The Garden of Gethsemane: Jesus’ Pregame Locker Room & Getting Prepared for The Game of All Time

Posted: May 15, 2015 in Gospel of Luke

Luke 22:39-46 — There are three things that struck me today when reading this passage. First, the phrase, “he went as usual to the Mount of Olives” intrigues me. Let’s look at that. Second, the fact that gospels show us the humanity and divinity of our Savior all in this one moment. Sure, He was 100% divine, but He was 100% human too. Finally, even though Jesus asked them to pray, He found them asleep. The thing that I see most here is that Jesus, even in times of trouble, was intimate with the Father but we are sometimes asleep at the wheel when it comes to our relationship with Jesus.

He went to the Mount of Olives as usual. Why does Luke say “as usual”? According to gotquestions.com, “Jesus made many visits to the Mount of Olives (Luke 21:37). In fact, it was “usual” for Him to go there when in the vicinity of Jerusalem (Luke 22:39). Every time Jesus visited Lazarus and Mary and Martha, He was on the Mount of Olives, for their village of Bethany was situated on the eastern slope. The road from Bethany to Jerusalem lay over Olivet.” Some significant things always happened when Jesus was on the Mount of Olives. He delivered his prophecy of woes upon Israel there (Matthew 24:1-25:6). When he entered Jerusalem on what is now known to Christians as Palm Sunday, he entered from the Mount of Olives. And, now, here the most significant arrest in human history takes place here. This was Jesus safe place. This was his base of operations in Jerusalem. When we are in troubled times, we often retreat to our safe place – our homes, our families, a favorite place of solitude. Jesus was about to go through one long night without sleep and a day of pain and suffering. I think I would retreat to a safe place too. It kind of reminds of those promo films for major football games where they try to make the game out to be this monumental epic of Greek tragic proportions. You always see the football players in their locker room, silent, headphones in, contemplating the struggle ahead and what it will mean to their team and them individually. They are all hoping that they excel during the game and that they will not let their teammates down. This is what I see for in Jesus’ retreat into His favorite place. He is getting ready for the game of His earthly life. It is truly monumental (no disrespect to the game of football that I passionately love). This game determines the future of mankind. This game changes history forever. Like the 1958 NFL Championship Game is said to have elevated professional football to the most favored sport in America, this game that Jesus is about to play is the biggest game in human history. It will be a titanic struggle. Jesus need the time to be alone with His Father. It is almost game time. He needs to seek the inner strength that only being intimate with His Father can give. Pregame warmups are complete. The game is about to begin. Time to retreat, reflect, prepare, pray intimately with the Father.

The second thing I see here is that Jesus was human and we all understand how He would not be looking forward to the pain and suffering. That is a very real part of Jesus’ discourse with the Father. But often lost on us in this moment of utmost humanity that we can relate too. It is also a very divine moment as well. We will get back to that thought shortly. First, yes, all of us can relate to Jesus here. Many, many scholars and preachers have written about the humanity of this moment.

Can you imagine being Jesus? He knew what He was about to go through. He knew that the temple guards were going to beat Him to a pulp even before He is taken to the Romans. They will beat Him, slap Him, spit in His face. Then, if that beating was not enough, he would be dragged around Jerusalem most likely in chains. First to Pilate, then to Herod and then back to Pilate. Then, the Roman scourge with whips with metal barbs, and bone chards attached to the strips of the whip that would literally dig into your flesh and rip it off as the whip is recoiled. Many movies featuring the scourge of Jesus are just too sanitary. The Passion of the Christ had it right. After a Roman scourging the entire body is a bloody mess of raw exposed skin. The loss of blood is significant. The entire meaty flesh of the body is ripped and bleeding. Then there is the crucifixion. It remains to this day one of the cruelest forms of execution known to man. Due to lack of time, I will not go into the details here because it would take several pages (an good writing on it can be found at http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/roman-crucifixion-methods-what-did-jesus-endure/). Suffice it to say that Jesus, from a human perspective had to be almost glad when He exhaled his last breath because it relieved the pain of the cross, the pain of suffocating slowly and the pain of body parts contorted in ways they shouldn’t be, and the pain of all his exposed flesh ripped in some places down to the bone. Would you not dread this? But Jesus remained intimate to the mission given by his Father even though it would required significant and I mean truly significant human suffering. Jesus was at the end a bloody, unrecognizable mess of pain and suffering. But he did His Father’s will.

But often lost in the writings about Jesus’ physical suffering as human that He was agonizing over at the Garden of Gethsemane is the fact that He was agonizing in a divine way also. Jesus knew that on the cross He would become sin. He would take on God’s wrath for the sins of all humanity of all time. Think about that. All sins of all time. All sins committed from Adam til Christ returns the second time. Jesus was going to take the wrath of God for all that. We are talking some serious wrath then. It would make God’s wrath shown to individual nations or people in the stories of the Bible seem tame in comparison. What had to be bothering Jesus would be that during those moments He would be separated from the Trinity. He has been throughout eternity united with the Father and the Holy Spirit. At the cross he was going to feel forsaken. He would not only be physically suffering but He was going to be separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit. He would be separated from that Holy Intimacy. Think about it. Eternal intimacy of the trinity and then being separated from it to accomplish a task. You would be agonizing over that too. But Jesus pushed on because He knew the end game. It all had a higher purpose. What He had to momentarily endure would have eternal implications. He pushed on.

Finally, when you consider all this and you consider the agony that Jesus was going through in His prayer time, He comes to find the clueless disciples asleep. They were to preoccupied with their cares of the moment that they could not pray but rather they feel asleep. They were satisfying a physical need rather than a spiritual one. It makes me think of us as Christians sometimes. We are called by our Suffering Savior who went through so much for us to take His message to the world but yet we are preoccupied with our own little deals. We are preoccupied with earthly pleasures. We are preoccupied with our own desires that we see as more important. We think we can witness later. We think if I can just get these debts paid off, then, I will do something for Jesus and then we go out and trade one debt for a larger one. When are we going to wake up? The time is now. The game is on. Are we going to fall asleep in our opulence when there is a world that is suffering at the hands of evil out there? Are we going to fall asleep in our material things when there is a world that does not know Jesus out there? Are we going to fall asleep in keeping up with the Joneses and not give generously to the cause of Jesus Christ? Are you falling asleep when Jesus needs you? Jesus pressed on. Jesus stayed intimate with the Father throughout. Jesus did His Father’s will even if it was going to cost Him flesh and pain and separation from the Father. He did it all for us. He died an excruciating death. But yet, we fall asleep!

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