“Go to Dark Gethsemane”
Today’s text would have taken place on the night prior to Christ’s crucifixion, “Maundy Thursday.” The gospels tell us that a lot took place this evening, including Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and instituting the Lord’s Supper. But Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane, always stands out to me. Luke recounted Christ’s agony before God, when He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 ESV).
I don’t think Jesus’ prayer was motivated by fear of death. After all, Jesus prophesied that God would raise Him to life on the third day (John 2:19). Rather, Jesus knew the price He would pay for the disobedience of humanity; that He who knew no sin would become sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ felt the weight of the suffering before Him, the cup of God’s wrath he would drink on humanity’s behalf. And so He cried out in anguish, asking God if perhaps there might be another way. And yet, Jesus expressed his resolve to follow the Father, no matter the cost.
We often sing James Montgomery’s hymn “Go to Dark Gethsemane” at our Maundy Thursday service. As I was reflecting on this hymn and this passage, I was reminded that Christ went to dark Gethsemane for us, and there, He voiced the prayer that we too would pray throughout the ages: “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup … yet not my will, but Your will be done.”
I don’t know the path you are walking, but I do know that the Christian life is a way acquainted with sorrow and grief. The world is full of suffering, and we are all groaning and waiting for redemption. And sometimes, we pray that God would remove the cup from us, and He does. The sickness is cured. The exam is passed. The conflict is resolved. But sometimes, the cup is not removed. Sometimes, things do not end as we might have prayed. Sometimes, the greatest comfort we can cling to is the fact that our God knows grief, because He gave up His one and only son to die, that Christ Himself went to dark Gethsemane and knows the agony of suffering. There, in the garden, Jesus teaches us to pray, modeling for us what it means to be transparent and honest before the Father while continually submitting our will to His. While we do not always understand God’s ways, and His will may seem hidden from us, like the three Hebrew boys in the furnace, we hold fast to the hope that God can deliver, and if He does not, we trust that He is still good (Daniel 3:16-18).
“Go to dark Gethsemane, you who feel the tempter’s power;
your Redeemer’s conflict see; watch with Him one hour;
turn not from His griefs away; learn of Jesus Christ to pray.”
Luke 22:39-53 (ESV):
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”