Gethsemane: a place of anguished obedience, prayer, and grace

“Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, ‘Sit here while I go over there to pray.’ He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’ Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?’” — Matthew 26:36-40 NLT

Gethsemane

To remain, stay awake, and pray,
these are the tasks
assigned to the disciples

and to us
as well, even now,
as we face our own battles.

Yet we brag, big ourselves up,
and anticipate greatness
from souls of dust,

or we cringe and creep
because we feel
like worms without worth.

But God knows the state of us
all too well,
and he grants us the grace

to have a fresh start
if we're willing
to ask for his help.

Jesus sought support himself
but found his friends
deeply lacking

in their ability to keep alert,
to pray faithfully
and to stay awake.

In the depths of his humanity
he identified
completely with you and me,

and he still gives 
us grace when we mess up
because he knows
just what we are made of.
© joylenton

Reflection

Picture yourself in this scene. Jesus, your close friend, teacher and miracle worker, is approaching his darkest hour. You’re aware that he is special, and talking about being crucified, but your mind hasn’t yet fully grasped the reality of who he is and why he came, though you long to please him.

But it’s been a long day, with a seemingly wasteful anointing at Bethany, an unexpected betrayal by Judas, a denial, a final supper together, and now this period of praying in the garden of Gethsemane. You’re just plain exhausted. Jesus gently scolds you, and you feel dreadful because your tired body has let you down.

Prayer

Suffering Saviour,

As we read these words, we wonder if we would have been any better at watching and praying with you than the disciples were. Sadly, their fatigue caused them to slumber in your hour of greatest need. You faced this ordeal alone because your friends failed you at this final hurdle.

Even so, you understood their weakness and gave them grace. Just as you do for us. From our post-crucifixion perspective, we know how it ends—how these failing, faltering disciples became devoted, faith-filled men with transformed minds and hearts. Oh may we have an ending like this too!
Amen

This post has been excerpted from my ‘Experiencing Lent: Sensing the Sacred in Our Midst’ book. You can discover more about the meaning of and the biblical context for Gethsemane in this article. Blessings and love to you! Xx 🙂 ❤

6 thoughts on “Gethsemane: a place of anguished obedience, prayer, and grace

      • Oh I’m sorry to hear you’ve spent a long time in hospital, Rebecca. Hope you’re on the mend now. I often need to take long blogging breaks for my health’s sake so I know how isolating it can feel. Welcome back! Sending healing blessings, hugs and prayers. x 💟

  1. Thank you Joy, for your sharing your gift of poetry. I especially appreciated these lines:
    In the depths of his humanity
    he identified
    completely with you and me,

    and he still gives
    us grace when we mess up
    because he knows
    just what we are made of.

    Wishing you blessings this Easter.

    • Thank you, Shirley, for letting me know you enjoyed the poem and pointing out which lines in particular spoke to you. I appreciate you sharing your gift of encouragement with me. Blessings on your Easter, my friend! x 💜✝️

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