He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." (Matt 26:37-38)
He fell with His face to the ground and prayed. (Matt 26:39)
"Abba, Father," He said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:36)
Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44)
During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death (Heb 5:7)
"My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." (Matt 26:42)
Perhaps no bible story has had more impact on me than the account of Jesus praying in Gethsemane. It haunted my teenage years especially. It said to me: 'This is what honouring God looks like. This is the epitome of religious devotion - overwhelmed to complete prostration, loud cries and tears, commitment to the point of death.'
And I attempted to emulate this. Not in practical, daily 'thy will be done' service - no, no! Instead I would attempt to re-enact Gethsemane. I'd sneak out of the house at night and find somewhere really scary - a forest in dead of night was best. And I would literally fall on my face and ask God to take my life, to make me His servant, to do whatever He wished with me. (Of course I imagined that His wishes would be awful, dark and painful).
Nonetheless Gethsemane had taught me that this was the way and so I'd try (unsuccessfully) to work myself up into some kind of hyper-serious state of emotional sincerity. I was massively aware that I was falling short of offering the required... what? devotion? gravity? sacrifice? Whatever was needed, I was painfully aware of lacking it. But I made my dramatic teenage offering and waited for the results. But no angel came to comfort me. No spiritul blessing was poured out. No command from heaven. Just an overwhelming sense that heaven was silent and my devotion was clearly not sufficient to rouse Him.
And, over time, my response to this was 'God doesn't want me, I don't want Him.' I wandered from Him for years. But it was Gethsemane that brought me back. Because all of a sudden I saw what should have been most clear all along. I'm not at the centre of Gethsemane! I'm sleeping with Peter, James and John. I'm the weak, flesh-driven, good-for-nothing follower who cannot stay awake even for one hour. But Christ! He prays to the Father. He intercedes for His worthless, pathetic friends. He offers to drink their cup.
And suddenly it all fell into place. Christianity was not about me burying my face in the dirt for Him. He buried His face in the dirt for me. It's not about me stooping low enough to be worthy. It's about Him stooping lower still because I'm not. I don't offer my life to a silent heaven. The Man of heaven offers His life for a silent, sleeping, sinful me.
Gethsemane is good news. There's so much more to be said. But perhaps it's said best by my favourite preacher on this my favourite passage: Click here for Mike Reeves on Gethsemane. Well worth the free registration! Check it out.
Or here's a men's breakfast talk I did on the subject.