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Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Gethsemane is not a field of study for our intellect. It is a sanctuary for our faith.

- Klaas Schilder
It is easy as we contemplate Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter to focus on just the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. And not without good reason, as we witness a significant amount of Jesus' suffering on the cross and see His victory in the Resurrection. But, as Schilder pointed out, the Garden of Gethsemane is essential to understanding the whole of Christ's sacrifice. This is not something that I've realized in years past.

So let us consider the Garden...

Luke 22:39-46
John 14:30; 18:1
Matthew 26:36-46

The first thing we notice is that Jesus "began to be deeply distressed and troubled." Why now? Why has He been seemingly untroubled while his disciples were quite scared (Mark 10:32), even though He knew what was coming? He knew before time began what was in store for Him, yet at this particular moment as He's walking with His men up the Mount of Olives, He gets shaken. Perhaps, in a way, He is experiencing what David experienced in 2 Samuel 15:30 (the parallels are obvious, though I never noticed them before) when he went up that same Mount of Olives weeping a millennium earlier, fleeing from the rebellion of his son, Absalom. Perhaps, after those few years of reaching out to His people, the Jews, Jesus knows that the opportunity of salvation for them, His child, is lost and that they are now searching for Him to kill Him. As David before Him, He is experiencing the grief of seeing the one you love so much, and for whom you would die, wanting to murder you.

Looking down on Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

CJ Mahaney gives another likely reason for Jesus' grief in his incredible sermon, "The Cup": He came to the Garden to spend some time with the Father and found hell instead of heaven. As one writer puts it, "It seems that particularly in Gethsemane Jesus was given a fuller understanding of the contents of the cup that he was to drink." He came to better see and realize just how horrible that cup was, filled with the FULL wrath of God against all the wretchedness of human sinfulness. He saw the wrath toward the Rwandan Tutsi who chopped up a small child with a machete. He saw the wrath toward me when I rebel against the Father by killing with my tongue and fornicating with my mind. He saw the wrath pouring out of God's holiness onto the German guard who gassed hundreds of Jews. He saw the wrath toward us all when we worship the creature and not the Creator. He saw all the wrath which the Father had stored up in His divine forbearance, the wrath that Jesus, as God incarnate, knew better than any man could ever know or fathom. As Frederick Leahy wrote in The Cross He Bore, this cup "carried the stench of hell." And it made Him collapse (Matt. 26:39).

Also, as John tells us in his gospel, Satan was there, offering Jesus one last temptation to avoid the cup. And Jesus, in that moment of extreme agony, did cry out to God asking for a solution that didn't require Him to drink from that Cup, even to its very dregs. He cried out to God as "Abba, Father," as a child cries out for his daddy. This reminds me of the young Jewish couple brutally murdered by Muslim terrorists a few years ago in Mumbai. At their funeral, their little son was inconsolable, crying out "Abba, Ima" throughout the service. It's a sign of deep intimacy and love to use "Abba" in reference to God, something that the Jews of the time would have found profoundly disrespectful. You don't call the Ancient of Days "daddy." That is, unless you are the Prince of Peace and God's Son who has existed as one with the Father for all eternity. "May this cup be taken from me" ... as Mahaney says, if it had been possible to attain the glory and joy set out before the dawn of time in some other way, the Father would have done it in an instant. "Yet not as I will, but what you will" ... Jesus rejects the temptation from Satan and begins to drink the cup, until not a drop was left when He uttered those words on the cross: "It is FINISHED."

One last reason that Jesus is in so much inner turmoil is likely the fact that THREE times his disciples fail Him when He needs them most. He keeps going back to them, both to remind them to pray earnestly as the Tempter is at hand and also so that He might receive sympathy and support in this last hour. But in their sleep, they have abandoned Him already. He merely asks them to pray for Him for one hour, yet they can't even do that. These men who have followed him for several years and have been His closest human friends don't even seem to care enough to ask His Father to strengthen Him in His need. He's desperate for support, yet everywhere He turns in heaven and on earth, He is rejected. In the movie "Changeling," an evil man is about to be hanged for murder and he begins to scream out to the people watching his execution, "A prayer! Please, someone say a prayer for me!" He is met with complete silence... and begins to quietly sing "Silent Night" as the noose is placed on his neck, knowing that He is (justly) forsaken by men and by God for his crimes. That chilling scene gives a glimpse of what the pure and Holy Lamb was experiencing as He approached His own death and damnation for crimes which He hadn't committed, nor would have ever dreamed of committing, yet was abandoned by those He loved most.

Praise to God that we don't have to drink that Cup! Instead of Jesus thrusting that Cup into our face, demanding that we drink that which we have earned, we are offered the sweet Cup of Salvation, from which we can drink for eternity and it will never dry up, never run out, and never turn sour. And may we pray as Leahy prays, "Lord, forgive us for the times we have read about Gethsemane with dry eyes."


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Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

Darius Teichroew's favorite books »