And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:34-36)
Not too long ago I faced an excruciating trial. It was an ordeal I did not want to go through but I saw it coming at me like a freight train! I prayed and asked all my friends to pray that I would be relieved from having to walk through this trial. To my dismay, one of my friends, upon hearing my request said, “I’m going to pray instead, for God’s will,” to which I replied, “Don’t you dare! I really don’t want to do this!” To say “Your will, not mine” is best said on one’s face because there, at least, the body is in a submitted position even if the heart is not. To be honest, I prayed against having to bear this cross and then, kicked and squirmed all the way through it — because I did have to go all the way through it.
It’s terrifying and beautiful to enter the garden and watch Jesus grieved to the point of death. I’m not sure I’ve even touched the edge of this kind of grief but many reading this have likely entered into the heart of it. It is when deep sorrow and suffering merge and literally push us downward with a crushing weight. Each year during lent, I return to Gethsemane and quietly watch what happened there amidst the olive trees. I tend to put the Garden away after Easter, but each Good Friday I crawl over next to Jesus with my face to the ground and listen closely.
There I hear his labored breath, his sweat that falls like blood to the ground. There, I hear his desperate pleas to be relieved of the cup that awaits him. Can you hear him with his mouth pressed against the dirt? “Abba Father! Is there any other way?” That’s when I look over because I know what he will say next and I want to see his face when he says it.
“Yet not my will but Yours.”
It stuns me every time! The beauty of it breaks me. Not just His heart that trusted the Father in His darkest night, but the love that beat within Him for me and for you! I love the honesty in the garden. It helps me to witness the part of Jesus that was human like me. It instructs me on what to do and where to go when I am troubled, full of fear or weighted down with worry.
I must follow Jesus to a place called surrender and trust that God will stay with me there.
I find, as I lay with my face in the dirt next to Jesus, that I want to reach over and offer Him a consolation from the 21st century. I want to whisper back to Him, “Thank you! For not backing away from being crushed, scourged, and pierced for my transgressions — for laying it all down, for trusting the Father, for saying, ‘Not my will, but Yours.’ Thank you!”
Prayer of Response:
“Thank you, Jesus, for the garden! You showed me what it is to surrender all the way. Help me to follow you to a life that yields to your will and trusts you in suffering places. Amen.”
Questions to Ponder:
How does looking at Jesus face down in the garden make you feel?
Are you in a garden, a time of waiting or suffering? God is with you.
—Submitted by Judy Villanueva
Judy lives with her husband in Colorado, near the kids and grands. She completed her masters at Fuller Theological Seminary, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Spiritual Director, and writer. Her Bible reflections can be found at listeningforlove.net)
Photo of statue taken at Mater Dolorosa by Judy Villanueva