You know the story. You’ve seen the movie scene. Or, maybe you’ve just imagined what that place was like in your mind as you read the story. You have probably even heard a sermon or two about that night.
The drops of sweaty blood. The agony that Jesus felt. The sleeping disciples. The betrayal.
But, have you been there?
Have you been to Gethsemane?
Maybe you are there right now. In a dark garden. In the night. Agonizing and weeping in sorrow over your life. Over your current situation. Weeping before God over what He is asking of you.
I’m here with you. And, Jesus is here, too.
I believe that Jesus’ Gethsemane experience was more about me and you, than it was about Him. I believe that He went to Gethsemene so He could show us how to go there. We can learn from how He did it….
“And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the 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 may not enter into temptation.”
It was Jesus’ custom to go out and pray. You see, we can’t wait until our Gethsemane experience to learn to pray. We must know how to pray before we get to this place. Jesus made it a regular practice to withdraw from the world, his followers, the business of life…to pray. To seek God. To listen to God’s voice. To bring His mind and thoughts back to God.
We must do the same. If we want to make it through the most difficult moments in life. If we want to walk through our fires without being burned. We must learn to do as Jesus did. “He came out and went.” Find your Mount of Olives. Find that place you can go and just sit in the presence of God. Where you can share your heart with Him and allow Him to refresh you.
Although He did this regularly, this night was different.
He knew in His spirit that His most difficult task was ahead. He knew what was waiting for Him at dawn. He felt sorrow and pain. The Bible says He was in agony.
So, He further withdrew. He removed Himself, even from His closest friends and followers. He knew that this was the kind of prayer that had to be just between Him and His Father. This was more personal than any other prayer. It was private. So, He put distance between Himself and everyone else and He got alone with God.
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.”
Have you ever prayed these words? As I recall times in my past when I prayed this prayer, it sounded more like this…
“Father, I demand that you get me out of this situation immediately.”
Ok. Maybe I didn’t say it just like that to Him, but that is what my heart meant. I’ve had times when I went to Him and just almost demanded that He do something to change my current circumstance. I’ve begged and pleaded. Like you, I’ve handled it wrong many times.
But this time is different. This circumstance is different. Like Jesus, on that night, I am completely broken. I am fully aware that God must move in a mighty way if my circumstance is to change. I feel the weight of what He is asking me to do. I feel the agony of what waits for me at dawn.
So, all I can do is look to Jesus to show me what to do. He said these words….
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.”
Jesus knew that He had to go to the cross. He knew that He was born for that purpose. He knew there was no other way for redemption to be brought to the world. He knew.
But, He still asked for the Father to remove the cup, if He was willing.
I think He did that for us. I think He did it to show you and to show me that it is ok for us to be honest with God. If you are agonizing over something in your life, it is ok for you to ask God to remove the cup. No one desires to go through hardship. No one longs for a chance to have a broken heart. No one begs for the chance to be desperate. Not even Jesus.
He was God in the flesh, but He stopped and asked God if there was any other way to accomplish what needed to be done.
Listen to the humility in this prayer:
“Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”
That prayer can only be prayed in sincerity from a broken, humbled heart. Jesus was entirely humble. There was no pride in that prayer. He knew that, in that moment, there was no room for His own thoughts or desires. There was no room for His ideas. Eternity depended on Jesus’ ability to lay down His will.
Before He could lay down His life, He had to lay down His will.
It is the same for us.
We pray these eloquent prayers and we ask God to take our lives and use us for His glory. And, I think we think we mean it. It sounds so pretty and exciting to be able to say that we were used by God. But, what happens when His will and our will don’t align?
What happens when we realize that His will is going to really mess up all our plans we have for our future??
He has to come and break us, humble us, and bring us to a place of total submission in which we can say,
“Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”
And, sometimes that requires agony and sweaty blood. It can be really hard for us to submit.
But, look what happens. As soon as Jesus prays this prayer, God sends an angel to strengthen Him. Ok, imagine this. He is God. He is God in the flesh. He is almighty, right? But, in this moment, even God needed to be strengthened.
Doesn’t that make you feel so much better? Doesn’t it comfort you to know that even Jesus needed to be strengthened? We are not alone. And, we are not necessarily in sin. It is ok if we need God to strengthen us, at times. And, He wants to do it. He wants to help us. He is a loving God who is just waiting for us to come with a broken heart and ask for His help.
Don’t overlook something very important here, though. Read the prayer, again. Although Jesus asked God to remove the cup, he humbly submitted Himself to the will of God, regardless of the price. Regardless of the pain. Regardless of the sacrifice. He desired the will of God more than His own. And….THEN….then, God sent the angel to strengthen Him.
Are you fighting God’s will? Are you resisting His plans? Are you sweating your drops of blood because you are resisting God? Stop resisting. He can’t strengthen you when you are fighting against Him. Submit to His will. Accept His will with a humble heart, and THEN He will send His angels to strengthen you.
Notice what happens next. The angel comes and strengthens Jesus, but the agony was still there. The strength He was given helped Him pray more earnestly, but He was still in agony. He actually didn’t sweat the drops of blood until AFTER the angel came. He used the strength God gave Him to continue to press in. To continue to pray. To not fall asleep, but rather continue praying and seeking God.
Contrast this to Jesus’ disciples, who were just a stone’s throw away. They were sleeping. The Bible says they were sleeping from sorrow, not exhaustion. In the chapter before this passage of scripture in Luke, Jesus has just told the disciples that His time has come. They are prepared for a physical battle, to which Jesus told them to bring swords. Remember, they don’t really understand the big picture at this point. He’s telling them that He has to die, but they don’t really get it.
So they are sleeping for sorrow. How many times have you slept from sorrow? Our natural reaction to difficulty is to allow the weight of it to press us down. To push us so low to the ground that we just fall down and sleep. That is exactly what the devil wants you to do. When sorrow comes, he wants you to sleep.
Because you can’t pray when you are sleeping. You can’t be pressing in closer to God while you are sleeping.
These men loved Jesus. They were ready to fight for Him. They followed Him for 3 years. They gave up everything to live with Him. Yet, they allowed their sorrow to push them into depression and sleep, rather than staying close to Jesus and helping Him pray. He even warned them and asked them to pray with Him, but they didn’t. They slept.
I believe that this is a picture of much of the church today. We are a stone’s throw away from Jesus. He is agonizing over the world and the lost. We are close enough to hear Him pray, but we are letting the weight of the world weigh us down so much that all we can do is sleep.
But, if we can just recognize what is happening. If we can allow ourselves to go where Jesus is. If we can be humble and submit ourselves to the will of God, He will come and strengthen us. We don’t have to sleep under the pressure of our circumstance. We can be filled with strength to continue through the night in prayer. God can fill us with the strength we need to face our dawn. Whatever awaits us, His strength will be sufficient.
I wonder what could have happened if the disciples had not slept? Before Gethsemane, they were prepared to go to battle for him. But after they slept, they ran in different directions as they abandoned Him in His greatest time of need. They denied Him.
Imagine the sorrow they felt. Judas couldn’t stand it and he just ended his own life. They were all sorrowful and broken for what they had done.
What they failed to realize is that this was their Gethsemane experience, too. Had they done what Jesus did, they could have saved themselves so much pain. They could have honored Him. They could have fulfilled His will. They could have been victorious. But, instead, they failed.
I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to feel shame and sorrow for abandoning my Saviour.
I know you don’t either.
So, we must look to Jesus as our example. He led the way. He lived out the example before us.
We have to lay down our will. Just as Jesus did. We have to pray, from a humble heart, for God’s will and not our own. We have to submit to His plans. And, the hard part, is that we have to mean it. God sees the depths of our hearts, so this can’t just be lip service. It has to be sincere.
And, when it is sincere, He comes to strengthen us.
We must use that strength to continue to pray and believe Him. And through that strength, we can accomplish anything that He asks us to accomplish. Although we may still feel agony and sorrow, we will have the strength to complete the task.
And, in the end, we will be victorious and we will hear these words,
“Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
One last important thought….I pray that you can see through this story that God is a loving God. He doesn’t want us to suffer. He doesn’t sit in heaven and dream up ways He can make your life harder. He loves you.
But, sin entered the world because He gave us a free will. (He has given me an entire blog on this subject, so we’ll revisit this at a later time.)
Because sin is here and the world is not perfect, there is going to be pain. Through the hardships of life, God is able to demonstrate to the world that He loves us. He uses our lives to do this. And, one day, when we are with Him in heaven, He will show us all the rewards that we earned while He demonstrated His power through our lives.
Don’t be a sleeping disciple. Otherwise, your agony will be followed by failure.
Be like Jesus. Submit. Humble yourself. And let God receive glory through your life. And if this seems impossible, that’s because it is. We must have the strength that only He can give.
So, go to your Gethsemane. Come out from where you are and retreat to Gethsemene. It is only there that God can take a broken life and fill it with supernatural strength.
Remember this….of all the wonderful things that Jesus did on this earth….John says that no book could contain it all…
His greatest accomplishment happened after His night in Gethsemane. Amen.