And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36 ESV)
Immediately before his arrest, Jesus took his inner circle to pray in the garden of Gethsemane. “Gethsemane” means “oil press”, and for generations Christians have noted how this has become a place known for seeing the pressure on Christ on full display. Mark says he was “greatly distressed and troubled.” Jesus tells his disciples that his “soul is very sorrowful, even unto death.” Certainly, the pressure was on.
How could this be? How could he who calmed the waves and fed the 5,000 and withstood his opponents be so grieved? Wasn’t this part of God’s plan? In fact, didn’t Jesus already make known that he was sovereign over all these things, as displayed in his riding on a donkey and setting the table in the upper room? Doesn’t he know he is going to rise again?
The answer to all these questions is “Yes, and . . . “ Yes, he is all these things because he is the divine Son of God! And, he is fully man. Fully man. He is God and man. We often fail to grasp Christ’s humanity.
His humanity, however, is on full display in Gethsemane. Here, he shows himself to truly be the Man of Sorrows. The shadow of the cross grows darker. His betrayer is at hand. In just a little while, he would be killed. And as a true, full human being, he was grieved.
When the Bible tells us that God is near, that he comforts the brokenhearted, that he gathers us in his arms – it is not using lofty language about a distant deity. No, those promises ring true because Jesus Christ – truly God and truly man – really entered into the suffering of mankind, for sinners like me and you. Hebrews tells us he was tempted in all points like us, yet without sin. When you grieve, you can come to a God who knows what you are going through and who has felt literal pain – physical and emotional pain.
But Christ also offers us an example in this episode. He brought along disciples, but even they couldn’t help him. They fell asleep. Christ was alone. Or was he? In this hour of darkness, the Son would turn to his Father for help. He prayed. He cast his cares on God. He even asked God to remove the cup he was about to drink, but concluded with “not my will, but yours.” Jesus shows us here that even though his disciples would fail the test of the trial, even though you and I often fail those tests, Christ endured a great trial, and passed! And in salvation, his perfect record becomes ours.