The garden of Gethsemane was familiar to Jesus and his disciples, as they had spent some time together there a couple of times (John 18:2). I imagine Jesus telling his disciples lovely stories, answering their questions and praying with them as they breathed in the cool evening breeze, surrounded by beautiful flowers and fruit trees. However, that night was different – in just a few hours, a place of solitude would become a place of agony, and Jesus knew it. In the past few days, I have pondered on the activities that took place in this beautiful garden before and during Jesus’ arrest. In this post, I share a few insights which I have gained from this.
“And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples” (John 18:2 KJV, Emphasis mine).
1. Victory through prayer
One does not prepare for battle in the battlefront; the preparation is done well ahead of the battle. In the same way, the victory of Christ’s suffering and resurrection which we celebrate today was actually won in the garden of Gethsemane – when Jesus agonised in prayers! It was on his knees that he received strength to endure all that he suffered (Luke 22:43). It was there also that he surrendered completely to the will of His Father (notice how his prayer changed from “…let this cup pass over me” to “…thy will be done”; Matthew 26:39-44). It took intense prayers to get to this stage (Luke 22:44). If Jesus had not agonised in prayer, He would probably have given up along the way because of the enormity of the task that he was saddled with. We can see this play out in the case of Simon Peter. Despite his good intentions of remaining through to Jesus every step of the way and great start, he could not stand through to his promise when the temptation came (Matthew 26:41; Luke 22:31-34; John 18:15-17, 25-27). In the same way, all the other disciples of Jesus could not stand because they were not adequately prepared in the place of prayer (Matthew 26:56). This highlights the importance of using the “prayer strategy” when we experience challenging situations in our lives. All battles that we face today can be won through prayers!
“And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.” (Matthew 26:39-44, 56 KJV; Emphasis mine).
“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me… And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:31-34, 43-44 KJV; Emphasis mine).
“And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter. Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples? He saith, I am not… And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not. One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.” (John 18:15-17, 25-27 KJV; Emphasis mine).
2. Jesus has emotions too!
It is reassuring to know that Jesus has experienced the full range of human emotions – including agony, disappointment, and betrayal. His disciples, trusted and tried friends of Jesus for three-and-half years, rejected him and fearfully ran away when he needed them the most (Matthew 26:56). Even before the major disappointment, they could not support him in prayers when He asked them to. His treasurer and friend, Judas Iscariot, betrayed him in the most subtle way imaginable. He gave him a kiss and affectionately called him “Master” – though he had wicked intentions. Jesus was so overwhelmed that at some point, He wished for a way out. He knew what it meant to lose his freedom and to be humiliated. Imagine how difficult it would be to relate with a Saviour who has no clue about the way we feel! Irrespective of how we feel at any given time, it is so sweet to know that Jesus can understand how we feel and we can confidently ask for help.
“But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56 KJV, Emphasis mine).
3. Fighting alone…
In Jesus’ most trying time, Jesus surrounded himself with his very close friends (Peter, James and John). He needed them to encourage him – and the only way they could do this was to support him in prayers (Matthew 26:38). Sadly, his friends were too fast asleep to be of any assistance to him. He woke them up from sleep without any success. Jesus had a battle ahead of him, and there was no human to assist him. In life, the people whom we depend so much on would disappoint us in the hour of our greatest need – and this is a reality which we must all deal with. The devil uses this tactic: he attacks the vulnerable people who are close to us in a bid to discourage us. Jesus was not upset when He returned to find his disciples fast asleep; He understood this principle. Life is an individual battle which we must all fight alone. At the end of our lives, we would appear before God to give an account of our lives, and we would stand alone to do this. We must learn to trust in God more than we trust people. This would save us from a lot of heartaches.
“Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38 KJV, Emphasis mine).
4. Our leaders need prayers!
Jesus’ disciples were used to seeing Jesus handle every situation: life-threatening storms, all manners of disease conditions, awkward questions from insincere questioners, and so on. When Jesus told them of his imminent death, I doubt if they fully understood what it was going to entail. They probably felt that Jesus could effortlessly take charge of any challenge that might arise. Jesus requested his disciples to pray with him – He really needed some encouragement in his darkest hour, but they failed to see this need. I cannot help but imagine how many times we fail in our responsibility to provide support for our spiritual leaders when they need it the most. We must never assume that our leaders can get by without our prayers; especially when they ask for it. It is an excellent idea for us to form the habit of continually lifting up our leaders to God in prayers.
5. Know your inner circle
While Jesus was on earth, he had twelve apostles and several other disciples following him about. These people were friends of Jesus – Judas included. In fact, he referred to them as his mother, brothers and sisters on one occasion (Mark 3:34-35). However, when he needed prayers, he called out only three people to move closer with him to the place where he would agonise in prayers. It is great to have several people folk around you, but you must identify your “inner circle” – those people whom you can trust. Those capable of going the distance with you at a moment’s notice. Jesus understood this principle.
“And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:34-35 KJV, Emphasis mine).
6. Nothing good comes easy
At the time of his arrest, Jesus could have called angels from heaven to fight his enemies – but he did not (Matthew 26:52-54). He knew that a high price needed to be paid for our redemption, so He made the sacrifice for our sakes. His calm demeanour when the soldiers came to arrest Him reveals to us that he had fully come to terms with what He needed to do. Many of us desire blessings from God, but we fail to do that which is required of us. We want the prize without paying the price. Jesus did not mince words when He told us that the Christian race is full of hurdles, but if we continue to the end, we receive a rich reward. When the going gets tough, we must lean on God’s strength, trust His promises and keep moving on…
“Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Matthew 26:52-54 KJV, Emphasis mine).
7. Betrayal is only thirty pieces of silver away…
Betrayals say a lot about the betrayer, and everyone is capable of giving and/or receiving it. I found it rather disappointing (and cheap) that Judas would betray his friend and master for a mere thirty piece of silver! The bounty he placed on Jesus’ head was worthless – considering Jesus is the son of God and the most popular man who ever lived. I find that most times, betrayals are always dependent on the magnitude of the dilemma that betrayers find themselves in. Would a woman madly in love betray the love of her life? Definitely not, you may think… but what if that same woman finds herself in a compromising situation? Who knows? The scales might tip! Jesus understood this and he was prepared for Judas’ betrayal. In life, there might be times when those we trust and love betray us. We must quickly forgive them, pray for them and move on.
What lessons can you learn from Jesus’ Gethsemane experience?
It is my earnest prayer that God speaks to your heart through this piece…