Agony in the Garden
This is the fourth of my Lent Pilgrimage blogs. Today we look at the time Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is no nice pretty flower garden, but a working olive grove, and it happens in the dark.
It is the middle of the night, the darkest hour when everything seems worse and we often feel most vulnerable. In a secluded olive grove, just outside the Jerusalem walls, a group of men lie asleep, all except one. The moon shines down upon this man, surrounding him with light and turning the leaves to silver. He is alone and crying out in agony. His friends are near but they don’t hear as they have fallen asleep. Three times he wakes his closest friends and each time they fall back asleep.
What was it that distressed Jesus so much on this night? In just a few short hours, he would be arrested, put on trial, beaten and nailed to a cross. In the Bible, we only have a few short sentences that he prayed. Let’s look at what Jesus says in Mark Chapter 14, taken from The Passion Translation.
Jesus asks Peter, James, and John to go with him.
“My heart is overwhelmed with anguish and crushed with grief. It feels as though I’m dying. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He moves a little away from them and prays. He calls God “abba”. The literal meaning is daddy or papa, the name small children call their father.
“Abba, my Father, all things are possible for you. Please—remove this cup of suffering!”
He knows. He knows what’s in store for him, and he knows what it will cost. Yet, he also knows that his Father can do anything. He could provide salvation in another way where no one gets nailed to a cross in agony. He begs to be spared from all this. But he also knows that there is no other way, there has to be a blood sacrifice, and it’s his blood which has to be poured out. There is another sentence, and this final prayer changes everything.
“Yet what I want is not important, for I only desire to fulfil your plans for me.”
Jesus’s attitude is one we should all have. Not that God wants us to go along with everything without questioning him. We can ask that this illness, financial situation, or family trouble be taken away. Yes, we can question, but the people God wants are those who combine this questioning with a willingness to back off and trust him to see us through it.
The difference between faith and doubt is not in the questioning, but when the crunch comes to trust our Abba to see us through.
Photo by Don Fontijn on Unsplash
Photo by Antoine Perier on Unsplash
“Falling on his knees, he asked God to find another way to carry out what needs to happen. In agony, he prayed and, being crushed, needed us more than ever. But we were tired and fell asleep… The last time he said he was now determined to do what God wants and whatever happens from here on in, God has already decided. How I wish I had stayed with him when he needed me.”
John, Leaving Bethany, page 97
If you enjoyed this blog why not read the earlier ones in this series
Lent Pilgrimage Week One: Lent Stories
Lent Pilgrimage Week Two: A King Like No Other
Lent Pilgrimage Week Three: Everyday Stuff
Susan Sutherland is the author of three books. To buy Leaving Bethany and the sequel Return to Caesarea please go to the buy page.
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