THY WILL BE DONE
They came to a place the name of which is Gethsemane. Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter and James and John with him, and began to be in great distress and trouble of mind. He said to them, “My soul is sore grieved even to death. Stay here and watch.” He went on a little farther and fell on the ground and prayed that, if it was possible, this hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, everything is possible to you. Take this cup from me–but not what I wish, but what you wish.” He came and found them sleeping and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not stay awake for one hour? Watch and pray lest you enter into some testing time. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed in the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were weighed down with sleep. And they did not know how to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Sleep on now. Take your rest. It is enough. The hour has come. See! The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us be going! He who betrays me has come!”
This is a passage we almost fear to read, for it seems to intrude into the private agony of Jesus.
To have stayed in the upper room would have been dangerous. With the authorities on the watch for him, and with Judas bent on treachery, the upper room might have been raided at any time. But Jesus had another place to which to go. The fact that Judas knew to look for him in Gethsemane shows that Jesus was in the habit of going there. In Jerusalem itself there were no gardens. The city was too crowded, and there was a strange law that the city’s sacred soil might not be polluted with manure for the gardens. But some of the rich people possessed private gardens out on the Mount of Olives where they took their rest. Jesus must have had some wealthy friend who gave him the privilege of using his garden at night.
When Jesus went to Gethsemane there were two things he sorely desired. He wanted human fellowship and he wanted God’s fellowship. “It is not good that the man should be alone,” God said in the beginning. (Gen.2:18.) In time of trouble we want someone with us. We do not necessarily want him to do anything. We do not necessarily even want to talk to him or have him talk to us. We only want him there. Jesus was like that. It was strange that men who so short a time before had been protesting that they would die for him, could not stay awake for him one single hour. But none can blame them, for the excitement and the tension had drained their strength and their resistance.
Certain things are clear about Jesus in this passage.
(i) He did not want to die. He was thirty-three and no one wants to die with life just opening on to the best of the years. He had done so little and there was a world waiting to be saved. He knew what crucifixion was like and he shuddered away from it. He had to compel himself to go on–just as we have so often to do.
(ii) He did not fully understand why this had to be. He only knew beyond a doubt that this was the will of God and that he must go on. Jesus, too, had to make the great venture of faith, he had to accept–as we so often have to do–what he could not understand.
(iii) He submitted to the will of God. Abba (GSN0005) is the Aramaic for my father. It is that one word which made all the difference. Jesus was not submitting to a God who made a cynical sport of men. Hardy finishes his novel Tess, after telling of her tragic life, with the terrible sentence, “The President of the Immortals had finished his sport with Tess.” But Jesus was not submitting to a God who was an iron fate.
“But helpless pieces of the game he plays, Upon this chequer board of nights and days, Hither and thither moves and checks and slays– And one by one back in the closet lays.”
God was not like that. Even in this terrible hour, when he was making this terrible demand, God was father. When Richard Cameron, the covenanter, was killed, his head and hands were cut off by one Murray and taken to Edinburgh. “His father being in prison for the same cause, the enemy carried them to him, to add grief unto his former sorrow, and inquired if he knew them. Taking his son’s head and hands, which were very fair (being a man of a fair complexion like himself) he kissed them and said, `I know them–I know them. They are my son’s–my own dear son’s. It is the Lord. Good is the will of the Lord, who cannot wrong me nor mine, but hath made goodness and mercy to follow us all our days.'” If we can call God father everything becomes bearable. Time and again we will not understand, but always we will be certain that “The Father’s hand will never cause his child a needless tear.” That is what Jesus knew. That is why he could go on–and it can be so with us.
We must note how the passage ends. The traitor and his gang had arrived. What was Jesus’ reaction? Not to run away, although even yet, in the night, it would have been easy to escape. His reaction was to face them. To the end he would neither turn aside nor turn back.
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