Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
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.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
It was dusk and the desert landscape was quickly changing from shadows to black night as we drove east toward the Colorado River. I was only twelve years old and had been invited to join a friend’s family on their spring break. In the light of day it seemed like an exciting opportunity, but as the sky darkened I held back tears and longed to be home with my family. Home had always been a warm and loving place filled with the people who knew me best and with whom I had shared every day since birth. When I read this passage and imagine Jesus in the garden, I am dumbstruck at what He must have felt lying on His face, overwhelmed to the point of death. I’d always thought that it was the anticipation of the cross that was the cause of His troubled heart, but I have come to believe that what Jesus smelled in the garden was far worse. I think it must have been the impending loss of home that stole His peace. Never, for even a millisecond, had He known existence apart from His beloved Father. They were One and had forever shared a perfect, blessed, loving community of three… but a time was drawing near when Jesus would experience being torn from His Father.
It strikes me that this scene is the only one I can think of where Jesus is troubled and, literally, doubled over with sorrow. Can you picture our Lord with His face to the ground? Try. It isn’t how we are use to seeing Him, but there in the garden beneath the Mount of Olives, He bends over with a desperate plea! “Father, take this cup.” He faces off with a moment of truth…a beautiful, terrorizing, extravagant, horrifying and holy moment! Imprisonment, false accusations, a thorny crown, beatings, nails, a spear, mocking, humiliation, scorn and the full weight of man’s sin await Him. THEN, the loss of His most precious treasure, the Love that had been His smile since forever…His Abba, His Dad would turn away!
“Your will, not mine.” Alone in the garden, with his friends fast asleep, Jesus prays three times that this cup should pass and, each time, submits to His Father’s will. Finally, He wakes up His friends with what looks like refreshed strength and determination, “Rise! Let us go!” He is no longer bent over in sorrow with His face to the ground. No. Jesus has been with the Father, accepted His will and now moves with faith and hope to the cross! He knows what is coming but we don’t see Him hesitate anymore. I wonder what THEY talked about in the garden. Was it us they talked about? Did their Love inspire a gift so great that the Godhead re-uped for being ripped a part in order to carry us home… so that They might become our warm and loving family for all eternity? Oh beautiful love of God!
“I can’t even fathom this kind of Love, Lord! I am grateful! Help me, Jesus, to pray with a submitted heart…to ask for what I want, but trust in what You will! Thank You for making a way for me to come home someday and share forever with You. Amen.”
What about you?
Are you in a garden of Gethsemane? Are you struggling with God in prayer over something He is asking of you?
Is there a cup you would like to pass?
Where are you in terms of the crucifixion of your will? Are you able to say, “Your will, not mine”?
Have you received this gift of love, Christ’s death on the cross, that delivers us from sin?
Can you trust in the Father’s love to deliver you home safe and sound?