Today is Thursday. Thursday during Holy Week hurts me. The events of this day pull on my heart strings so hard. You can read about them in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22. These accounts, especially those of the garden of Gethsemane, are some of the hardest passages for me to read. The gospel of John doesn’t go into great detail about Jesus in the garden. I think maybe it was too hard for him to put into words. Too personal. Too powerful. I don’t fault him for this.
Luke, though, he didn’t hold back. His words hurt me to read the most.
And He (Jesus) came out and went, as was His custom, to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed Him. And when He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours, be done.” And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you shall not enter into temptation.”
May I just share my scribbles of thoughts and feelings with you?
Jesus went to be alone. Away from distractions. He grabbed His friends and went to find quiet. He grabbed His friends and went to pray. Lord, may our time of quarantine look more like this.
Jesus desired that His friends go with Him. Remember when John chapter 15 tells us that Jesus calls us a friend? I hope He would take me with Him too. Friends allow each other to see them in their lowest, most vulnerable moments. Sometimes I forget this and I run to be alone, to hide these lows. Although, that’s harder to do when you’re married to your best friend and stuck quarantining with one another. Jesus, thank you for vulnerability, for friends, and for the gardens in my own life, the places I can run to You and quiet.
Jesus believes in prayer. He brings His friends with Him and tells them to pray. He says to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” We know from the gospel of Mark that He is talking to Peter, James, and John. Knowing good and well, and already proclaiming that Peter would fall into temptation by denying Him three times that night, Jesus still desires that Peter would pray to resist that temptation. Why? I think this teaches us a lot about Jesus and prayer. I don’t think He told Peter to pray because He was hurt by the denial that was to come. I think He told Peter to pray because He knows the joy that comes with being in the presence of God. The joy that comes with approaching the Father. He knows that the presence of God is in fact where we find joy.
I think Jesus simply wanted His friend to experience that joy, so that he would remember it and forever long for it. But maybe it’s even more than that. Peter was distraught from just hearing of his own choice to deny Jesus, as well as the betrayal of one of the disciples. That the thing about prayer, though, it shifts our focus back to the One in whom our hope is found. Father, may we long for the joy that is found in your presence. When our hearts wander or are filled with anxiety, I pray you would shift our focus back to you.
Rest is important (see yesterday’s post). Jesus understood that. I don’t think that Peter understood this as well. Which is probably why he couldn’t stay awake in the garden. He was sleeping with sorrow. Following Jesus can be restful when we fully trust in Him. But following Jesus can be exhausting when we try to take things into our own hands (like cutting off someone’s ear – see Matthew 26:51) or let emotions and distractions guide our steps. Jesus rested in the work He knew would be done. He experienced pain, but His restful heart allowed Him to take the hurt to His Father. Peter experienced pain, but his flesh was weak, and instead of falling to his knees in prayer, he let the heaviness of his eyes win. Lord, remind me of your sovereignty. Help me to rest in You and You alone, so I don’t fall into the same temptations as Peter. I pray that even when I feel defeated and discouraged, I will continue to trust that You are in control. You are where I find rest and peace. I pray for a contentment that outweighs any thought that I can try harder or do more to finally feel at peace.
Jesus understands pain. And Jesus prays through it. And when His heart hurt more, He prayed harder. And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly. He did not hide His agony from His Father. He was not ashamed of the feelings and temptations that came with stepping out of eternity. He was obedient, but He was hurting. Bad. Lord, when I am hurting, I pray I would turn to You in prayer. And when I hurt more, I pray that I would pray more earnestly.
Okay and this is where it hurts the most. The mental agony was so heavy, it affected Him physically. He began to sweat great drops of blood. If you are interested, this is called hematidrosis. It would have been easy in this moment for Jesus to turn around and run, to escape this pain and escape the cross that He knew was coming. But the thing was, He wasn’t focused on this moment. He was focused on the joy that was to come, and He was committed to enduring whatever it took to experience that joy with us. While this is the hardest passage for my heart to comprehend, it reminds me of my favorite verse. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to run this race with endurance looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
See that? He endured it all. He despised it, but He endured it. Why? For the joy that was set before Him. He stepped out of eternity, remember? So He knows what He is returning to. And He wants to bring us with Him, because He loves us. There is no greater love. Jesus stepped away from the perfect and holy presence of the Father, to rescue us, all out of love. And while John didn’t write about the pain that filled the garden of Gethsemane that night, he did write about this love. John 17:25 says, O righteous Father, even though the world does not know You, I know You, and these know that You have sent Me. I made known to them Your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which You have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
This morning, the weight of my brokenness is heavy, as I think of the agony it caused Jesus in the garden, knowing He would soon pay for it in full. But the weight of His love for me is heavier.
Father, may I remember what happened to Peter when he was in the garden. May I remember that the enemy seeks for my weaknesses, therefore I am as vulnerable as he was. But may I also always remember Jesus in the garden. The power of love. May I remember that where Jesus walks, hell breaks up at His feet. So help me to abide in Him always. Thank you for not running away. I pray that I would not forget or grow complacent to the weight of my own brokenness, which you carried on that cross. I pray that I would not grow complacent to Your love for me, which caused You to endure the agony and death that I deserved. Let my heart be consumed by a longing for You and the love that You are, and let others see that same love in me and know that it comes from You. In Jesus name, Amen.