Garden of Gethsemane, a teaching tool for all ?
The story of Jesus on the night prior to his crucifixion has been written in the synoptic gospels in Mark 14:32-41, Matthew 26:36-45, Luke 22:39-54 and in John 18:1-12
This narrative is historically poignant as this is the first time in the life of man-Jesus when it was recorded that he prayed so fervently that he “sweated blood”, as in:
“And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44)
Notice that it was not exactly blood that Jesus was sweating; instead it was “like great drops of blood”. Otherwise, if it was real blood, he would have had hemorrhagic shock, no pun intended.
One can deduce from this description that the context must have meant “to sweat profusely”, like “bleeding out” sweat “falling down to the ground”. Such degree of diaphoresis suggests the intensity and severity of Jesus’ dilemma. For him, that night was a turning point with cosmic proportion, but why?
Jesus’ life of risks
What is so different at this time? His life has been in danger before, as in:
John 7:1 “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for: he would not walk in Jewry, because, the Jews sought to kill him.”
John 8:59 “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”
John 10:31 “The Jews took up stones again to stone Him.”
In all these instances, he slipped away and was not injured. They were like “no brainer” to split from these. These risks were predictably escapable and no harm would come to him. It was not yet his time to be sacrificed.
Also, the first time he was tempted to hurt himself or commit suicide was directly from Satan himself. This narrative was recorded in Matt 4:6; Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:9-12. He did not succumb to Satan and overcame him with wisdom with help of the “Helper”(John 14:26;Holy Spirit). Satan knew people, before Jesus, claimed to be the Christ, yet died and gone they were. Nonetheless, Jesus did not divulge his identity to Satan who needed proof that he was the “chosen one”(Isaiah 42:1).
Notice that in all of these risks in his life, he knew fully well that his “time was not yet”, as in John 7:6:
Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime.”
Notice that while his life was in real jeopardy in many instances, he knew that he would not be killed. It was not his time yet.
In contrast, that night in Gethsemane was very different. It was only on that night that it finally dawned on him the anguish of definite death that would come to him by crucifixion towards the end of that day. His life was on the line.
It was the night of Nisan 14 when before the day was over, that he was destined to be killed as a Passover. That night was a very agonizing moment for him that he sweat profusely. And, rightly so as he was in the crossroad of an earth-shaking dilemma, i.e.,to follow his “own will”, praying for the Father to spare his life or succumb to the Father’s will to die for mankind. A wrong choice on his part will spell eternal disaster to everything and everyone that was created, “visible or invisible” (Col. 1:16). His decision carries repercussions of infinite proportion. He understood from the experience of others and from what he saw about death by crucifixion, how this torture leads to excruciating pain, exhaustion and asphyxiation.
Jesus reached the crossroad
So, what decision would he make?
Considering that he is the “only way, the truth and life”(John 14:6) and that “no other name given …by which we must be saved”(Acts 4:12), took on an even compelling pressure on him to make the right and only decision. The wisdom that comes from Luke 17:33 (“he who loses his life will preserve it“) reverberated in his ears. Jesus knew that while he was imbued with the Holy Spirit at river Jordan (Luke 3:22) the Father will “not spare his own Son” (Rom. 8:32; Matt. 4:17).
This was the night that he genuinely recognized his “spirit is willing but the (his) flesh is weak”(Matt 26:41). Although if he chooses, he could be empowered by the Holy Spirit to overcome the “pull of his flesh” but at the expense of his life. Indeed, he has to die to “condemn sin in his flesh” as in:
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:” (Romans 8:3)
He had to “condemn sin in his flesh”, not by surviving and living through this dilemma, but by death through crucifixion. This is the only path as planned by the Father for his “flesh” to die before being resurrected with an immortal body. His choice did not come easily nor in a snap. And, him being composed of flesh, he realized that on his own, he was “weak” and needed to summon the strength that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit given to him at river Jordan. He had to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh(Gal. 5:16).
Teaching moment for Jesus and for us?
On that night, his trust in the Father’s plan that there was no other way but to die, was shaken by the urgency of the reality that he has to finally decide to be a “Passover”(I Cor. 5:7)). He would not be forced into submission and he has to take it voluntarily and with conviction.
What then convinced him of the only correct choice? Reading Mark 14:41, Matthew 26:44 and in Luke 22:39-54, it took him the 3rd time seeing his disciples sleeping, reminding him that like him, the disciples’ “spirit is willing but flesh is weak”. This optic of similar weakness of his fellow-flesh, finally made Jesus to realize that “human flesh is weak” and he had to die for mankind, i.e., “take the cup”. By his own personal experience, and even with the Holy Spirit imbued in him, he in fact was initially preferring to stay alive instead of dying a horrifying death,i.e., “let this cup pass from me“. His spirit is willing to die, but his flesh was telling him otherwise. The spirit and the flesh were at odds, at war with another, as expressed by Paul (Rom. 7:15-25).
After the 3rd time coming back praying in Gethsemane, Jesus said,
“Truly the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41-45; Mk.14:38-42).
Finally, on that night in the garden of Gethsemane he decided,
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”(Luke 22:42, NIV)
For emphasis, man-Jesus’ personal will (being drawn to the flesh) was not to die as a Passover for mankind. His weak flesh was battling against his spirit. But, without “taking the cup” he would not have been resurrected by the Father, nor subsequently gifted with the power of the Holy Spirit to us-ward. The Holy Spirit baptized into him at river Jordan was specifically for him. He had to get that same power, but this time after his resurrection, for him to give to us. The fact is, that he subjugated the personal pull of his flesh, to the will of his Father by the power of the Holy Spirit that guided him with wisdom. And that decision was no simple feat but rather a major one with eternal ramifications. He chose voluntarily to follow the will of the Father and said, “…not my will, but yours be done.” They are indeed, “one” with each other.
He restored his trust in the promise of his Father to be resurrected after his death. Again the emphasis in this story in the garden of Gethsemane is trust and the reality of the warring components of our body, i.e., flesh and spirit-of-man (1).
Subsequently, history shows that 3 days and 3 nights in the tomb, he was “manifested/declared as Son of God by resurrection from the dead”(Romans 1:4). Indeed, he was declared or called or named as “Son of God” after resurrection, went to heaven and received the Holy Spirit directly from the Father to be given to us (John 16:7). And, on the day of Pentecost it was gifted with openness and grandeur to the apostles and others(Read Acts Chapter 2) with the purpose of creating “many sons and daughters of God” as in:
Heb. 2:10 “In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffering.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” (NIV)
Death by crucifixion was the preferred torture and common during the Roman Empire. That night of Nisan 14 in the garden at Gethsemane was a seminal event that led to a major decision of Jesus. It was the turning point of colossal proportion in the road to salvation for all of us. A horrifying night to the “captain of our salvation“ who faced, not an escapable risk, but with his actual death through the horrifying anguish of crucifixion. Sweating profusely “like great blood” flowing down the ground, he emoted the gravity and intensity of his prayer and supplication to the Father to “spare the life” of his Son. But, there is only “one way” and “truth” towards eternal life and that the Father will not “spare the life” even of his only son. Jesus has to be the “Passover Lamb”, chosen specifically by the Father, for a “sweet offering” (Eph. 5:2) to reconcile man to the Father, to die rather than live (Luke 17:33). And this destiny, Jesus had to accept willingly and voluntarily, not mandated nor forced down his throat. And Jesus did accept the Father’s will, meekly and reverently!
The teaching moment was for all of us, including man-Jesus, the “pioneer” (trailblazer, author) of our salvation (Heb. 12:2). We all have to “live by faith” , follow the Holy Spirit that guides us to correct decisions and not succumb to the “pull of the flesh”. While we may have the Holy Spirit residing in us, we will still be tempted, like Jesus was, and undergo sufferings because of the “weak flesh” that man was composed of (1). Also, like what Jesus did, we have to follow (especially at the “last days “) the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Pray always that we will not be subjected to crucifixion which was replaced historically by “waterboarding” or any “enhanced interrogation techniques”(2,3). But, even when we do, just remember to “walk in the spirit” so as not to follow the “pull of the flesh”. And apostle Paul followed the example of Jesus, too.
To Paul, whose life seemed to be round-the-clock risk, the scriptures state:
“Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea” (2nd Cor 11:25) and very often “in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2nd Cor 11:27)
Finally, the strength to overcome the risk and pain of losing one’s life in this world or pull of the flesh is trust, anchored on faith that is evidence-based, and hope in the promise (4) that he who loses his life in this world will save it for the age to come. The optic of Jesus crucified on the cross is the epitome of trust in the Father that all of us must learn.
May God bless us all.🙏😇
1. Kingdom of God in Human Anatomy, Retrieved 7/26/18 from
2. Eric Weiner. Waterboarding: a Tortured History. Retrieved 7/28/18 from https://www.npr.org/2007/11/03/15886834/waterboarding-a-tortured-history
3. Waterboarding. Retrieved 7/28/18 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/waterboarding
4. Faith vs hope, wishful thinking, trust. Retrieved 7/28/18 from https://fact-s.net/2015/10/27/faith-vs-hope-or-wishful-thinking/
Original post: July 28, 2018