meditations on Holy Week (2): in the garden

Matthew 26:36-46Mark 14:32-42Luke 22:40-46

The Bible opens with a garden – Eden. It closes with one too – the New Jerusalem. In between, in the midst of Holy Week, another garden comes to play in God’s story of redemption – Gethsemane.

Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray as no one else has ever prayed, before he went to the cross. The canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) record excerpts of his prayer, which contain that same incredible tension found in the psalms and throughout the Bible: honest emotion, genuine expression of pain, authentic human desire; coupled with total trust in God and surrender to his will. Don’t skip too quickly to “your will be done” and miss the “take this cup from me.” Both make up all real prayer, and ultimately, real relationship with God. God does not ask that we lie to him – he commands us to be real – but that we trust him.

It’s important for Christians to take home the lesson about submission to God and dependence on him even in the face self-sacrifice. Jesus’ night in the garden of Gethsemane was for a far bigger purpose than our prayer lives, however. In the garden, the Son of God stretched himself out on the night’s cold ground and prepared to take on the sins of the world.

In that first garden, Eden, Adam hid from God, disobedient and ashamed. He rebelled against his Creator, then hid himself among the trees because he now knew shame and fear. He sinned, then retreated. Although God cursed him, he did not bring Adam’s death sentence down on him that day. He spared him.

In Jesus’ garden, Gethsemane, Jesus undid what Adam had done. Jesus had nothing to hide, no rebellion to be ashamed of, no wayward thought at which to cringe. Yet, he gave himself up willingly. The sinful Adam hid and was spared. The sinless Jesus gave himself up and was condemned.

He was condemned for my sake, and for yours. It pleased Father, Son, and Spirit for Jesus to become a sacrifice for many, so that he may redeem a people for himself. Jesus’ blood now covers my rebellion and my shame. Jesus experienced the condemnation of a righteous God in my place. I am free.

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2:22-25

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