I Wish I Could be with Jesus in the Garden

When I was in college, a friend of mine had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. He was in a ton of emotional pain due to the loss of a family member in Iraq and it was manifesting physically. It was really tough to watch. I put him in my car and drove him to the emergency room. We got there after midnight, and it was almost 1am by the time he was admitted. My friend laid down on the hospital cot, writhing in pain and weeping. The doctors and nurses checked in from time to time, but there wasn't a lot they could do. I sat beside him in a cheap plastic chair. I didn't do much. I just waited. At the time, I felt completely helpless. Looking back, I'm so glad I was there. At least my friend didn't have to be alone.

I wish I could be in the Garden with Jesus the night before He gave His life for the world. I've never thought about this before. In fact, 99.999% of the time, my thoughts about Jesus are almost exclusively about how He can come through for me. But that night in the garden, Jesus was reaching out in a manner that is stunningly human .


The Long Night Before the Darkest Day

Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” ... he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!
— Matthew 26:36-41

I don't think I can truly fathom the dramatic stakes I'm seeing in this passage. As a believer in the Gospel, my entire future rests on these few moments in the garden. Jesus, the author and founder of the faith, is admitting that He's feeling deeply conflicted. Prophecy states that Christ's sacrifice was a certainty. The narrative truth of this passage points to a struggle. The world is in the balance. The future hope of all mankind is at stake. The Garden of Gethsemane is so extraordinarily profound. I'm convinced that the following day the Romans would crucify Jesus's body, but that night in the garden, Jesus crucified the will of His flesh.  



I believe that in his humanity, Jesus hated loneliness just like anyone else. Earlier that night He even references the moment when the disciples would begin to scatter. 

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.
— John 16:32

Have you ever been left by someone you love? For three years, Jesus has been with these guys. He's poured into their lives. They've witnessed countless miracles. These men seen Him at his best. They've seen him struggle. They have soldiered together through one of the most intense spiritual battles in human history. There is a deep intimacy that has been formed through all of this. And Jesus knows that one is going to betray Him, one is going to deny Him, and all of them are going to scatter. It's like a gut punch.

In this admission, Jesus is extraordinarily vulnerable. You're going to leave me, but I won't be left alone. Jesus is empowered by the knowledge that the presence of the Father is a constant source of strength, power, and life.  And yet....... in the darkest moment on the cross, even that would be taken. During earth's ugliest hours Jesus would know absolute and total loneliness. He would experience the most excruciating despair.

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

It's more than dramatic irony. It's explicit tragedy. "Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me...My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" God gave His life for all mankind, but Jesus the person felt the pain. His pain is the source of my peace. How can I handle that thought? What am I supposed to do with all of that grace?

The garden calls me back to the point of this life. My calling isn't to earn my own salvation. The garden reminds me I'm always falling short and the work of Christ is too complete. The garden reminds me that God made people in His own image in order to pursue a relationship with them. The garden reminds me just how far He was willing to go and how much He was willing to give.

If I could go back in time, I would sit beside Jesus in the garden. I wouldn't have anything to say. I would just want Him to know that I finally get it. If He wants me that badly, then I want Him. The truth is, I can't go back in time. I can't meet Jesus in the garden...but I can give Him today. I guess I'll just have to start with that.


For me it was in the garden
He prayed: Not My will, but Thine.
He had no tears for His own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!
— I Stand Amazed in the Presence, Charles H. Gabriel
Aaron is the pastor of Spring of Life, a new church in Portland, Oregon. He's the owner of Amplify Creative.