(Matthew 26:36-45; Mark 14:32; John 18:1)
As we approach Easter on Sunday, I wanted to hit “pause” and reflect on the magnitude of Jesus’ decision to follow God’s will while he was on his knees praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. The garden holds monumental significance in illustrating this moment in Jesus life and ultimately yours and mine. In the garden Jesus sought serenity, a moment to pause, a quiet location to pray and gather himself. You see he knew that inside the walls of Jerusalem in only a few hours he would be betrayed, falsely accused, unjustly tried, brutally beaten, utterly humiliated, rejected by all and marched out broken to die a criminals death on a cross.
The peace of the garden provided what Jesus desperately needed. The garden is located along the lower slope of the Mount of Olives which is along the eastern side of Jerusalem outside of her walls. To get there from Jerusalem you would only have to walk twenty minutes to reach the garden.
The Passover (Seder) meal was served at sundown and would have been around 7pm. During this ceremonial meal, Jesus initiates the first “Last Supper” emblems. “He broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from it. All of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” After eating what would be his last meal on earth, Jesus recognizes Judas as his betrayer, he speaks of his death, and predicts Peter’s denial they all made the 20-minute walk back to the garden. What would have been a Passover (Seder) meal full of celebration and remembrance was now a somber, confusing, and unsettling experience.
It’s in this garden where Jesus sought council from God. He knew the torture and death by crucifixion was less then twenty-four hours away and he was in turmoil. Jesus opens up to Peter and shares, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38 NIV). Jesus was afraid. He knew the soldiers were probably on their way. Jesus dropped face down to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:41). After confronting Peter, James and John (Sons of Zebedee) for falling asleep and not having his back and keeping watch, Jesus went off again in solitude to beg God in prayer, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42).
We do not know how God calmed Jesus’ angst, however after he returned to Peter, James, and John, Jesus felt resolve and made the decision to be obedient to God’s will to be the conduit of grace in bring redemption and salvation to the world through his death, burial, and resurrection.
The thing is, what we do know is that if Jesus had continued walking an additional 20-minutes past the garden of Gethsemane, he would have entered a place of refuge located in the eastern wilderness. This place of refuge was set up for those seeking asylum from authorities during this point in history. Within the garden of Gethsemane Jesus physically stood in the geographical location that presented him with a doorway of escape. He could have avoided Caiaphas, Pilate, and death on the cross.
This week, as we experience Easter in a new way while sheltering in place; Easter will certainly dawn on Sunday and I think we should acknowledge that Jesus was incarnate (God in human form) but he did not have superhuman mind and body. He had a choice to do God’s will, just as we do. Let’s glorify him Easter morning for his obedience and that he lived out the daily prayer he was taught to recite as a young Jewish boy; and as a man set the example for all. “To love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (The Jewish Shema, Deuteronomy 6:5).
May you all have an Easter full of blessings as we rejoice that His stone rolled away and his tomb is empty. “For He Has Risen!”