In Matthew 26, Mark 14 and Luke 22 we have similar accounts of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. His heart is heavy – he describes it as ‘overwhelmed with sorrow’. He needs some time with his father, but also wants his friends to stay nearby.
Just imagine the intensity of emotions Jesus is wrestling with now. They reach their peak where he cries out, ‘Abba Father…everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me’. I can sense some panic in the human voice Jesus uses – and yet his spiritual being still submits, ‘yet not my will, but yours be done’. Luke’s account indicates that once he submitted in this way an angel appeared and ‘strengthened’ him. But, even after this visitation, the anguish was still upon him, his prayer intensified and his sweat became like ‘drops of blood’.
Matthew’s account reveals how Jesus went back to his friends – presumably for support and to check they were praying for him. Three times he went to them… and each time found them asleep. It seems they hadn’t grasped the enormity of the situation, and so allowed tiredness to overtake them. He must have felt so let down and alone.
I can’t begin to compare our own situations with Jesus’, but I do know there are times when we are overwhelmed with loneliness, sadness and despair. Perhaps your friends have let you down – by not doing something or by acting in a way that hurt you. Perhaps God is asking you to face a situation you feel is too difficult – why would he ask it of you? How do you respond – to your friends, and to God? I think Jesus is modelling the most helpful response to us in the Garden – pour it all out to God in prayer; the hurt, despair, pain, sadness. At the end he then says, ‘Rise, let us go!’ He uses his time in prayer to be real about his emotional tussle, then meets the situation head on.
One thing to try if you have been hurt or feel overwhelmed is to write a letter (to God or the friend). Express all your emotions as you do this. Sometimes it is necessary to speak to the person, in which case the letter can be a good way to vent your intense feelings before working out the best way to approach a meeting with grace. At other times it is simply right to bring the letter before God, read it out and then tear it up, asking him to take away the pain as you do so – or to enable you to face the difficult situation with his help.
This reflection first appeared in Quite Spaces.
‘In the run up to Easter, I keep thinking about how Jesus was totally betrayed by one close to him – with a kiss. What was going through Judas’ mind? How could he actually do what he did?’ This is an extract from my latest piece for Christian Today, which looks at how the Bible can help us when we are not sure who to trust. To read more, please click here.