32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba,[f] Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.
51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
I picture Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane with his soul overwhelmed. How does God have a soul that is overwhelmed? The soul that what overwhelmed is an aspect of being human. Jesus was not infinite at that moment. His soul was limited and it was pushed to its limits. We all have a capacity for grief, anxiety, stress and anger. We use phrases like, “I have had about as much as I can take!” Jesus had developed the human soul as much as is humanly possible, but even he is saying, “This is as much as I can take.” He does not lose his wits, but he is at his wits’ end. He asks whether he can get relief from his Father, but the heavens seem silent. Jesus is at the end of his rope, he has no-one on his side. He is writhing in the dust. His soul is in anguish. However, he takes steps forward and resolutely hands himself over to his betrayer.
As our model, it is reassuring that Jesus was pushed to his limits. He had developed an immense capacity to handle abuse and suffering by cultivating his relationship with the Father. However, the source of his strength was about to be stripped away so that for us it would never have to be. His shoulders would be broad enough to carry the sin of the world and his love for us would be strong enough that he would endure estrangement from the Father. In the light of such an example, we must develop our capacity and enter into stressful and anxiety inducing situations in order to minister to those who are lost and to one another. In this way spiritual growth happens and true community is formed.
I hear another friend of mine has cancer. We are made of glass and we shatter. I wish we were made of stronger stuff. Jesus, you endured the limitations of what it means to be human. How do we thrive in a world so full of darkness? We throw ourselves into the dust. We would like cups to be taken away from those who have to drink bitterness. We remember how you struggled with moving forward in the Garden. Help us to push forward with each other and develop a life that shows your grace in the midst of the darkest places.
- How many times does Jesus withdraw to pray?
- Describe Jesus’ condition.
- Why did 1st Century believers need to remember their saviour this way?
- How do you feel seeing Jesus struggle?
- How does the combination of Jesus’ struggle and resolve change how we should live today?