Shadows gather, spilling gloom. Jesus and his disciples trudge toward the Garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus halts, the weight of the coming cross pressing heavily on him, sadness seeping from his pores. The Scriptures tell us, "Going a little farther, he [Jesus] fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will'" (Matthew 26:39, NIV).
But God doesn't remove the cup. Jesus' cross comes.
Decisions at Dawn
Long before this dark hour in the Garden of Gethsemane, at the dawn of Creation, Jesus agreed with his Father to defeat the Serpent of old by submitting to the Cross (Genesis 3:15).
Christ peered past the pain of submission to joy—our salvation (Hebrews 12:2). We're part of the joy set before Jesus. He submitted to the Cross because he knew no other way of reconnecting us to God. "The Wondrous Cross," as hymnist Isaac Watts called it, became a meeting place of relinquishment, relief, and relationship.
Relinquishment. Jesus' obedience to the Cross meant relinquishment. He gave up heaven to come to earth; he gave up earth to take us to heaven. He surrendered his deity and was encapsulated in an infant's frame, coming into this world in physical pain and likely experiencing emotional pain we'll never understand. Then, in the act that resounds like a trumpet throughout the centuries, he relinquished his will. He drank the cup. Christ released everything for our sake.
Unlike Christ, relinquishment for us means letting go of our self-will and sin. Last week, I wanted the final word in an angry exchange with my husband. After spewing one last, sharp sentence, I climbed into bed—alone. I wanted to feel better about myself, and I wanted him to feel worse.
Surrendering to the Cross that night meant relinquishing my desire to be right and confessing my ugly attitude to God and to my husband. Letting go of sin is embarrassing business.
At the Cross, we relinquish through confession everything that gets in the way of our relationship with God. When we stop blocking God's work by our sin, God releases his power in us and in our relationships, and the amazing can happen—in my case, healing and restoration with my husband.
Relinquishment and its companion, repentance, are key to living in the safe place of submission to the Cross.
Relief. Submission, says author and Bible teacher Kathi Macias, means to "come underneath in a safe place." Christ submitted to the Cross because, having known God forever, he knew intimately the safest place for him to land was beneath the Father's will.