In the garden with Jesus

The place where Jesus went to pray the night he was betrayed is called Gethsemane, which means “oil press.” Gigantic olive trees stand there today where Jesus’ soul was pressed to the very limits of endurance. As he entered the garden, Jesus asked his three closest companions, Peter, James and John, to “stay and watch (pray).” These are the same three who less than a year earlier had accompanied Jesus to the mountain where he was transfigured and Moses and Elijah appeared with the glorified Savior. As one writer puts it, Jesus’ closest companions were invited to witness his unveiled glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, and they were there in the garden of Gethsemane to witness his unveiled grief. He also wanted them there to pray for him, simply to be with him in his suffering.
I have read the gospel accounts of Jesus in the garden many times, and often the emphasis is on the sleeping disciples, or on the pattern of prayer that we learn from Jesus. I encourage you to read them again and consider that this event is not about the disciples or about us. It is about Jesus. We see the Lord Jesus pressed into sorrow that is so great that he says to his disciples, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.” Jesus was horrified at what was about to take place. He was overwhelmed in every way we can imagine, emotionally, as he said, and physically, as the text says he fell on his face before the Father. Luke’s gospel records that Jesus was in such anguish that he began to sweat great drops of blood.
The humanity of Jesus is on display, and we behold the depths of his grief and his sorrow. We cannot possibly either understand completely what the Man of Sorrows experienced in Gethsemane, nor can we overestimate it. But we can underestimate it. The great hymn, “I Stand Amazed in the Presence” is wonderful, but one stanza says this: “For me it was in the garden He prayed, ‘Not my will, but thine.’ He had no tears for his own griefs, but sweat-drops of blood for mine.” This is simply not true, and it removes the center spotlight away from the Lord Jesus and his relationship with his Father and puts it squarely on you and me. A modern chorus does the same as it says, “Like a rose trampled on the ground, You took the fall, And thought of me above all.” I appreciate Michael W. Smith and believe God has used his music to encourage a heart of worship in untold numbers of people, but the chorus of this song simply misses the point of Jesus’ death on the cross.
Jesus was exceedingly sorrowful on this Thursday evening because of two realities that waited for him at the cross. He was not afraid of death; indeed, he was born to die and to give his life as a ransom for many. He did not dread the physical suffering that awaited him. He dreaded having the sin of the whole earth placed on him at Calvary. He dreaded the wrath of God that was to be poured out on him as his Father turned away and Jesus was left alone. Those were the horrors of the cross for Jesus. Not the whip or the crown of thorns or the nails. The perfect Son of God became sin for us, so “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Go back to the garden with Jesus this week, and learn of his sacrifice.

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