Back to that historic week in first century Jerusalem - it is Thursday evening. Imagine for a moment that you are one of the disciples just finishing the Passover meal ... what a night it has been. Intimate. Unsettling. Disturbing. Urgent.
Judas has left the table as you look from face to face, all wondering what could have happened to your brother that he could do such a thing. Hmmm... Then with stiffened resolve, Jesus stands to leave the Upper Room, walking down the stairs out into the night and crossing the short distance of the Kidron Valley to the Mt. of Olives. All eleven of you get up to follow him, certain he is heading to the place you often go to be by yourselves, and indeed, Jesus stops near the bottom of the mount in the familiar garden. (pictured)
He looks at you and the other disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He takes along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and suddenly seems terribly troubled. Jesus turns to look at you, "I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me." Going a little further, he falls facedown and you hear him pray, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
You have never seen this Jesus before. What has come over him? He is visibly shaken to his core. Only one word aptly describes his state: agony.
Even so, it has been a long day and you have just had four cups of wine with the Passover meal; it is late, and you just cannot stay awake. Jesus comes back to find all of you fast asleep. He asks Peter, "So, couldn't you stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you won't enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Have you ever wondered what temptation Jesus was speaking of?
Again, a second time, he turns around to step away and pray, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." He comes back again, only to find all of you asleep again!
Once more, he steps away to pray a third time, saying the same thing once more - 'isn't there another way, Father?!' Then he comes back to all of you and says, "Are you still sleeping and resting? See, the time is near. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up; let's go. See, my betrayer is near." Matthew 26.36-46, adapted to first person, except for Jesus' quotes.
Oh, Jesus ... what are you experiencing, what are you seeing? Hmmm...
It is not just the horror of the crucifixion that awaits Jesus, but he is seeing now that even as he cries out to him, even as he pleads with him ... his Father remains silent.
He also knows the moment will soon come when the Father must turn his back on him as all of our sins are upon him. Jesus is recognizing the agony of total separation from God. Yet we know Scripture says it was for the joy that was set before him [that he] endured the cross.1
Only Luke the physician writes of Jesus' agony causing his sweat to become like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. It seems that around the sweat glands there are multiple blood vessels in a net-like form; under the pressure of great stress, the vessels constrict. Then as the anxiety passes, the blood vessels dilate to the point of rupture and the blood goes into the sweat glands. As the sweat glands produce a lot of sweat, it pushes the blood to the surface - coming out as droplets of blood mixed with sweat. The clinical term for this is "hematohidrosis."
What are we to take from this emotional, painful scene in the Garden, where our Lord prayed, crying out to the Father? Hmmm. Interesting that the garden was called Gethsemane which in Hebrew means "oil press." Jesus was being sorely pressed - he seemed afraid, and he was totally alone.
This causes me to ask a vital question - how could anyone think that God would let
Jesus go through this torture if there was another way?
I mean, if 'being a good person' is enough to get to heaven,
then why in the world would Jesus, the Son of God,
equal in all ways with the Father, endure such agony?
If, as folks are wont to say that all religions are basically the same, as long as you are sincere, all lead to God... why pray tell would Jesus consent to this?? Only one answer: he would not.
What happens in Gethsemane and then on Golgotha and at every point in between comes about as a dint of Jesus' will, the beginning of the end... Jesus is about to be served up, betrayed by his own disciple and go willingly into his arrest, torture and execution.
The Garden of Gethsemane displays Jesus' great sacrificial love for us ~ his love for you, his love for me. How grateful I am for that love.
Lord, you deserve a thousand hallelujahs....and a thousand more!
Listen to this beautiful song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHh-5aLgORY
1 ~ Hebrews 12.2
2 ~ Luke 22.44