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They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mark 14:32-42)
As we approach Easter, I’ve been reading the passages describing the last days of Jesus’ life. This scene from Gethsemane is, for my money, the most moving of all the stories, and even as I sit down to type my thoughts on the passage, I feel like Jesus’ disciples in v. 40, where it reads “They did not know what to say to him.” The gut-wrenching magnitude of what is taking place here in Gethsemane is simply beyond words.
There are some who see the story of the cross as some kind of “cosmic child abuse”, where a vengeful Father violently sacrifices his innocent but unwilling Son in order to pay the penalty for the sins of the world. The account of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane shows a Savior who has been given a horrific taste of what He is about to experience, but chooses willingly to go forward to the cross. Look briefly at what happens in Gethsemane:
(1) Jesus’ is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (v.34) – As he comes to the Father in prayer, v. 33 says that “he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.” Jesus, who already knew that He had come into this world to die, experienced something so terrible as He came into the garden that it caused him to feel like he was dying, even to the point of sweating blood (Luke 22:44).
(2) Jesus prays that the cup would be taken from him. More than a simple figure of speech, the cup throughout the Bible is a metaphor for God’s judicial wrath on human evil and sin. Read the following passages, and I believe you will understand why Jesus was sweating blood:
(3) As Jesus turned to the Father in prayer in Gethsemane, he found not the friendly face of the one with whom He has shared blissful intimacy for all eternity, but instead he found nothing – the Father was turning away from Him, giving Him a taste of the cup He was being asked to drink. No wonder Jesus prayed that the cup would be taken from Him. His agony was not because of the physical pain he was about to endure, but because of the agony of experiencing Hell, separation from His Father.
(4) And just to drive home the truth of what Jesus was about to do – he brings his three closest earthly friends with him, just to be with him in his hour of greatest need, and THEY FALL ASLEEP ON HIM. That just drives me to tears, because it is such a picture of me. I am sure Jesus didn’t ask his disciples for much, but at this moment he wants his friends near him, and they can’t even stay awake for moral support. That just cuts me to the heart. It’s as if the Father is saying, “This is who you are dying for. Do you still want to go through with it?”
Given all of that – the cup of wrath, the loss of the Father, the abandonment of His friends, the impending physical torture – I believe Jesus still could have chosen to say “no thanks,” to abandon the mission. But here in Gethsemane, Jesus chose to go forward to the cross, willingly, to drink the cup down to the bottom for you and for me, so that we might instead drink the cup of eternal life (remember that the next time you celebrate communion). If the cross did not convince you of God’s love for you, then watch Jesus in Gethsemane. He willingly endured Hell, the cup of wrath, the abandonment of His Father, all out of love for you. Believe, as Paul said in Romans 8, that if you there is absolutely nothing you could do to cause Him to give up on you, to reject you, to remove His love from you.
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