The Way of the Cross Goes through Gethsemane

Scriptural Stations of the Cross 1 and 2

By Wendell Barnett

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” —Matthew 26:36-38

 

Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him.—Mark 14:43-46

 

I’ll go with Him through the garden,

I’ll go with Him through the garden,

I’ll go with Him through the garden,

I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way.

—“Where He Leads Me” by E.W. Blandy

 

I wear glasses and have done so since I was seven. I have severe nearsightedness and astigmatism. My eyesight is so poor that putting on my eyeglasses is the first thing I do after I wake up and taking them off is the last thing that happens at night. Without my glasses everything is just a blobby blur. The lenses in my glasses puts things in their proper focus.

 

Jesus is the lens that puts our spiritual life in focus. Our lives can get quite dizzying and blurry when we fail to look through the lens of Christ. Every time I’ve messed up (and there are, sadly, plenty of those) it’s been because I have not kept my eyes on Jesus. The events in his life, his actions, and his attitudes help us to live as we ought. By faithfully following Jesus we grow more like him. John Wesley called this “Christian perfection” by which he meant becoming perfect in love. In other words we can love the way Christ loved.

 

Jesus also made it clear that to follow him means to follow the way of the Cross. He said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25).  There’s an old-ish hymn (published in 1906), titled, “The Way of the Cross Leads Home.” The first verse begins with “I must needs go home by the way of the cross, / There’s no other way but this;” and the second verse begins with “I must needs go on in the blood sprinkled way, / The path that the Savior trod.” In order to get home we have to follow the way of the cross, and that way leads through Gethsemane.

No, not the literal garden in Jerusalem, but the Gethsemane of the soul. There will come a time when God will ask you to do something that is the last thing on earth you would want to do. You will struggle against it. You may offer all sorts of alternative ways you could serve if only God wouldn’t require you to do that one thing. You may cry tears hot and wild. You will plead and beg. But in the end it comes to this question: do you submit your will to God’s? Jesus was so shaken by the enormity of what God was asking him to do, that he said, “I am deeply grieved, even to death…” (Matthew 26:38). His agony was so great that Luke reported that even though an angel was strengthening him, his agony was so great that he sweat blood (Luke 22:43-44).

And God said, “No.”

Jesus then proved he meant it when he prayed, “…yet not what I want but what you want.” (Matthew 26: 39) He proved it when he was betrayed by a kiss. He proved it when he was dragged from kangaroo court to kangaroo court. He proved it when he submitted to the insults, being spat on, the beatings, the scourging, and the crown of thorns. When he had to carry his own cross. When they drove the nails into his hands and feet. At any of those points, by his own words, he could have called for 12 divisions of angels.

They would have come.

But Jesus didn’t call them.

They didn’t come.

He went to Calvary. He cried out his last anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). He died. Because he was obedient when every fiber of his being cried out for an alternative, obedient even to the point of death, God “…highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Our obedience won’t produce that result, but we too will be exalted, and we won’t be alone. In Revelation 7, John wrote that he saw “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white.” His angelic guide told him about this multitude, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb…the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Think about it:

He who made the universe and sustains it…

Will bend down;

Touch our cheeks;

And ever so gently wipe the tears from our face.

© 2020 St. Luke UMC
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