by Sharlyn Guthrie
“Listen carefully, my children. Tonight I have witnessed a most wonderful, yet terrible thing.” The man had beckoned his children from their beds, so they sat swiping at their sleepy eyes.
“What is it, Papa?” Sarah asked, stroking his weathered hand.
“I have told you before about a man who often visits the garden. He usually enters at dusk, just as I am leaving, and goes to a secluded area to pray.”
“Yes, Papa, I remember.” Liam nodded, “Sometimes he shares his bread with you.”
“That’s right, Liam. But tonight was very different.” The gardener paused, gauging their attentiveness. “As you know, I returned to the garden after supper to sort fruit into baskets for the poor. I was sorting in the barn by candlelight, when the man came to the garden, accompanied by several other men.”
“Who were they, Papa?” Joel, the youngest, inquired.
“He called them his disciples. And tonight I learned the man’s name. His disciples called him Jesus.”
“Papa, I’ve heard about Jesus,” Sarah exclaimed, “He healed my friend Lydia’s father.”
Papa nodded with conviction. “I believe that is true, Sarah, although I might not have believed you if you had told me yesterday.”
“Tell us more, Papa.” It was Joel again, squirming with impatience.
“Jesus told his disciples to sit down by the garden gate and wait for him while he prayed. Three of the men continued to follow him. He was very upset and sad. Soon he told them to stop, but to stay alert and pray. Jesus went to his usual place, alone.”
“Did the men do what He said?” Liam interrupted.
“Yes, and no. They did stay behind. Meanwhile, Jesus fell to the ground, crying and pleading. ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, yet not as I will, but as You will.’*” Papa’s voice resonated with emotion.
Sarah looked puzzled. “What does it mean, Papa?”
“I wasn’t sure either, Sarah. But I could feel his anguish. It cut to the very core of my being. When Jesus went back to find the men, guess what…all of them were sleeping! Jesus sobbed, rebuking them, ‘So you men could not keep watch with me for one hour?’** Then He went away to pray again, this time crying, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.’*** When he returned, he again found his disciples sleeping, so he went back to pray a third time. It was then that I took my cloak to where Jesus knelt, weeping. Without speaking, I draped it over his back, and turned to walk away. As I did, his hand clasped mine. Gazing into Jesus’ mournful eyes, I suddenly knew…”
Joel tried hard to understand. “Knew what, Papa?”
“I knew that this man, Jesus, is the Son of the living God…the Messiah…our Passover Lamb.”
“That IS wonderful, Papa!” Sara rose, holding her father’s hand in both of hers. “Will you introduce us to Him?”
“No, Sarah.” Papa lowered his eyes to meet hers. “Some soldiers came into the garden and arrested Jesus only a few minutes later. They want to put Him to death. That is why Jesus was so distraught, you see. He knew that He was about to die.”
“Can’t we stop them, Papa?” Liam stood now, tugging on his father’s other arm.
“No, Liam. Don’t you see? It is God’s will for His Son to die. Even Jesus’ own Father will not prevent His death. Do you remember the words of the prophet, Isaiah? ‘…He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities...’**** It is happening now, this very night.”
“Papa, the cloak you put on Jesus…” Joel swallowed hard. “Is it the one that Mama made just before she died?”
“Yes, Joel. Apart from you children, it was my most prized possession.”
The following day the gardener watched as angry soldiers led Jesus past the Garden of Gethsemane, blood dripping from his thorn-crowned head onto the precious cloak –the gardener’s gift. Much later in the day a soldier returned carrying the cloak, boasting of his booty.
The gardener felt remorse, but only for his own sins that required the death of the blameless Lamb of God. Remembering Jesus’ tender touch and the compassion that glistened in His eyes, the gardener whispered, “It is I who received by far the greatest gift.”
* Matthew 26:39 NASV
** Matthew 26:40 NASV
*** Matthew 26:42 NASV
**** Isaiah 53:5 NASV