Today I’m thinking about Our Lord’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane following the Last Supper and before His arrest by the Jewish and Roman authorities. The gospels say that He goes for a walk with His apostles Peter, James, and John. He stops, asks the three of them to wait while He walks ahead “a stone’s throw” and prays, saying: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42). He knew what was about to happen to Him and He asked His Father to intervene. Luke says, “He was in such agony and He prayed so fervently that His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44).
Matthew’s gospel records that He returned to the three apostles three times and found them sleeping each time. Among other things, He says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41). Shortly after, He was arrested, flogged, crowned with thorns and crucified.
What are we to make of the details and of Jesus’ behavior in this scene? I remember a physician turned priest once told me that it is indeed possible, when a person is under extreme duress, for blood to squeeze through the wall of a vessel and intermingle with sweat. That presumably explains the drops of blood. But why ask God the Father to “take this cup away?” Isn’t He supposed to suffer and die so that mankind can be saved from their sins? Well, yes to the second question.
I think what we must remember is that Jesus has two natures … a human nature and a divine nature. Some refer to Him as the “God-man.” So because Jesus has a human nature, He must experience human pain and emotion. He knew what was ahead of Him … a painful and relentless flogging at the hands of His enemies and, once greatly weakened from the loss of blood and a painful scarring on his torso, a pushing and shoving way of the cross, the cross on his shoulders, to the hill of Calvary, and then the piercing and shooting pain from nails through his hands and feet that held him on the cross until, finally, death. His human nature simply could not endure it, could not handle it. Yes, Father, take this cup away from me, please, please, please.
As death overtook Him, the chains of sin were lifted from my body and your body. Once that act was completed, His divine nature took over … a glorious Resurrection.
Friends, please don’t let the great miracles associated with the life, death and Resurrection of Christ pass you by on this Earth. He suffered and died for me. He suffered and died for you. To use modern language, please love Him “to the moon and back” for this terrific, soul-saving gift from our God. I’m fully aware, of course, that indeed, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” and that you likely will fall asleep and commit sin, for I have the same human nature as you! But I also know that your love for God will produce eternal ecstasy in heaven for all of us if we just “repent and believe in the Gospel.” I pray that your Lenten journey continues to be grace-filled and holy. Amen!