Today is Maundy Thursday, for Jesus it is a day of last meals, upper rooms, hillside gardens, betrayal and arrest. I have chosen to spend time with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as we pause on Maundy Thursday. Our account is taken from Matthew 26:36-46.
As we spend time with Jesus we see this moment of his life as one of the most testing. Jesus is lonely, he has gone to the Garden with his friends and they have fallen asleep. Jesus is kneeling before God his Father, with the single most agonising moment of his life before him and his friends have deserted him.
Speaking of agony, the mental agony Jesus must have been going through would be immense, about to die a cruel death with no way out – we read in Luke 22:44 “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” The mental agony was paired with spiritual anguish as Jesus returns to pray the same prayer another two times “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
Yet the essence of Gethsemane is that despite the loneliness, the mental agony and the spiritual anguish Jesus still says ‘may your will be done.” Jesus prays these words to his Father not through broken and abject surrender, not as a weary resignation or a bitter resentment BUT in utter loving trust.
Despite the loneliness, agony and anguish of the garden Jesus is in control, he is not a helpless victim. Listen carefully to the Garden of Gethsemane and you hear the first murmurs of the final triumph.
Much has changed for us over the last few weeks and there is much tragedy to come, but take heart that even in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. We hear not today the tragic account of an arrested criminal but the willing sacrifice of one who lays down his life for us all.
The song I leave you with is one I have loved for years, one we sing often and one that takes us from creation, to garden and to the cross – and then it asks of us, how will we respond:
From heaven you came helpless babe
Entered our world, your glory veiled
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life that we might live
This is our God, The Servant King
He calls us now to follow Him
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to The Servant King
There in the garden of tears
My heavy load he chose to bear
His heart with sorrow was torn
‘Yet not My will but Yours, ‘ He said
Come see His hands and His feet
The scars that speak of sacrifice
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered
So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone Him
Each other’s needs to prefer
For it is Christ we’re serving*
Your friend and Vicar
*Chris Llewellyn / Graham Kendrick / Gareth Gilkeson © Thank You Music Ltd., Make Way Music