Gethsemane is one of the central points of meditation during the Lent season. It is at Gethsemane where the betrayal by Judas is enacted, leading on to the chain of events that culminates in the crucifixion. It is at Gethsemane where we see Jesus at his most vulnerable self. It is at Gethsemane that valuable lessons are learnt for a Christian journey.
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. (Matthew 26)
Jesus knew that in a short while he would face the cross. As painful as crucifixion was, even more painful was the fact that on the cross, Jesus, the Son of God who for all eternity had been one with God, would now experience separation from the Father. We hear several stories of couples- that have been happily married for decades and really inseparable, when one dies, the other soon follows- because separation for those inseparable is hard to bear. Imagine the agony that Jesus experienced at the very thought of separation from God as he bore the sins of humanity on the cross.
Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38)
Jesus says that his soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. This was an emotional state of extremes. Being overwhelmed is not alien to people of today’s age. We live in a fast paced world where life is tough and expectations are high. Many live in fear of losing their jobs. The explosion of information technology with instant connectivity has made life easier but also incredibly stressful. People find it tough to pull the various strings of their life together and life turns out to be a daily struggle. Is it not a great solace to know that the One who declares salvation to us has been where we have been before? He knows what is means to be overwhelmed, but he also knew the secret to victory.
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
The key to overcoming challenges is prayer. It is when we pray that we find the infinite strength of God flowing into our souls. No challenge can be too great to overwhelm our souls when God works through us. Jesus spent an hour before he returned to his disciples the first time. The disciples were too sleepy to hear anything other than Jesus’ first few words, where he lays out his anguish before God and also declares his submission to God. If the disciples had been awake, they would have recorded more of his prayer; and it would have been wonderful to hear how Jesus’ prayer changed from one who was sorrowful and almost overwhelmed to one who became the overcomer.
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26)
Finally, the difference between Jesus triumphantly going to the cross and the disciples denying him was the prayer activity, or the lack of it at Gethsemane. For various circumstances in life, the difference between planning and executing is prayer. The difference between falling to temptation and overcoming it is prayer.
At Gethsemane, we see a vulnerable Jesus, but also one who was truly triumphant!
- WHAT IS GOD LIKE?
- PETER’S FALL