Gethsemane means “oil press,” a place where harvested olives were put under pressure to release their essence.
This garden was situated at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It was a preferred place of prayer for Jesus. The disciples were exhausted. Following Jesus was harder work than fishing or collecting taxes or any of the other occupations they had known since Jesus had looked at each of them and said the words from which there was no return, “Follow me.” Of late, His teaching was most disturbing. They were glad when He told them to wait while He and the inner circle went deeper into the garden to pray. The eight remaining behind were glad for once not to be included with Peter, James, and John.
The three followed Jesus deep into the garden when He suddenly fell to the earth. This was more than exhaustion—this was sorrow, a deeper sorrow than they had ever seen in Jesus.
“My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”
Now it was their turn to stop and wait as Jesus struggled to His feet and continued His lonely vigil. He was not so far away that they could not hear Him praying. He prayed desperately for this hour to pass and leave Him untouched. They heard Him cry out to His Father to take this cup of suffering away. They waited in the deep silence that followed this petition for some answer from heaven. None came. When Jesus spoke again, His voice was stronger. The decision had been made.
“…nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”
Relieved by this, the trio drifted into an unrestful sleep. Jesus returned to them, not all surprised to find them sleeping. He was strong now, Himself again. The press had done its work. He teased them awake announcing the approach of Judas.
While He was still speaking, Judas led the religious leaders and their military escort, armed to the teeth, into the garden. He had prearranged a signal, a kiss. With the greeting, “Rabbi!” he delivered it and the authorities went to work. In the brief violence one of the disciples drew a sword and sliced off the ear of a guard. Jesus noted the irony of the moment. It was all so unnecessary.
“Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”
When the disciples saw there was no fighting to be done they fled the garden, one leaving his clothes behind. They left Jesus to the mercy of His enemies, just as He had predicted they would. Only Judas was left. His face betrayed his growing regret. Whatever he had expected did not happen.
The leaders were gleeful. The guards were cruel. The Disciples were in hiding. Jesus was resolved. The night was young.
Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely.” As soon as he had come, immediately he went up to Him and said to Him, “Rabbi, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him. And one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then they all forsook Him and fled. Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.
Lord Jesus, never has anyone on earth known the depth of isolation that You knew in that garden. The soft breezes through the familiar trees could not cool your brow heated by sweat turned to blood. When You called out to Your Father for relief no answer came. There was no turning back, no other course to take. The Father’s will was clear. In the pain and loneliness of the garden, the Father’s will became Yours. Help me to always do the same. Amen.
What Wondrous Love Is This?
1. What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul.
2. When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, O my soul!
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.
3. To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb who is the great “I AM,”
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
while millions join the theme, I will sing.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.