36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watchwith me.”39And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”43And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” 55At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled. Matthew 26:36-56
His time has finally come.
Taking his three closest friends with him, Jesus goes to Gethsemane. He is deeply troubled. He is deeply sorrowful. His disciples are deeply sleepy. He prays; they sleep. Three times he prays. Three times they sleep.
In the shadows of one of the olive trees I sit. And watch. And cry.
But I do not sleep.
Because tonight is the night.
Tonight Jesus prays.
Tonight Jesus pours out his heart to his Father.
Tonight Jesus cries.
Tonight Jesus is seized. Like a thief in the night. Like a threat.
Tonight Jesus drinks the cup that is set before him.
In spite of his fear, he drinks the cup.
In spite of his sorrow, he drinks the cup.
In spite of his deep and intimate connection to the Father, he drinks the cup.
Even though he is God, he drinks the cup.
Because it is the only way, he drinks the cup.
Because of his love for us, he drinks the cup.
Even so I can see his pain. I watch him wrestle with what is before him. I watch him pray alone. Stand alone. Drink the cup alone.
And I sense with a sharp, deeply piercing conviction my weakness. I am powerless to stop what is unfolding before me. I am powerless to change what must happen. I am powerless to change my life without his death.
At long last, the great crowd arrives bearing swords and clubs, bearing anger and fear. As they move to seize my Savior, Peter, impetuous Peter, draws his sword to defend Jesus. And I wonder if he recognizes that his moment has passed. I wonder if he realizes his missed opportunity to stand with Jesus by kneeling with him. By praying for him.
This man who so passionately loves Jesus could not stay awake. He was overcome by this world, by its temptations, by his weakness.
Perhaps it is this realization that causes him to strike with his sword. To make up for his inability to keep watch when Jesus asked him to.
And I wonder how many times I substitute my own plans or actions because I did not heed Jesus’ words. Because I did not follow his plan. Because I was too afraid, too tired, too overcome by the world to keep watch or to pray.
I wonder how many times I, like Peter, have missed the opportunity to pray with Jesus in the garden.
Here in this garden, Jesus is God, but he is also very much a man. He is capable of fear and longing and pain. He is capable of needing the strength of his friends in his hour of need.
But because he is God, he does not hold their humanness against them. He does not resent their weakness. In fact, it is why he came. It is why when Peter strikes with his sword, Jesus says simply, No, not like this.
Unlike his disciples whose spirit is willing and whose flesh is weak, Jesus ultimately is willing in both spirit and flesh to fulfill his purpose.
Unlike his disciples who flee in the face of this crowd, Jesus surrenders. Not only to them, but for them. Not only to them, but to his Father. Not only to them, but to us. For us.
For all of us. For you. For me.
Jesus surrenders for all of us.
His time has come. And like his disciples, I fall away. I flee. I flee with my pain and with my gratitude.
And I cry.
And I wait.
Because this is not the end. This is not done.
And even when it is done, that will not be the end.
It will be the beginning. The new beginning we all need.
But first, we must endure to the end.