Gethsemane, Aramaic for ‘Oil press’, was an olive garden maintained by wealthy Jews on the west slopes of the Mt. of Olives (Mt. 26:36-41; Lk. 22:42). On his way to Jerusalem, across the Kidron valley, Jesus reveals to his disciples how that same night they will ‘desert’ him. The Shepherd is going to be struck and his sheep scattered (Zech. 13:7); Peter vehemently vows that even if the others did, he will never let him down (v.33) and Jesus warns that before cockcrow, Peter would have denied him thrice! At Gethemane, Jesus shows us how to be strong
Jesus will be separated and meets his disciples only after his resurrection. So, Gethsemane is his last hour with them. His final lesson in the threatening shadows of this ‘night school’ is on– pain and prayer! He takes Peter, James and John, his inner trio, to the next level in Gethsemane. These are the ones, when Jesus shared about his suffering and their role in it, responded with ‘desires’/ambitions, which revealed their rash self-confidence (Mk.10:35-40; 14:29-31). Importantly, these will soon be the leaders of his new movement.
Distress: Break-point? Handle with care/prayer!
Jesus having come to the garden alone is being crushed/ ‘pressed by sorrow’ (v.38). It is the great sorrow of heart, his soul’s agony (dark night) that was crushing him. Besides here, Satan was giving him his final blow that last temptation to avoid by-pass the cross. It was as if his was saying, ‘have it your way!’ Moreover Jesus was painfully aware of what lay ahead of him – the cross! Not so much the cruelty of crucifixion as the challenge of carrying away the sins of the world as God’s Lamb and dealing with the curse that condemns humanity, as a human. Yet, the real battlefield may have been within himself.
Desire: To drink or not to drink?
Jesus invites the three to intercede with him and for him to ‘watch and prayer’ as he falls prostrate on the ground and in anguish sweats, Dr Luke records, ‘drops of blood’ (22:44). His focus in prayer is not Satan, sin or self but his ‘Father’; doing his will from the heart. His prayer request whether possible not to drink the cup = bitter ‘experience’ a metaphor of ‘punishment and suffering’ (Psa.75:8; Isa.51:17). Here, Jesus both reveals his perfect humanity and clarifies his commitment and full surrender to God’s redemptive plan.
Discipleship: following Jesus; doing ‘Father’s will’
Being a disciple/Christian has to do with suffering, daily taking up ones cross and taking everything to God in prayer. Peter, and tough all-night fishermen, didn’t have it within themselves to stay awake just for one hour. Their spirit was willing, but their flesh, weak! At least, initially, they listened to what Jesus prayed to his Father, it was what he taught them (Thy will be done). Their failure to follow Christ in his passion shows how ‘prayers of faith’ correlate to ‘power over the flesh’. There’s no way out so, let go and let God!
At his Gethsemane, Jesus demonstrated the victory of the ‘spirit over the flesh’ and who it’s all about. Although soon delivered into the hands of sinners, he is confident because he has already committed himself into God’s hand, in prayer. There are lessons we can learn from Gethsemane…
1. There is/will be a Gethsemane in all our lives
2. Our battles are first and often won in private
3. Prayer is not just preparation, it is the work
NB: When we try, we fail; when we trust, He succeeds!