Preparing for this year’s Easter Services I’ve been particularly struck with the idea that the Garden of Gethsemane represents a pinnacle of the incarnation. The exalted one, who gives up the majesty of heaven to become one with us is now praying in the garden.
– Tempted in every way: even to give up on God’s plans and seek to save himself.
– Suffering in and through temptation: he is overwhelmed by sorrow.
What Jesus decides as he prays ‘take this cup from me’ will have eternal consequences. Is it worth Jesus going through all this to save us: is humanity worth saving?
These are the things which Hebrews goes on to say are part of his qualifications as our great high priest. Things which find their moment here in the garden. Here Jesus is appalled and profoundly troubled; filled with dreadful sorrow and anxiety – not at the prospect of physical suffering but of the horror at the dark destiny which awaits; the cry of dereliction which is to come (if that is what it is).
God had showed up in the flesh with Jesus’ birth; God has lived in the flesh through Jesus’ life and ministry: now the question is will God die in the flesh?
In the wilderness, at the start of his public ministry, Jesus determined to take the burden of God’s judgement upon sin. When he turns to head for Jerusalem he does it with a determination that stuns the disciples; his comments about his baptism and the cup show he is aware of the cost of pursuing the will of God.
Now, in the garden is the critical moment in Jesus life when the full meaning of his submission to the Father confronts him. A decisive moment when he surrenders himself to the will of God ~ consciously accepting the horror that awaits he acknowledges that the hour has come.
Back in the garden of Eden, it was rebellion which brought death’s reign over humanity. Now, in the garden of Gethsemane it is submission that brought about salvation; reversing that pattern of rebellion and setting in motion a sequence of events which defeat death itself. (A point made by William Lane in the NiCNT commentary Mark)
Hebrews 5: 7-8 During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.