The King In Anguish
Devotion written by Simon Clay
Read: Matthew 26:36-46
Today we stand on holy ground.
The path of the king leads to the cross. The crucified king will transpire to be ‘a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles’ (1 Corinthians 1:23). Now that the Supper has been shared, only the cross remains. But first we must linger in the garden and notice how anguished and alone He is.
I am sure that this was not the first time Jesus had sought the quietness of intimacy with His Father in this place. Gethsemane was a well-known olive grove, a place of safety and quiet where Jesus knew He could pour out His heart to His Father.
Although His Father is all-sufficient, He brings His disciples with Him to the garden and then takes His three closest friends in further (v37). Although He alone can walk this path, His desire is to have others nearby for comfort and strength.
But there is already confusion in the disciple’s thinking. They haven’t spotted that He is the true king who has demonstrated His identity in the last few days by arriving on a donkey, clearing away the barriers to true worship, accepting the extravagant, genuine worship of a woman, and establishing a new covenant using old signs. The evidence of Jesus’ true identify is on display but remains unrecognised by the disciples. At this moment a crucified king is so far outside of their thinking they cannot even stay awake for a single evening to provide solace to their Lord.
Loneliness and Abandonment
So Jesus proceeds alone. His pleading with God to allow this suffering to pass or to find another way to bring about His eternal plan is articulated in anguished prayer. Luke, the doctor, describes the struggle as being so intense that His sweat was like drops of blood (see Luke 22:44).
Jesus is grappling with the fact that He has to become ‘obedient to death, even death on a cross’ (Phil 2:8). This was the plan but surely there must be another way? This cup of suffering seems too difficult to swallow. Can’t there be a Plan B, a backup plan, an alternative? Please?!? But Jesus knows that the only way is the way of the cross and He knows He has to drink deeply from this cup. It cannot pass from Him. This is the Fathers’ plan.
And while Jesus agonises, His disciples fall asleep. It’s understandable. They’ve been busy. They’ve covered a lot of miles in the last few months. They’ve been surrounded by people – so many people – all day, every day wanting to get a glimpse of Jesus.
And so in this anguished scene, the loneliness of the garden foreshadows the abandonment of the cross.
* * * * * * * * *
Go to dark Gethsemane,
You who feel the tempter’s pow’r;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see;
Watch with Him one bitter hour;
Turn not from His griefs away;
Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.
James Montgomery (1825)
• It is easy to criticise the disciples for failing to stay awake to support Jesus. But we are not so different. Send some time confessing your weakness and asking Him to strengthen you for what He has called you to do.
• When have you felt alone and abandoned? Bring that experience to God now and ask Him to show you that He never left you alone.
• What does this account tell you about the way Jesus viewed prayer? What lessons are in that for you?
Family worship idea
Watch the Garden of Gethsemane scene from the Miracle Maker film:
Are there situations/ things that we are facing which we are concerned or worried about and we need to ask for God’s help and strength? Pray together about these.