Just One Hour
BY VICTORINA HOLDING
Having read historical accounts of the Roman crucifixion, I cry every time I think of Jesus’ dying on the cross; yet each year I purposely recount the events leading up to His death. Perhaps it’s my own way of keeping the wonder of His sacrificial death fresh in my mind. Recently, however, our Sunday morning messages in the Book of Hebrews have arrested my attention to a truth that I have not given much weight until now: Jesus Christ first lived for me. This, to me, is even more condescending than Christ’s dying for me. I have heard it said many times that it is easier to die than to live for someone else. Why, indeed, did Jesus live for you and me?
Jesus Christ first lived for me. This, to me, is even more condescending than Christ’s dying for me.
In my ritualistic recounting of Christ’s humiliation on His way to the Cross, I am now convinced that I have denied myself of the opportunity to stop and listen in on that momentous conversation in the Garden of Gethsemane – that place where the living Christ showed humanity’s need for connection in love. Love Himself displayed our need to love and be loved. A part of the chorus in J. Wilbur Chapman’s hymn, “One Day,” captures it well: “Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me.” At Gethsemane Jesus asked His disciples, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (Matt.26:40). Just one hour. That was all the Lord asked for: one little hour. The word watch carries the connotation of expecting something; something is about to come or happen. Interestingly, Christ says the word watch twice in just three verses. He wanted His disciples – His friends – to watch with Him and keep Him company. Sadly Christ’s disciples failed Him there. Even more sadly, I have not learned from their failure.
Leading up to Resurrection Sunday, Easter Week has evolved into a calendar entry that triggers different emotions: excitement, stress over a new Easter Sunday outfit and an impressive Easter Sunday dinner, spring break, and post-excitement disappointment. In a flash, the entire week is reduced to a checkmark. The more spiritual among us cannot relate to this, but some of us can. For me, a nostalgia towards traditions is not in itself sinful, but the cloak of self-gratification and pride has rendered the experience empty and depressing. Worse, the events I just mentioned have rarely brought me nearer to Jesus “that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death” (Phil.3:10).
Ah! the fellowship of His sufferings! How humbling that I, who could not watch with Christ one hour, would be given a chance to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings. I’m beginning to wonder if this prolonged pandemic and the current global upheaval might be one of those “one hour” quantities of time in history. Time is nothing to God. He is not bound by it. This, too, shall pass. In the meantime, He is telling me to “watch” with Him for one short hour. Did He not also say, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.”? But like the disciples, I have been failing Him here. Illness, weariness, doubts, misgivings, and a host of other distractions have lulled my soul into a restless drowsiness of unbelief.
God’s response to my lack of faith is usually puzzling. “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is to say, ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’” (Matt. 27:45 & 46). This much I now understand: even in isolation, in loneliness, yea, even in sickness, the Lord is with me; in fact, He was there first because He lived for me. Could I not then watch with Him one hour? Could I not then be still for this moment – this brief stretch of time?
Why ONE hour? Why not two? In math, the number 1 is indivisible; it stands on its own. Could it be that God is trying to get our undivided attention? The Psalmist admitted in Ps.119:71: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” I believe the Lord has allowed this time of affliction in our land – this “one hour” of our lifetime – to come away with Him individually and as a church to get to know Him better than ever. Forsaking all the incessant clamor and distractions, you and I must watch with Christ even as we watch and pray for His soon return. Away then with the divided life! Christ is either our All or not at all. “Take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand” (Matt.26:45). “It is finished!” (Jn.19:30). A new hour begins.
Away then with the divided life! Christ is either our All or not at all.