Struggle in the Garden

I have been meditating the past few days on Jesus’s moments in Gethsemane prior to his arrest. Luke 22: “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Mark adds that His soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.

There is so much in these few verses. I’m struck by Jesus’s struggle. I feel that this reveals the complete essence of Christ’s humanity. He didn’t want to endure what was coming. Taking on the sin of the world would be painful enough, but the separation from His Father was overwhelming. Jesus didn’t put on a happy face and pretend that it was all ok. He didn’t take on 20 tasks to distract himself from the discomfort. He struggled with the pain. He wrestled with His flesh and the temptation to walk away from His mission. He poured His heart out to His Father and bared His sorrowful soul.

He was also a stone’s throw from His closest earthly friends. Had they not succumbed to sleep, they could have witnessed this painful struggle. I’m awed by the vulnerability of Jesus in this moment. He wasn’t vulnerable in front of all the 12, but he did bring with Him those from His inner circle. He was willing to allow them to step into this moment, if only as witnesses.

Jesus is our model. He dealt with flesh as we deal with flesh, yet was without flaw. So often in this world, especially in the church, we beat ourselves up over feeling the struggle, over wrestling with the weight of our sorrow, with allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in our moments of utter brokenness. We ache in silence, ashamed that we aren’t strong enough or full of enough faith to face it all with joy and a smile. We think, “What is wrong with me? Why is my heart so heavy? If only I had more faith, I could shake this angst and overwhelm, and burnout and jump back in with passion and motivation.”

But Jesus wrestled with the weight of His sorrow to the point of sweating blood. While none of us will face the horror that awaited Him, I think we can learn from Him in our momentary struggles. Jesus brought those He trusted into this moment. Jesus poured His heart out to God. Jesus asked that the cup be removed, but, and I think this is the most important part, He surrendered to God’s will, not His. He didn’t deny His sorrow or the struggle. He didn’t pretend it was all ok, but He also didn’t succumb to it. He placed His trust in the One who is faithful and surrendered and He stayed on mission. There have been times I have wanted to throw in the towel and kick the mission to the curb. But Jesus reminds us that with obedience and surrender come the ultimate prize. Do not grow weary. Fight the good fight. And of course we know the rest of the story…

Jesus triumphed. He took on my sin and your sin and the sin of the world and because of His obedience we can find the strength, bolstered by the power of the Holy Spirit, the same power within us that raised Jesus from the dead, to persevere in the face of trial and to even, gasp, consider it joy.

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