Summary: The true battle was fought not on Golgotha or in the tomb but in the garden....
Jesus has had a rough week.
On Sunday He rode into the city, among a people who while singing praises with their lips, had their hearts far from him. He sees Jerusalem and sobs – knowing not only their betrayal of him, but also of their ultimate destruction and devastation in years to come.
On Monday he goes to the Temple a place of prayer and meeting with God and using a handmade whip – he drives people from it. People who are using religion as an excuse, creating barriers to God rather than building bridges. These people who have been chosen by God have turned their backs on him and have turned his House into a market place of thieves.
Jesus spends Tuesday teaching people, as much as he can, the secrets of the kingdom of God – and throughout he is badgered by religious leaders trying to catch him out, trying to talk him into a corner. He has so little time left and yet he needs to debate taxes and authority and law.
On Wednesday one of the Twelve, one of his beloved disciples and closest friends goes behind his back to the authorities and agrees to betray him. Not for reasons of principle mind you or because Jesus had done something wrong – but for money. Judas sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of metal.
Today, Thursday, Jesus has had that final supper with his disciples. He’s saying his final goodbyes, his final teaching, his final time among the company of people who love him – and they don’t even get it. They can’t understand what he’s saying. He tells them of the betrayal coming and they can’t fathom it let alone believe it. Jesus is saying goodbye, and they are falling asleep…
Reading from the Gospel of Luke 22:39-48
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Let us pray – Father be with us tonight us we journey with into understanding and into the darkness of your sorrow. Amen.
Gethsemane is the place of the final battle. Jesus comes before the Father and pleads, begs, and wrestles. “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me!!”
And God says No.
Do you realise how hard that is. Every prayer that Jesus has prayed up until now has been answered with a yes and Amen… People have been healed, fed and raised from the dead. Storms have been calmed, disciples chosen and hearts transformed.
And now Jesus comes to the point where what he wants, and what needs to happen are two different things.
In the taunting at the cross “Are you not the Christ – Save yourself and us!” lies the agony of this night – that was the one thing that was impossible. He could not save others and Himself.
This hour didn’t pass Him by and neither will the hour of testing pass us by as we live out our lives here on earth. Sooner or later each of us will find ourselves in our own personal Gethsemane. We too will have questions and prayers and petitions. These are the hours in hospital waiting rooms, in court rooms, or after dreaded phone calls. They are in the loneliness of pain or isolation, in facing injustice, in the darkness of grief or in the betrayal by those closest to us. They are the long nights, the paced floors and the tears cried until they run dry.
Where what we want, what we love, and what happen to be are two different things.
A little child who had just learned the alphabet kept repeating time after time the letters of the alphabet in an attitude of prayer. A missionary approached her and asked what she was saying. The little girl’s answer was, "I am praying." "But why do you repeat the alphabet?" "I felt that I should pray, and because I did not know how to pray, I repeated the letters of the alphabet, knowing that the great Lord would fit the letters together to make words out of them"