Face down

Good Friday, 2018

Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane
Heinrich Hofmann, 1890

Going a little farther, he 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.” Matt 26:39 NIV

I approach the Garden of Gethsesame with a sense of awe. That intense interaction between the incarnate Son and the Father is baffling. I wonder that any mortal mind could make definitive statements about that holy scene.

A popular painting of the scene shows Jesus kneeling, which neither Matthew or Mark depict. Both writers describe Jesus as falling to the ground, and the first adds “with his face to the ground.”

The same verb is used to describe stars crashing from heaven and young Eutychus’ fatal plunge from the third story window. It’s not a gentle action.

We don’t, in our democratic society, fall face-down before authorities to make requests. Only drawn police guns can force a perp face-plant. We certainly don’t do it willingly.

The face-to-the-ground posture is one of both utter submission and desperate pleading. It is the context for the few recorded words, “If it is possible…Yet not as I will” that point into the depths of the inexplicable Godhead relationship which lies beyond the edge of human understanding.

But even if we do not understand, our Savior’s posture should model our most penitent moments. The Creator God invites us to call him “Our Father” but his glory can and should overwhelm us.

Larry Hall

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