It was in the garden where he talked to his Father.
‘Abba,’ he said, which is to say, ‘Daddy.’ ‘Daddy, I know you can do anything. And I know you can take this away from me. This cup. I know you can take it away. It’s too much. Too bitter. Too awful. Daddy. Please, Daddy, please take it away. This is what I’m asking. Even so, Daddy, this is what I want. But what I’m really asking is for what you want.’
It was a real prayer, as real as they get, so much that Jesus, we’re told, sweat drops like blood.
One wonders about the Father, the Father who was silent, the one who had previously burst through the clouds to say how proud he was of his Son, but now quiet. How hard it must have been to keep that silence. Even the most human of us aren’t very good at watching our children suffer. We’d rather take the pain ourselves. I know it’s true.
My little boy, Jon, once fell and cut his forehead open. There was so much blood that one could no longer tell the colour of his clothes. I came across it all at the end of one warm and sunny school day, at the school’s nursing station, where everyone from the nurses to Jon’s teacher to the school principal was working on him, my boy, this blood-stained little six-year-old.
I rushed him to a Kampala clinic where the doctor suggested either a general anesthetic in the shoulder, which would put Jon asleep for a while, or a local anesthetic to the forehead, at the gash, so he could close and sew the wound.
Jon, naturally, wanted it in the shoulder and I couldn’t help but agree. Until I made a phone call to my doctor wife — she was out-of-country — and found out that this African clinic didn’t have the resources or know-how to deal with the situation if Jon was slow to wake up from this anesthetic, Ketamine, that this particular drug that would have put him to sleep was, in fact, risking Jon’s life.
So it had to be, just had to be, the other, the local, the horrible needle in the forehead. And there was Jon on the table looking up at me in terror knowing what was about to come, knowing the pain and the horror that was now descending, and I’m now holding Jon tight on the table so the doctor can hit the right place at the wound and Jon is screaming ‘No Daddy! No injection! No Daddy!’
It may be the worst father-son memory he and I will ever have. Maybe it’s also a small shadow of what happened in the garden in that moment of very real human fear, that moment of the Son saying, ‘No Daddy! Please Daddy. No!’
My son survived without complications. A faint scar on his forehead, a scar that is covered by his hair most of the time, is the lasting reminder of what was this, our always-remembered father-son moment.
Less than 24 hours after Jesus cried in the garden to his Daddy, he was dead. Holes in his hands and feet, an open gash in his side, and, not long after, a new and lasting body are the lasting reminders of what was this, their always-remembered Father-Son moment.
This, the horror from what we now call Good Friday, is what we celebrate. None of it was good. Yet it was all good. Because it came from that prayer, the only prayer that any of us have, really, the garden prayer that lays down everything we ever wanted, or thought we wanted.
Without it, the hope of the world and the hope of each one of us in the world would be lost forever.