Stories, thoughts and reflections on the Bible from the WSFC Staff.
“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
If you were to ask my mom today what one of the hardest things to get me to do as a kid was (besides socialize, and do my homework), without question she would say “Yard work.” I didn’t like getting my hands dirty, and it was hard to figure out what to do with my walkman while kneeling down on the ground.
(Kids, a walkman was a device that played cassette tapes. Cassette tapes were like CD’s before CD’s were invented. CD’s were these discs that played music. Music is that stuff you stream on Spotify through your air pods. AirPods would have come in handy as a kid who had to do yard work. I have AirPods and I still don’t do yard work.) Ok, now back to the Bible.
The only garden that has ever really had appeal or significance in my life is the Shakespeare garden in Portland – and only because it’s where I proposed to my wife. But gardens are important in the Bible. In fact the Bible begins and ends in a garden and they become an image of sacred spaces when they appear. And here, in Matthew 26, in a garden called Gethsemane, we find one of the three most significant garden encounters in the Bible; and it happens right before Jesus is taken to the Cross.
In his letter to the Roman’s Paul refers to Jesus as the “second Adam” (the man made famous in a book called Genesis). But Jesus’ Gethsemane experience is a stark contrast to the account in Genesis 3.
- The first garden, named Eden (Genesis 3), was a place without sin, full of peace and freedom.
- The second garden (Matthew 26), was a place of betrayal, suffering, arrest and violence.
Yet, as one commentator puts it, both gardens become “a sacred place within which a radical decision is made that reverses the course of human history.” The decision in the first garden introduces sin to humanity. The second decision sets the course for salvation to come.
But follow me on a tangent for a second while a propose a change of perspective on our current situation. What if we begin to look at this “COVID season” more like a garden – a “sacred space where radical decisions are made” that could change the course of our lives? That doesn’t mean we discount the horrible tragedy that the collective world is encountering right now. Quite the opposite – I believe when we make sacred decisions in the face of tragedy, it honors those who have had to go through those experiences.
Which brings us back to the two gardens – Eden and Gethsemane.
- In Eden, the “first Adam” lived in perfect conditions yet chose to distance himself from God in the pursuit of even greater ease. The result was sin, despair and shame.
- In Gethsemane, however, the “second Adam” (Jesus) faced the betrayal of a friend, the anticipation of bodily torture, and the weight of the entirety of humanities sinfulness on his soul, yet He leaned into the discomfort, found a place to be with His Father, and prayed. The result: the courage to say “yes” to the will of God and the strength to say “Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer”. (Matthew 26:46)
Now, here is what I am not saying: that this “garden” we find ourselves in today comes with a “salvation of humanity” weight with it. Jesus already accomplished that so you can take a deep breath (just not too close to anyone else).
But we allotted this time. This stressful, weighty, “when will it end so I can social distance myself from my house for a few moments” time where, if we let it, we can allow the good, bad and ugly be pressed out of our soul so we can take it to our Father for redemption and receive the courage to say yes to His will.
The take away from the prayer Jesus prayed in this garden: Private surrender will bring public courage.
The prayer Christ prayed was authentic and vulnerable, fully of humility and submission. And it was the exact prayer needed to invite the Father into his situation and make radical decisions that changed the course of humanity.
As we learn to pray those “Yet not as I will, but as You will” prayers in less than convenient “gardens”, God will empower us to encounter His Kingdom, be filled with His Spirit and spread the power of His gospel to our homes and beyond. Often those prayers are prayed through tears, grief and hesitancy – but submission is usually accompanies by those emotions.
So as we continue in this “COVID garden”, embrace God’s will for your life and your families life. Find a place to be with the Father, and begin to pour your heart out to him. He will fill you and empower you. He will be present with you and direct your path. He loves you and is for you. And someday we will be fully present with Him in the Garden where God will “wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”. (Revelations 21:4)