Perhaps one of the most amazing things about Jesus is that he never really wanted to go to the cross. We read in Matthew’s account of him praying in the garden of Gethsemane before he went to the cross, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
These are not words of a man who has it all together, but rather one who had reached his limit. Not only was he overwhelmed by what was to come, but he was in need of others, friends to be with him, to watch over him, with him, for him. We find in this account a man who was limited, broken, overwhelmed, sorrowful; weak, even to the point of death.
“Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress…For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass.” Psalm 102:1-4
Have you ever felt overwhelmed to the point that you would rather die than go on living?
"I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted as those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength.” Psalm 88:3-4
Have you been to the place where your sorrow was so great, that you felt you might just collapse and be given to the earth?
“I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, who you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.” Psalm 88:5
This was Jesus in his moment of limitation. Or as described in Paul’s letter to a community gathering in the city of Philippi:
“Even though he was in very nature God, he did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!"
God limited himself by becoming human in form. Think about that for a moment. The eternal, all knowing, all-powerful God of the universe made himself nothing, taking on the nature of a servant.
Humility is about limiting ones tendency to power ahead. It is about putting things on hold that you would desire to move on. It is about taking a posture of lowliness when others around you are attempting to stand tall. It is being weak when everyone else around you is professing to be strong. Yet God himself decided to take this form, this flesh, this limited vessel.
Still we read;
“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.”
His face pressed against the cool Jerusalem dirt, he was utterly broken and was asking for there to be a different way. He was weak to the point of death, knowing that his crucifixion was at hand. He was broken and wanting another way out. In one of his lowliest states, his request was that he might not die.
Jesus was made weak. He chose to limit himself. Perhaps his weakness is about identification, his identification with us, that we might find identification with him. Perhaps part of why he made himself weak was so that we might find strength in our own limitation.
We can only see so far,
we can only hear a limited amount of sounds,
we can only touch certain tangible textures,
we can only smell certain scents.
We can only jump so high,
we can only shout so loud,
we can only remember so much.
We can only dream so far,
we can only comfort to a certain level.
We can only grow so old,
we can only be so strong,
and we can only be so good.
Part of our condition is fallen, having impure motives, doing things that bring about harm rather than good. We hurt others with our words, we hurt ourselves with how we treat our bodies, we hurt creation by how we are careless with our use of resources.
We are partly damaged, we have all been wounded and in the hurt that was inflicted upon us, we all too often turn and hurt others. Hurt people hurt other people, and though we don’t always intend it, we perpetuate this very real condition.
And so we find Jesus, though not fallen--limited, relating to us, knowing our condition, being in our skin, the suffering servant in the garden of sorrow, the humble king washing his friends’ feet, continually identifying with our own weakness, our own suffering, our own limitation.
It is in Jesus’ example and life; in his bodily experience, that we find an ever-flowing source of strength. He came to us, to relate to us, to identify with us, that in our weakness we might be made strong.
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the father, full of grace and truth…Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given." John 1:14,16