“And now they came to an olive grove called the Garden of Gethsemane, and he instructed his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go and pray.’ He took Peter, James, and John with him and began to be filled with horror and deepest distress. And he said to them, ‘My soul is crushed by sorrow to the point of death; stay here and watch with me. He went on a little farther and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the awful hour awaiting him might never come. ‘Father, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take away this cup from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.” (Mark 14:32-36)
When I was a child, there was a painting in our home of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. As a child, I would stare at the painting and wonder what Jesus was thinking? What was He feeling? Did He ever doubt what He would do?
Jesus had the additional burden of divine knowledge. Jesus knew in advance that He would experience the cruel cut of betrayal. Jesus knew beforehand that He would be crucified by the people He loved and was there to save. Jesus foresaw it was His burden to experience the devastation of abandonment, injustice, and pain. Jesus foresaw the horrors that lay ahead of Him on the path to God’s divine mercy. He knew He would endure incomprehensible human cruelty, degradation by evil, and the depths of human despair. And yet He saved us — for love.
Although He was of God, Jesus in human likeness was capable of physical suffering; He was not immune from emotional pain. I wondered as a teenager whether Jesus suffered more in Gethsemane than an ordinary man who would not have known what was about to happen? Jesus knew His crucifixion would occur with divine certainty. Because of divine knowledge, Jesus enjoyed no merciful delusion that His crucifixion would be swift.
Jesus prayed alone in the garden before He was arrested. He asked His disciples to wait and watch with Him, but they fell asleep in Jesus’ hour of need. For although they loved Him and their spirits were willing, fatigue overtook their bodies. (Mark 14:38) It was prayer that sustained Jesus. It was God that gave Him strength. It was love that guided Him. It was by God’s will that we were saved.
While still in the garden awaiting arrest, Jesus was besieged by God’s enemy — an enemy of spirit that strikes hard when we are at our most vulnerable. The battle for souls is often borne of opportunity. Temptation appears during the darkest hours.
As an adult, my heart cried out when I read that Jesus asked God if He could be relieved of His terrible burden. I realized then that Jesus suffered on our behalf long before being nailed to the cross. My heart lifted when I read how even when arrest and crucifixion were imminent, Jesus asked that God’s will be done. (Mark 14:35) His love reflects a divine knowledge of God — and a shared divine purpose to save us.
I still think about the painting of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, although many decades have passed since I’ve been to my childhood home. From that memory began my appreciation of God’s love for us — and the terrible sacrifice made for our spiritual salvation.
I believe that Jesus did not come solely to save us. Jesus came also to fulfill prophecies and promises made long ago. He came to teach us and to lead us — by His Word and through His example.
When I’m overwhelmed by the burdens in my life, I think of Jesus’ night in that garden and try to follow His example. It reminds me that God is with me, even if my family and friends fail me or are far away. It reminds me that I don’t need to wonder, “what would Jesus do?” because I already know: In his greatest hour of need, Jesus turned to prayer and asked that God’s will be done. No matter where God’s will led Him, Jesus followed — out of love.
With God’s grace, I pray that I am able to do the same.