Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Agony in Gethsemane

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" 49 When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour--when darkness reigns."

--Luke 22:39-53

Sunday we continued our journey with Jesus through the last 24 hours of his life. On the last night of his life, Jesus, of course celebrated a Passover meal with his disciples, gave that meal a new meaning by naming himself as their Passover Lamb, and then departed the Upper Room to travel to the Mount of Olives.

Only three-quarters of a mile, Jesus would have walked down the steep slope from the Lower City of David into the Kidron Valley, and over to a place that all four Gospels agree was called Gethsemane, meaning “olive press.”

Jesus is weighed down by worry and grief. Knowing, as he does, all of his friends are going to let him down before the night is over has to bring with it great disappointment. After all, one of his closest companions is at that very moment betraying him to the Sanhedrin. Another of his best friends will deny affiliation with Jesus three times before the sun comes up. And, the rest of his closest friends will scatter, running to hide from the Temple guards and religious leaders.

Jesus has to get away to the Mount of Olives. The gospels tell us he does this often. He’s doing it again to get away and pray.

In anguish he prays to his Father. Why the agony? Well, apart from the aforementioned desertion, denial, and betrayal by his friends, he knows he’s about to be arrested. That would be quite enough to cause some agony, but it’s more than that. Jesus knows what’s coming after that as well. He knows that he’s about to take on the sin of the world. He knows he’s about to be beaten half to death, then hanged on a cross to suffocate and die, and very simply put, Jesus doesn’t want to do it.

I asked you on Sunday: Have you ever felt like God was calling you to do something you really didn’t want to do? Of course, God’s not going to ask us to take on the sins of the world and die a brutal death, but there are lots of smaller things that God calls us to. And, sometimes we simply don’t want to do them.

Well, Jesus didn’t want to go through with it. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed as hard as he could possibly pray, “Father, if there is any other way, please…” “If there is a Plan B, let’s do that. Lord, I don’t want to do this. Let this cup of suffering pass from me.”

In the Gospel of Mark (14:33), we read, “He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.” That word “distressed” is an interesting word. In the Greek, it is ekqambeo. It is a verb that means, “to throw into terror or amazement; to alarm thoroughly, to terrify.” So, Jesus, is terrified. He’s afraid of what the next few hours of his life are going to bring.

Some people are embarrassed and unnerved by Jesus’ humanity here in the Garden. They try to explain away Jesus’ anguish in the garden, because they don’t think it become of the Son of God to be afraid.

Well, not me. I’m grateful, because it’s a reminder that, while Jesus is God in the flesh, he is “in the flesh.” In other words, Jesus is divine, yes, but he is also human. Here, in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see that clearly as Jesus, in his fear and desperation, prays for God the Father to find another way..

I, for one, am thankful for that. Because if Jesus had not walked in our shoes, if he had not been truly human, then he couldn’t save us. It gives me comfort to think that Jesus has walked in our shoes and suffered the same fears, doubts, and pains we have.

So, when you don’t want to do what God has called you to do, when you are terrified, scared to death, grief-stricken and weak, know that Jesus has been there and done that...in the garden.

Pastor Michael

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