The Garden of Gethsemane is both a place of sorrow and triumph for a person traveling through the Gospels. It is a place of sorrow, because he sees the focus of the Gospels, Jesus, “being in agony [as] he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). This Jesus that he has witnessed perform many miracles and healings, while proclaiming the good news that the kingdom of God had come, is now suffering under the burden of the sin of all those who he would save. He watches this same Jesus drink the cup of the will of God down to the last drop.
Yet, it is a moment of monumental victory. Christ faces his supreme temptation of disobedience of the Father with obedience to the will of the Father. As Adam fell in the original garden, the greater Adam is victorious in his garden. The person reading the gospels goes on to see exactly what that will is: nothing short of the salvation of those who would believe on him by the death of Jesus taking upon himself all of the wrath of God. There are a few important lessons to learn from Christ’s time in Gethsemane.
- God’s will for you probably does not always include earthly prosperity.
One of the common distortions of the truth of God is that he always wills that you have earthly success. One of the reasons that this is a true misrepresentation of God’s character is found at Gethsemane. Christ prayed there that the cup he was about to drink from would pass from him. Yet, Christ prayed that what God had willed be done. What God had willed for Christ is that he suffer torture and death by crucifixion. By this example, it is obvious that our prayers should not be, “Lord, please give me success in my earthly endeavors.” This is a violation of Christ’s example here and in Matthew 6, where he taught his disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”
Part of the good news of Christianity is that God works together good things for all those who love him (Romans 8:28). We could probably express this teaching like this: A lack of a perfect life means that God has planned for you something greater than a perfect life, assuming you are his. Whether, then, it is prosperity or hardship that God sends to you, sing his praises with joy, for, no matter the earthly circumstances, at his right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).
- Violence to other people has no place for followers of Christ.
There was a battle won in Gethsemane, and it had nothing to do with physical struggle. Jesus struggled against a greater enemy than that of man. Jesus struggled with the temptations of Satan and the weight of an unimaginable spiritual burden, and Christ overcame those enemies triumphantly. Yet, when the religious leaders entered the garden to take Jesus, he did not lift one hand against them. They came for his life, and he did not defend it. In fact, when one of his disciples tried to attack one of those leaders, Jesus rebuked him. Yet, somehow people seem to forget Jesus’ meek and mild nature.
There seems to be a growing idealization of violence among Christians towards others they do not agree with, especially against Muslims. Many people fantasize about what they would do if a jihadist walked into their room. They fantasize about violence to that person. They plan to do violence to those who want to do violence to them. This is categorically contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Jesus said that harboring this anger and hatred is as if you have murdered him (Matthew 5:21-22) and commanded his disciples to not resist the one who is evil (Matthew 5:38-42). This romanticization of violence against others is abominable and deplorable. Christianity is not a religion of violence against others. It is a religion of violence against violence against others.
- Trusting God means submitting to his authority.
Jesus prayed an impassioned plea that he might not drink from the cup that was coming to him. Yet, God did give Christ the cup, and Christ did drink it. Christ evidently, in his desire, did not want to take of the punishment of the cross. Yet, despite this, he humbly submitted himself to the will of the Father. Jesus regarded the Father’s authority as greater than his own desire to be free from the cup of death.
This is trusting God: placing your desires under the authority of the Lord. He is good, and his decrees are good. Your opinion of the best life for you will often be different from God’s declaration of what is actually your best life. There is only one way to live your best life now, and it is by submitting to the authority of the Father.
Gethsemane is the place where Christ sacrificed his will to the plan of the Father. In that plan, he reconciled his church to himself. He extended unmitigated grace to his beloved. He vindicated his name in righteousness. He promulgated his glory for the whole world to see. Yes, in Gethsemane, we see love in humility, and we see a model for the kind of self-sacrificing, dependent life to which Christ calls his followers.
Avery Thorn is from Belmont, MS. He is a junior at Blue Mountain College, where he is a Biblical Studies major and a History minor. He is a member of Belmont First Baptist Church. He has a passion for preaching and studying Scripture. Avery’s hobbies include exercising, music, politics, reading, writing, and making and enjoying coffee. You can follow Avery on Twitter @Avery_thorn.