St. Paul says that in Christ God emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. Tonight in Gethsemane, Christ empties himself even of that. He empties himself completely, pours all of himself out such that Martin Luther says when Jesus gets up off the ground in Gethsemane there’s nothing left of Jesus. There’s nothing left of his humanity.
He’s an empty vessel; so that, when he drinks the cup the Father will not not move from him, when he drinks the cup of wrath, he fills himself completely with our sinfulness.
From Gethsemane to Golgotha, that’s all there is of him.
He drinks the cup until he’s filled and running over.
Jesus isn’t just a stand-in for a sinner like you or me. He isn’t just a substitute for another. He doesn’t become a sinner or any sinner. He becomes the greatest and the gravest of sinners.
It isn’t that Jesus dies an innocent among thieves. He dies as the worst sinner among them. The worst thief, the worst adulterer, the worst liar, the worst wife beater, the worst child abuser, the worst murderer, the worst war criminal. He doesn’t die with the ungodly beside him; he dies with the ungodly in him.
Jesus swallows all of it. Drinks all of it down and, in doing so, draws into himself the full force of humanity’s hatred for God.
Christ becomes our hatred for God.
He becomes all of our injustice.
He becomes Sin.
Upon the Cross he does not epitomize or announce the Kingdom of God in any way. He is the concentrated reality of everything that stands against it. He is every Pilate and Pharaoh. He is every Herod and Hitler and Assad. He is every Caesar and every Judas. Every racist, every civilian casualty, every act of terror, and every chemical bomb. All our greed. All our violence. Every ungodly act and every ungodly person.
He becomes all of it.
He becomes Sin.
So that God can forsake it. For our sake.
They weren’t wrong to shout “Hosanna!” last Sunday. They’re all correct about what to expect next. The donkey, the palm leaves, the Passover- it all points to it, they’re right. They’re all right to expect a battle.
A final, once for all, battle.
They’re just wrong about the Enemy.
The enemy isn’t Pilate or Herod but the One Paul calls The Enemy.
The Pharaoh to whom we’re all- the entire human race- enslaved isn’t Caesar but Sin. Not your little s sins but Sin with a capital S, whom the New Testament calls the Ruler of this World, the Power behind all the Pharaohs and Pilates and Putins.
They’re all correct about what to expect, but their enemies are all propped up by a bigger one.
A battle is what the Gospel wants you to see in Gethsemane. The Gospel wants you to see God initiating a final confrontation with Satan, the Enemy, the Powers, Sin, Death with a capital D- the New Testament uses all those terms interchangeably, take your pick. But a battle is what you’re supposed to see.
Jesus says so himself: “Keep praying,” he tells the three disciples in the garden, “not to enter peiramos.”
The time of trial.
Not a generic word for any trial or hardship, it’s the New Testament’s word for the final apocalyptic battle between God and the Power of Sin.
The Gospels want you to see in the dark of Gethsemane the beginning of the battle anticipated by all those hosannas and palm branches.
But it’s not a battle that Jesus wages.
Jesus becomes its wages.
That is, the battle is waged in him.