For so many reasons, Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane is one of the most pored over scenes in Scripture by the devout. Wedged between the Last Supper and Judas’ betrayal, the scene shows us Jesus at His most emotional. In John 11:35, Jesus weeps over Lazarus. But in Matthew 26: 36-42; Mark 14: 32-35; Luke 22: 39-44, we see and understand His pain. His tears are like blood. His disciples are sleeping. His anguish is so extreme that an angel is sent to comfort Him. Hebrews 5 describes the desperation of Christ’s prayer, but also the surrounding purpose. Christ had something to learn?
The Whole Story
In the Garden, we see Jesus ask His Father to do something. And we see His Father deny Him. This is the Incarnate Word, the One through Whom all things were made. This God-Man was the lynch-pin of all history. The One Whom the prophets foretold, the Lamb to unmake and remake the world. And in His most desperate prayer, His Father denied Him.
I’m sure faithful pastors have been thundering on these verses since they were still freshly written history, and faithful ministers will be thundering on them still until the very end of history. And there will still be new things for us to learn from Christ’s anguish and courage when this world is in its final week. There are new things for us here right now.
God Says No
God is speaking all around us all the time, crafting every whirring atom in every scene in which we exist. Every one of our moments is divinely bespoke, and when we cry out to Him, He hears us. He answers prayers. But He does not always say yes. Because, while we are often focused on physical comforts (comforts which He invented for us), your comfort is not your highest and best use. The Father denied Christ here, because His purpose was Christ’s glory for eternity, for His Son’s highest and best use…
Feelings should be given to God to be confirmed by Him or to be thrown down. By all means, tell Him what you feel. Be raw and completely honest. But our feelings should never be given the steering wheel. Not even Christ’s feelings in that Garden were given control. How much less should yours be? And Christ’s pleading had an ending. In the story that follows, throughout the passion narrative, we do not see Christ still begging to be relieved of the cup. Think of Him standing in front of Pilate and how changed His demeanor is. Christ pleaded with God. And then, having received His answer, Christ acted. He ran the Father’s play to His own extreme hurt.
We live in a moment in time when feelings are treated like more than just sacred cows. They are treated like sacred black holes, bending light itself with their gravity, bending the very truth. In the face of feelings, truth is treated like blasphemy.
It’s Not About Us. It’s Never Been About Us. Let’s Talk About Us.
Jesus died for you, but He didn’t really die for you. The atonement wasn’t one of those terrible claw games at a grocery store where our Savior paid an enormous price only to discover that we were cheap trash made of itchy, recycled polyester suits. Jesus didn’t get ripped off. And if we were all He had been given, the rip off would have been significant. Jesus glorified the Father. He drank the cup and went to the cross and rose again to glorify the Father. If saving us—if saving you–hadn’t glorified the Father, Jesus wouldn’t have done it. It wasn’t about us. We weren’t worth it! But Restoring the imago dei, raising millennia upon millennia of corrupt dry bones, remaking a race of helpless, hopeless trash into beings that could also please and glorify the Father, that was a miracle of miracles. Our rotten corruption, our darkness, our canker sore hearts—what we brought to the table was an impossible level of difficulty and a manifestation of Christ’s humility. And yet, Christ stooped lower than low and made us new. Yes, He died for us. But He did it for our Father’s glory…
Fatherhood is not protectionism. Fatherhood is preparation. Fatherhood is sending.
Freedom vs Predestination
God shows His work when He chooses to. We love the idea of a radical human freedom that even God defers to. It is a concept that rubs our human fur the right way, because it’s a tasteful basket of fruit left at the feet of our favorite idol…ourselves.
Our Cups, Our Crosses, Our Easter Mornings
We should face our trials, our suffering, our feelings in the same way Christ did. Give them to your true Father, the One Christ leads us to. But once you’ve given them to God, submit to what He chooses to do with them. More than that, labor to live through them and with them in whatever way will bring your Father in Heaven the most glory, knowing that route is never painless. Not even for the most perfect man who ever walked this earth. But on the other side, there is Easter, and joy eternal to dwarf mere hours of pain.