The picture of Gethsemane is familiar. Jesus leaning on a rock. Hands folded. The moon shining. A halo effect over his head. A scene of serenity. The saintly Savior saying His prayers. Trusting in the Father. Safe in His hands. Ready to be offered.
The apostle Matthew was there. And he paints a different picture.
Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”
Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.
So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!” (Matt 23:36-46)
Notice the words describing Jesus’ strong emotions as he lay prostrate on the ground. Anguished. Distressed. Crushed. Grief.
We get a glimpse of the unfathomable struggle of Jesus in his darkest hour leading to the cross. His emotional suffering . His mental agony. His spiritual struggle. In short, His humanity. The “man of sorrows,” is stricken, smitten, and afflicted even before the crucifixion. We feel His burden in bearing the sins of humanity. We sense the disappointment in the slumber of the apostles. And we hear the agonizing cry to the Father. The Hebrew writer put is this way. “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death” (Heb 5:7)
It reminds me that on this fretful Friday Jesus, “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (Heb. 4:15)
That gives me strength. Courage. Hope. When I feel fear. Experience agony. Know disappointment. And endure suffering. My Jesus knows. He cares. He feels. Because He’s been there. And so, I can “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Heb 4:16)
We have the assurance that just as Friday’s worse human fears resulted in Sunday’s victory and ultimately Jesus’ heavenly exhalation, so will ours! When we experience Gethsemane, remember Jesus has been there. He feels your pain. And he extends to you his nail-pierced hand to lift you up. To lift you out. And to lift you closer to Him. And nearer to your heavenly home.
It may be Friday. But Sunday’s coming!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman