A few of us remain here in our garden now. Though bent with age we still keep watch over the ancient city just across from the gate He once rode through in triumph. It is sealed now. But they say He will come again riding through it like a King. We still give our olives to the press. And our oil still gives light in darkness.
I still remember the look of Him on that night last. I still hear the sound of His praying, the night of keeping watch when He clung to me. The night He cried, “My Father!” That night His blood was sprinkled on my root.
Spiritual conflict involves human agents in one way or another. Our biggest vulnerabilities are often connected to those we love most. Their weakness, or ours, may give the enemy a place to stir up trouble. This can devastate families, churches, businesses, and even nations. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood (see 2 Cor. 10:3). But really good people can be conscientiously committed to really bad ideas or involved in really bad things. This aligns them with the forces of darkness and it affects others. A glance at human history shows the world is full of examples of persons whose ideology or work became a force of evil. Christians are to be warriors of light. Jesus said we overcome evil with good that comes from Him. The cross is the ultimate mechanism for the defeat of satanic forces. It reconciles humanity to right relationship with God. Through the cross we love our enemies and pray for those who misuse us. Love is a powerful opponent of evil. Forgiveness is love in action. Ultimate forgiveness is the glory of God shining from the cross. There the Just One forgave the unjust. “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Col. 3:13 NTL).
From our family to yours, may the blessings of Easter surround you this season. HE IS RISEN!
This Easter meditation series is excerpted from The Power of the Cross: Epicenter of Glory. Click here to order your copy online.
Mahesh and Bonnie Chavda, 4/5/2017