Prayer in the Garden
“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane…” vs. 36
Hit Hard and Fast
Deborah Greene was picking up her groceries at a Whole Foods in Georgia, USA, in April last year when she got a tearful phone call from her brother, breaking the news. Her father, Lowell Herman, age 72, took his own life just two months before he would have celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary. Writing on her blog, Reflecting Out Loud, she said she broke down in tears and fell to the floor – but instead of ignoring her or walking away, others in the store came over to her and comforted her, called her husband and made sure she got home safely.
This is her blog post in full:
I remember you. Ten months ago, when my cell phone rang with news of my father’s suicide, you were walking into Whole Foods, prepared to go about your food shop, just as I had done only minutes before.
But I had already abandoned my cart full of groceries and I stood in the entryway of the store. My brother was on the other end of the line. He was telling me my father was dead, that he had taken his own life early that morning and through his own sobs, I remember my brother kept saying, “I’m sorry Deborah, I’m so sorry.”
I can’t imagine how it must have felt for him to make that call.
And as we hung up the phone, I started to cry and scream, as my whole body trembled. This just couldn’t be true. It couldn’t be happening. Only moments before I was filling my cart with groceries, going about my errands on a normal Monday morning. Only moments before my life felt intact.
Overwhelmed with emotions, I fell to the floor, my knees buckling under the weight of what I had just learned. And you kind strangers, you were there.
You could have kept on walking, ignoring my cries, but you didn’t. You could have simply stopped and stared at my primal display of pain, but you didn’t.
No, instead you surrounded me as I yelled through my sobs: “My father killed himself. He killed himself. He’s dead.” And the question that has plagued me since that moment came to my lips in a scream, “Why?” I must have asked it over and over and over again.
I remember in that haze of emotions, one of you asked for my phone and asked who you should call. What was my password? You needed my husband’s name as you searched through my contacts. I remember that I could hear your words as you tried to reach my husband for me, leaving an urgent message for him to call me. I recall hearing you discuss among yourselves who would drive me home in my car and who would follow that person to bring them back to the store.
You didn’t even know one another, but it didn’t seem to matter. You encountered me, a stranger, in the worst moment of my life and you coalesced around me with common purpose, to help. I remember one of you asking if you could pray for me and for my father. I must have said yes, and I recall now that Christian prayer being offered up to Jesus for my Jewish father and me, and it still both brings tears to my eyes and makes me smile.
In my fog, I told you that I had a friend, Pam, who worked at Whole Foods and one of you went in search of her and thankfully, she was there that morning and you brought her to me. I remember the relief I felt at seeing her face, familiar and warm. She took me to the back, comforting and caring for me so lovingly until my husband could get to me.
And I even recall as I sat with her, one of you sent back a gift card to Whole Foods; though you didn’t know me, you wanted to offer a little something to let me know that you would be thinking of me and holding me and my family in your thoughts and prayers. That gift card helped to feed my family, when the idea of cooking was so far beyond my emotional reach.
I never saw you after that. But I know this to be true, if it were not for all of you, I might have simply gotten in the car and tried to drive myself home. I wasn’t thinking straight, if I was thinking at all.
If it were not for you, I don’t know what I would’ve done in those first raw moments of overwhelming shock, anguish and grief. But I thank God every day that I didn’t have to find out.
Your kindness, your compassion, your willingness to help a stranger in need have stayed with me until this day. And no matter how many times my mind takes me back to that horrible life-altering moment, it is not all darkness. Because you reached out to help, you offered a ray of light in the bleakest moment I’ve ever endured.
You may not remember it. You may not remember me. But I will never, ever forget you. And though you may never know it, I give thanks for your presence and humanity, each and every day.”
(Last updated Fri 11 Mar 2016)
In a time where we see the world going crazy over the dumbest of thing, where many people seem to be concerned only about themselves, there is s till a ray of hope. But this is real life, right? Things are going along and BAM! you get hit with something you never expected, couldn’t imagine, and it just throws you for a loop. So, let’s see how Jesus handled hardship. If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word from Matthew 26:36-46.
Read Passage – Matthew 26:36-46
36 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.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 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.” 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
We are continuing our study of the last week of Jesus life and the events that led up to his death and resurrection. Last week we saw the gift of communion as Jesus met in the upper room with the disciples. Today we see Jesus in another place, verse 36:
“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane…” vs. 36
Anybody know what Gethsemane means? It is derived from the Aramaic language and it means:
Gethsemane = OIL PRESS
I just discovered this and I find it fascinating. The place where Jesus goes to pray and to pour himself out before God, to seek God’s will and where he is feeling the pressure of what is about to happen to him is called “oil press.” It’s interesting if you try to look up Gethsemane and Jesus prayer at this place. People try to make it more palatable, less stressful. Here, I’ll show you a few pictures of how people have portrayed it. (Show pictures) if you remember in the text it says Jesus fell face down. It says he is in deep sorrow. None of these pictures really portray that and that is why I choose the background picture I did today, it does a little better job of showing the deep sorrow and the posture that Jesus took while he was praying.
The reason I think this is significant is in these times, an oil press was a large stone in a large stone vat that crushed the olives and extracted the olive oil. That first crush is where we get our virgin olive oil. They would crush those same olives a second time and that is where we get the extra virgin olive oil. If you did it a third time, it was extra extra virgin olive oil.
The point is this; this c rushing the olives was a strenuous process for the olives. Now we see Jesus in a strenuous time of his life. He is facing the biggest challenge of his life.
What we are seeing as we work through this last week of Jesus life is a gradual awareness that what Jesus came to earth to do is now at hand. He is preparing his disciples to see this as well. He is trying to make them gradually aware that he is fulfilling his purpose for coming to earth and it’s a bit different than they understand it. Notice when he is in the upper room he tells them about the bertrayal that will soon take place, Matt. 26:21:
“And while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’” Matt. 26:21
Then he narrows it to one of the closest men to Jesus will betray him:
“Then Jesus told them, “’This very night you will all fall away on account of me…’” Matt. 26:31
Then he takes the 11 with him to get away, Luke 22:39:
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.” Luke 22:39
Next they see Jesus begin to express his emotions, verse 37:
“…and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.” vs. 37b
Then they see him in deep sorrow and overwhelmed, verse 38:
“Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” vs. 38
What happens next is we see the character of Jesus come out as he deals with this overwhelming sorrow. I think it is important to remember that his sorrow is not about dying and death. That would be a natural assumption. I believe his sorrow is more that he is going to experience something that is something he has never felt and never wanting to know; being forsaken by God. He is part of the Trinity, the triune God of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. There has always been a natural flow of these three working together and the unity that bring as one God and now that will be broken. Now Jesus will take on the sins of all mankind and feel the sorrow that comes from having God forsaking you. It was what we were supposed to feel but Jesus is doing that on our behalf.
Jesus Set the Example of What to Do
What do you do in those times of deep sorrow? How do you handle that overwhelming sorrow and forsaking? When we realize that Jesus feels all that we feel and went through all that we go through, we see three traits of his character that we can put into our lives as well.
- He Included His Close Friends
First, Jesus included his close friends. Jesus and his disciples went tot the garden to pray. He goes a little further and takes his three closet companions with him; vs 37:
“He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him…” vs. 37
One of the things that happen when we go through struggles and difficulties is we feel very alone. Our tendency is to make that true by separating ourselves from those closest to us. In separating ourselves we make sure that the feeling we have of being alone comes true. We are kind of self-predicting and making something happen that is not meant to happen. We actually create our own pity party and we do exactly what God does not want us to do; depend on ourselves. We get to that point where we say things like:
I can handle this
I can make this happen
I can take care of myself.
This is the time for me to take care of me
Here is where Jesus teaches us; we were not meant to go through things alone. He takes his closest friends when he could have said, “I just need to be alone with God.” We not only need others, we rob others of the gift of friendship of being there for us.
Ex. Something good happens and you want to call your friends. What about when something bad happens. Many times we are saying: Why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t you tell me?
- He Went to God
The second character trait we see is that when he is down, when he is struggling he turns to God. Notice the intimacy and struggle of Jesus in verse 39:
“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.’” vs. 39
Jesus takes a posture of humility and trust. First notice the intimacy that is expressed in Jesus addressing God by saying “My Father.” Remember I said we tend to pull away in times f struggle. Not Jesus. He moves to intimacy and remembering that close relationship he has with God the Father. He not only recognizes it he depends on it.
And…notice that we only get a short version of a much longer time of intercession with God. The passage tells us he went a stones throw from the three, and then prays. While he is praying, they fall asleep. I am guessing they didn’t fall asleep in just one sentence. But we get the important part of the prayer. His plea to God.
Note that Jesus started his ministry by being tempted by Satan to abandon his true calling of being the Messiah. He is now being tempted again, and it is the greatest temptation he ever faced, to abandon his purpose of being the Messiah and the sacrifice that needed to be made for our sin. The text tells us about this in verse 41:
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” vs. 41
The disciples are facing the same temptation he is, to turn away from the plan. But Jesus is confident in God’s sovereign plan and perfect will so he prays that his will not be followed, but that God’s will be completed. Jesus is not altered by the unique events that are about to happen.
- He Went to God Again and Again
And the third character trait we see in Jesus in the garden is he doesn’t just pray once and it’s done. No, he went to God again, and again. Three times he prays the same thing; verse 42:
“He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’” vs. 42
The second prayer is slightly different but the message is the same. Sometimes we deceive ourselves into thinking we pray about something once and that’s all that is needed. Yet, our minds never stop thinking about our struggles. It’s interesting we continually think about our struggles but think we can pray once and takes care of it.
Ex. Our weekly prayer list. The health issues with loved ones that we keep on the list for continual prayer.
But notice twice is not enough for Jesus. He goes to God a third time. This shows his deep struggle with this and the need to keep talking to talk about it. Verse 44:
“So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time…” vs. 44
Sometimes we can pray once and then we still are not settled about it. But going to God again and again shows our willingness to let God be the judge, let God be in control, and let God work his plan and that we are dependent on him. Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 5:17
“…pray continually…” 1 Thess. 5:16-18
Aren’t you glad that Paul didn’t say just pray once? No, Paul is really telling us that our lives are to be in continual communication with God. The real truth is that God wants us to be in constant communication with him. It’s good to pray the same thing over and over again if that is what is on your mind.
Result: God Gave Him the Strength
The end of this passage shows us the result of going to God again and again with our struggles and difficulties; he gives us his strength.
“Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” vss. 45-46
Jesus is now prepared to face those that are going to mock, ridicule, persecute and kill him. We learn obedience in suffering It’s talking with God that gives him strength to move forward.
About 15 years ago I took the challenge to memorize some of the Psalms. One was Psalm 46. I love this Psalm and the first verse I repeat often. It says:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
Through Jesus character we see this verse implemented in our lives. Jesus let God be his refuge and strength in his time of trouble. Through Jesus example we can do the same.