In a recent sermon I re-visited the Gethsemane narrative in Matthew’s gospel. (Matthew 26: 36-46) The transparent emotion displayed by Jesus in the presence of his disciples spoke even more powerfully than it had in my previous encounters of this familiar text.
Verse 38 conveys the honest and unpretentious stress that Jesus finds himself pressed into.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…” Jesus says. Luke, the physician includes the blood-mingled drops of sweat as proof of the extreme duress of the Messiah.
Jesus doesn’t try to be superman….he is who he claims to be…the son of man. He is terrified, he is stressed, he is under pressure. Here in Gethsemane (means oil press) Jesus is caught in the clinch of humanities’ most critical moment. Jesus doesn’t take it lightly. Just as surely as the oil of the olive is pressed out between pestle and stone bowl….Jesus is being pressed and pressured and poured out in the most extreme manner imaginable. Jesus realizes fully that his deity is shortly to be pressed out leaving him with the human, the fleshly, the man, forsaken by God the father. Sins of the whole of humanity on his back. A gulf fixed between He and His Father for the first time.
Contrast the genuineness of Gethsemane with the brash boasting of Peter in the few verses just previous. You know. The part where Jesus tells Peter he can’t stand up to the challenges he is about to meet. You know. The part where Peter boasts…”even if all fall away on account of you, I never will…” (v. 33) And you know. Where Jesus says, “…this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times…” (v. 34) Then Peter gets in deeper and says, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (v. 35) By they way, in case it has escaped you, check it out right after Peter speaks the text reads: “….and all the other disciples said the same..”
So what we have going on here is this: Peter and company are swearing up and down…no wait a minute, that’s later….they are insisting that they would die rather than deny. They hide behind a silly notion that true faith is manifested by bravado rather than being genuine.
Jesus then shows them that a real man can indeed let them see you sweat. He shows them that it’s OK to be stressed about being in the oil press. As worked up, as sorrowful, as stressed out as Jesus was…..and he let them see it all…..he submitted to God and did what he had to do.
So dear friends let’s discover this about pain, suffering, loss, trouble and trial. Let’s not be lecturing our fellow Christians that they are weak of faith when they get stressed out and troubled about pain and trials and suffering. No one said we have to stoic, emotionless and steely eyed in the midst of trial. Dependent on God, yes. Confident in God, yes. Peace in the presence of God, yes.
In the Gethsemane moment we didn’t need superman, we needed the son of man. He yielded to God. He accepted the cup. He drained it to its dregs.