Lessons from Gethsemane
This Passion Week is one like I have never experienced before. All of America, and most of the world, is being quarantined because of COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus. Restrictions on daily life and business have given us more time at home and more time to contemplate life and spiritual things.
Passion Week, also called Holy Week, begins with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and concludes on Easter. This seven-day period has been marked by the early church with special emphases. Palm Sunday, Holy Monday, Tenebrae, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Black Saturday are events leading up to Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
I want to address Maundy Thursday and, more specifically, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. This event is recorded in Holy Scripture by Matthew (26:36-46) and Mark (14:32-42). Jesus takes the three leading disciples, Peter, James, and John, with him to watch and pray.
Gethsemane means “oil press” or “oil valley” and was the name of a garden on the eastern bank of the brook Kidron at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus went to the Mount of Olives regularly to pray, possibly in this garden. The full moon gave them sufficient light to follow Christ and get to the particular place to pray. We know it was a full moon because of the way Easter is determined, which is the first Sunday after the full moon after the spring equinox.
The three disciples are unable to do as Jesus requested, which was to watch. They fell asleep. Jesus, however, prayed like He never prayed before. The burden he was carrying was so grievous that He would have rather been dead. The “cup” referred to is the normal figurative expression in the Old Testament for judgment and suffering at the hand of God.
The word “nevertheless” is the pivotal word. Jesus never wavered in the slightest degree in His commitment to do His Father’s will. However, He shrank in horror from the expectation of bearing all the sins of humanity. This is from one who knew no sin; one who was absolutely holy.
Imagine the utter revulsion at the thought of such pollution. Yet, this was not the worst part. Sin separates from God. The unthinkable was that the Son would be separated from the Father, not by his own sin but by the sin of others.
Gethsemane was a colossal struggle. The cup of suffering was necessary but the reward came on Easter Sunday! This is where the biblical truths strike home for us. We may struggle with overwhelming concerns and temptations. We may agonize to the point of despair, but there is no other remedy than total obedience to the Father.
“Nevertheless” is the word of surrender. It is our pivotal word as well. Nevertheless, not my will but God’s will. Nevertheless, not my way but God’s way. Nevertheless, not my . . . .