He threw himself on the ground.
In the darkness of the ancient hilltop garden, surrounded only by the silent massive trees, he fell on his face. The lonely torment of his soul is unmatched by any in history.
He had brought with him three of his closest companions, who just hours earlier had sworn unyielding allegiance. Now, exhausted by the emotions of the crisis, they had fallen asleep – unable to utter a word of comfort or to lift a finger of support for their friend.
Jesus was alone.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, as he kneeled and then fell prostrate, he felt the full force of a descending terror. Before him lay the massive cosmic evil that would soon engulf him and viciously tear him ragged beyond recognition; the reign of iniquity that would sunder his body and eviscerate his soul beyond all telling – and beyond all knowing.
God would soon lay upon him the sins of us all.
It was to be an unprecedented suffering. This both Father and Son knew.
Here in this lovely garden of olives, in the stillness of the night, we see the utter humanity of our Savior as we see it nowhere else. We hear in this crying voice of desperate pleading the mortality of a thirty-three year old man who doesn’t want to die. In this hour of lonely struggle, the calm and steadfast assurance that has marked his ministry and his nature is suddenly torn away to expose an agony so deep and pitiful we scarce can take it in.
The healing, tender, composed and triumphant Good Shepherd of our Sunday school days is, in this garden of early morning hours, revealed to be a sweating, writhing, begging and terrified young man. The Creator, the Lord of the universe, the King of all kings, is on the ground pleading so fervently to escape his eternal destiny that the physician Luke tells us that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44, KJV).
Nothing proves the full humanity of Christ more than Gethsemane. This lonely, agonizing night in that beautiful garden shows the world the Son of Man.
In an age of convenience and comfort, we do not wish to look upon this garden scene. We are repelled by the unpleasantness.
Yet we must look. We must see. We must contemplate. And we must force ourselves to think. We must somehow try to grasp – though it is a great mystery beyond us – the pain and suffering and agony and terrible despair of that night.
More amazing still, perhaps, is the transaction between Father and Son.
Mark says that Jesus cried out “Abba! Father!” The Arabic term of filial endearment is best rendered, “Daddy”. In prostrating himself before the heavenly throne, the Son employs the name that bespeaks their intimate union.
Jesus appeals to the Father’s omnipotence: “All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from Me.” (Mark 14: 36, NASB). “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26: 39, NASB).
Jesus knows God can; he’s asking that he will.
At his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus, in predicting his death, had asked, “Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came!” (John 12:27, NLT).Now, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays that same prayer in order that he might indeed be saved “from this hour” and escape this destiny.
The Father and the Son have not come to a parting of the ways in the garden, but they have come to a parting of the wills. The plan from eternity past to secure a bright eternity future is turning now on the Son’s obedience.
The Son wants to obey but he doesn’t want to go to the cross.
He’s praying to his Father – pleading with his Father three separate times – and he hopes his prayers will be answered.
According to the Son’s will, that he may not have to suffer and die.
On this little word pivots the world’s salvation.
“…yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39, NASB, emphasis added).
In the end, Jesus surrenders his will to the Father’s, though he knows what it will mean – for both of them. When he was asked to teach his disciples to pray, Jesus said: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6: 10, KJV, emphasis added).
God’s will, Jesus knew, was what mattered more than anything else. It is a truth we must learn – and, at times, relearn. Paul reminds us that Jesus, in giving up his heavenly glory and privileges and coming to this earth, “humbled himself in obedience to God” (Philippians 2: 8, NLT).
If Jesus, in his hour of greatest need – with the stakes and the cost so high – prayed for God’s will and not his own, should his sublime example lead you and me to do any less when we pray?
Receiving his answer, Jesus regains his composure. “Arise, let us be going,” he says to his weary disciples, and the Savior of the world leaves the garden to face his future.
May God bless you and your family.