This title suggests serenity, growth and beauty. But in the case of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was anything but that. This garden, for Him, was like the name suggests — an instrument that crushes ripened olives under the weight of a huge stone to extract their precious oil. It was there in the Garden that Jesus identified Himself fully with the burden of a world that is full of sin and evil because of what happened in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. Satan had visited Jesus before to dissuade Him from His mission, but here in the Garden it begins to reach a climax. Jesus’ soul, in this time, is overwhelmed with darkness and foreboding as He approaches the cross. He feels terribly alone and prays to His Father, that if it is possible, the cup of God’s wrath might be removed from Him.
I can’t begin to know all that Jesus came to experience in that hour of sorrow just before the greater burden that He was about to assume, but at the least it was an attempt by Satan to keep Him from going through with the sacrifice that He was about to make. So much was at stake in this hour of Jesus trial. The whole weight of the world’s salvation hung upon His shoulders. Clearly, the emotional and spiritual struggle that He had to endure was indescribable. Would He be able to do it?
Well, we know the outcome. He not only made it through that intense time of emotional suffering; He also made it through the suffering of the cross to the time of His glorious resurrection. What an amazing story of endurance in view of all that He was going through.
What this story teaches us, recorded for us in Mark 14:32-42, is that Jesus prevailed in this struggle through prayer. Not only was He praying for Himself, but it seems from John 17 that He was also praying for us. It was an occasion of His high priestly ministry on our behalf — something, according to Romans 8:26, 27, continues for us by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. What an awesome thought: Jesus. and His Spirit, are praying for us.
This story also teaches us much about the humanity of Jesus. He was in all points, tempted just as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Sometimes, I think, we forget that Jesus knows about the hard things with which we have to deal. It’s important to recognize that He identifies with us in our weakness, not only because of sin, but because of the attack of the Evil One. The words of Corrie ten Boom come to mind in which she reputedly said, No pit is so deep but that His grace is not deeper still. He’s been where we have been in our darkest moment, and He knows.
There is another thing about this story that is rather disconcerting. It is this: Jesus’ disciples missed the significance of what Jesus was going through and fell asleep, despite His request to have them pray for Him. The failure of the disciples in this regard is such a sad commentary on our tendency to be oblivious to the seriousness of the situations that fellow-believers are going through, and of the significance of our prayer for them in it. This story hi-lights the nature of intercessory prayer and the importance of it. How ironic that while Jesus is intensely praying for His disciples, and for us, they are falling asleep and not praying.
And one more lesson from this story is that everyone who becomes a follower of Jesus will likewise be called to go through similar kinds of suffering to that of Jesus. It’s important for us to recognize that as we identify with Jesus and His righteousness, suffering will be an inevitable part of our experience. It may come in the form of an attack from the Enemy of one kind or another. But, as sinners, we have the added burden of having to deal with suffering because of our own wayward ways. This is the message, in some respects, of Lamentations. What a great sorrow came upon the children of Israel because of their blatant disobedience to the true prophets of God at that time. But the good news for us is that God is able to take us through these times of suffering as they come — even if they come because of our own sin.
By the ministry of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, I am strengthened to endure suffering. This comes both by His wonderful example and by His prayers for the likes of me. I know suffering will come in one form or another as I identify myself with Christ. But the good news is that by His power we can and will prevail.