A Picture of Care
As Francis Carpenter was painting Lincoln’s portrait during the summer of 1864, he saw the president’s spirits sag after news of General Ulysses S. Grant’s struggles against the Confederate army as he drove towards Richmond.
“In repose, it was the saddest face I ever knew. During the first week of the battles of the Wilderness he scarcely slept at all. Passing through the main hall of the domestic apartment on one of these days, I met him, clad in a long morning wrapper, pacing back and forth a narrow passage leading to one of the windows, his hands behind him, great black rings under his eyes, his head bent forward upon his breast — altogether such a picture of the effects of sorrow, care, and anxiety as would have melted the hearts of the worst of his adversaries.”
His heart is heavy. He will walk alone through this. What he is about to do is, for many, the greatest event in all of U.S. history. The impact is enormous. It changes the lives for thousands and thousands of souls.
All three of the synoptic gospels report that just prior to being arrested, Jesus prays on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26.36-46; Mark 14.32-42; Luke 22.39-46). It's here we find that while praying in anticipation of the events that lay ahead, our Lord becomes overwhelmed. But it's Luke's account, and Luke alone, with his emphasis as a physician on the physical maladies, where we find a curious detail: Jesus' profuse sweat became "as it were drops of blood."
“And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Why does Luke include this seemingly unnecessary detail? What was the source of His agony?
His heart is heavy. He will walk alone through this. What He is about to do is the greatest event in all of history. The impact is enormous. It changes eternity for thousands and thousands of souls.
Here we see the true picture of the effects of sorrow, care, and anxiety that should melt the hearts of the worst of His adversaries. Here we find the answer to the age-old question:
Does Jesus care?
In Mark 4 we find Jesus and his disciples traveling across the Sea of Galilee. When a violent storm threatens to destroy the boat and its occupants, Jesus somehow manages to remain “asleep on the cushion.” The disciples, frantic and afraid, wake Him and ask,
“… Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
The disciples asked what I find to be a most disturbing question. They do not ask Him to save them. They do not ask Him to stop the storm. No. They ask a question of the heart.
Are you indifferent to what is happening to us?
Are you insensitive?
Do you not care?
It’s perhaps an honest question under the circumstances. And a question even today many of us have asked. Being in situations where you feel no one cares worsens things deep within us. An uncaring Jesus cripples our faith. It may even lead us to thoughts that we are not good enough. It can usher us to feelings of loneliness and abandonment. Why worship, when God doesn't care?
I find it interesting that Jesus did not answer their question with words. No. He answered them with action. And through the stilling of the storm, He showed He cared. He wasn't going to let them die.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all are perishing. Drowning in our sins. Barely able to keep our heads afloat through the storms of life. Wondering where is our lifeline? Where can we escape the pending doom? The apostle Paul identified our state and condition before our God:
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Sin comes with a price. It costs us all that we have and all that we are. It costs us our very souls.
“For the wages of sin is death,”
So, where is our relief? Our hope in light of the indifferent stars above? What is the picture of care for those of us who are perishing?
It’s the Son of Man on the cross.
We need to recognize that the temptation not to go to the cross is extreme. Jesus is in agony. The suffering of the cross is incalculable. But Jesus is willing to suffer to save. Only our Lord, through His own deeds, can heal us from the oppression of our adversary.
"...The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil."
1 John 3.8b
How did He do this?
By coming to die. By submitting to suffering and death. By voluntarily going through the agony of the cross.
"Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried."
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed."
1 Peter 2.24
Of all the wonders God has wrought. Of all the works He has done. The greatest and most powerful of all was accomplished by means of the anguish and suffering of His Son. The deeds demonstrated by the Christ are conclusive... He loves us (Romans 8.31-39).
Does Jesus care? Oh yes, He cares.
We know our Savior cares.
The Cross is the proof.