The Gethsemane Experience

Matthew 26:36-39


 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will,but as you will.”

So what is a Gethsemane experience or if you prefer, a Gethsemane moment?

It’s best described as any kind of great trial or hardship in our lives that there is absolutely no way to avoid. It could be anything from the loss of your job to bad news from your doctor, or any of a number of difficulties in life. Whatever it may be, a Gethsemane moment is a trial or difficulty that there’s no going around, and there’s no getting out of it.

It was in Gethsemane where Jesus became deeply troubled over the events that were about to take place. What put Him in such great distress was His foreknowledge of what was coming. In the words of Matthew, Jesus became “sorrowful and troubled”. Jesus Himself said that his “soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”.

Luke wrote in the 22nd chapter of his gospel:

 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”  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.

“Like drops of blood”, Luke said. Jesus knew what was about to happen, and he was scared, and He prayed and asked God if there was any other way. Yes Jesus is God, but He was also man, and He dreaded what He was about to go through.

Even so, Jesus was obedient to the father, because He also said, “…yet not my will, but yours be done.” Sometimes God may ease our suffering, and sometimes He won’t. The only way Jesus could pay for my sins and yours was to take our place and suffer the pain we should have been made to suffer, and die the death we deserved to die. He was obedient unto death, even death on a cross!

But Jesus set an example for us. When we face one of those Gethsamane moments, we do what He did; PRAY! We bring it to God in prayer and then we prepare ourselves to be obedient to His will. God answers all prayers, but sometimes the answer is no.

As Jesus prayed, Luke said an angel appeared and strengthened Him. Mark’s gospel doesn’t mention the appearance of the angel, but I think we see the evidence of that appearance from Mark’s description of Jesus’ renewed strength. We see Jesus’ resolve and courage. As Mark 14 tells us:

Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

In His renewed strength, Jesus was ready to face what was in front of Him. He told His disciples “Rise! Let us go!” In other words, He was saying, “Let’s do this!!”

So a Gethsemane experience is not just about coming face to face with hardship, it’s also about getting to the point where you’re prepared to face whatever it is that lies ahead, regardless of how tough it’s going to be.

In our own Gethsemane experiences, I think we’re given a small glimpse of what Jesus went through that night in the garden. The Bible says in the first chapter 2 Corinthians that we share in the sufferings of Christ. He knows what physical pain feels like. He knows what emotional pain feels like. He knows what sorrow feels like. He knows what it means to mourn. He even knows what it’s like to be angry. We share in His sufferings as He shared in ours.

So when a Gethsemane experience comes, no matter how bleak or dire it may be, bring it to God. Though it’s easier to say than it is to do, be obedient to His will, whatever it might be, and ask God for the strength you need to get you through it. And while praying and asking God for strength, there’s one more thing we need to pray about. Sometimes in the midst of our pain we forget. When we ask God to help us through whatever it is that has brought on our Gethsemane moment, always ask Him to do it in a way that will bring Him glory and honor. After His night in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was raised by the power of God. So too, it is by His strength and not our own, that we overcome our nights in the garden. And for that, He deserves the glory and the honor!