Friday, April 14, 2017
The Garden of Gethsemane: Jesus Chooses His Path
[Jesus and his disciples] came to an area called Gethsemane. Jesus told them, “Sit here while I pray. “ He took Peter, James, and John with him and began to be filled with horror and great dread. And he said to them, “My soul is crushed by sorrow to the point of death!”
Jesus knew what would happen if he followed God’s will that day; violent arrest, cruel torture, public humiliation, and brutal execution. For obvious reasons, this troubled him greatly.
But from our standpoint in history, this can seem strange to us - thinking of Jesus as having fears and doubts, as asking for a way out, as needing human compassion - because we know how this story ends. But try to put yourself in Jesus’ shoes that night and imagine facing what he was facing.
In the garden, Jesus prayed in anguish and asked for a way out. He prayed like a man who knew he would be hurt by his friend’s abandoning him and the betrayals of Judas, Peter, and his own countrymen who would hand him over to the Romans to be killed.
Jesus agonized like a man who would feel the excruciating pain of being scarred by the whip, having a razor sharp crown of thorns stabbed into his skull, being made to carry his own cross while bloodied, and having spikes driven into his wrists and legs. He prayed as a man who knew that if he would follow God’s will, there would be indescribable suffering.
In the garden, Jesus was unmistakably human. When he says to his disciples, “The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak,” you get the feeling that he was saying it as much about himself as he was saying about them.
And yet, Jesus followed through as a man who decided to follow God’s will and give love sacrificially. The time in the garden reminds us that Jesus chose his path, and that we can choose our own as well.
We can follow the path that our competitive and self-exalting culture lays out - living in a way that looks out for number one, striving for comfort without regard for its effect on others, ignoring the outcast, condemning the poor, treading on the orphan and window and migrant, and seeing people’s value only in terms of what they can do for us.
Or … we can follow Jesus’ example and say to God, “Not my will, but yours be done.”