Easter Reflection: Gethsemane

After supper on Thursday night, their last supper together, Jesus and his disciples left the Upper Room and walked to the Mount of Olives just outside Jerusalem. They went to some kind of garden or enclosed field called Gethsemane. It was a place they visited often, full of the silvery green, knarled olive trees, which covered the slopes of the hillside. A place where the olives were grown and pressed to make the olive oil that was so much part of everyday life.

It was springtime and with the trees in blossom, there would be fallen petals carpeting the ground. And as it was Passover, chances are their walk was well lit by the full moon.

Jesus walks his last walk as a free man, accompanied by bemused, tired disciples.

And there, in Gethsemane he finds space to pour out his anguish to his father. Infact, his anguish was so great that he literally sweats blood, which is a medical phenomenon seen in extreme cases of human strain when blood and sweat literally mingle.

Jesus was fully human and went through the same fear and torment that you or I would go through, even more perhaps because he knew the depth of hell he’d have to face when carrying the burden of the cross. Something that no human could ever imagine.

Three times during the next couple of hours, Jesus asked his friends to stay awake and pray, to support him in his hour of need. Yet three times they failed and dozed off unable to appreciate the urgency of this request.

Then finally, the gospels tell us that Jesus prayed the most selfless prayer, ‘If you are willing Father, take this cup from me… yet not my will but yours be done’.

His humanity baulked at the task ahead yet his divinity knew what needed to be done and in the battle of his mind he offered himself as God’s eternal purpose.

But then, still in the darkness of night, he must have heard the crowd approaching, Jewish religious leaders and soldiers led by Judas…their presence lit by torches and lanterns.

Strengthened by the Holy Spirit and his love for you and me, he faced the oncoming mob with outward calm and resolution. And there in the garden, where he had pleaded with God to take the cup of suffering from him, he allowed himself to be led away.

Jesus knows just what it’s like to fear and to dread; he knows when we go through such emotions just how hard it is. Often we cannot choose to run away from such times, perhaps after the diagnosis of a severe illness, or a financial crisis, or the death of someone we love. Those times when bad things in life outside our making or choosing. And those other times when we have to do something we really do not want to face.

It’s not an empty platitude to say that Jesus understands. He really does. Gethsemane proves that.  Jesus received the strength to do what he had to by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and that same power is available for us today. All we can do then is trust, believe and do what Jesus did and ask God for divine help and guidance.

‘Let this cup pass from me, but not my will but yours be done’, hard words, almost impossible words at times to say, but sometimes they are the only words possible.

And when we say in exasperation or desperation, ‘God knows;, he really does.

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