Before the freedom is often a wrestle in the dark.
Before the cross was the garden.
Jesus in the garden. Jesus agonizing in the garden, to be exact. Jesus being obedient to what must be done. Truthfully, this is the place I find myself often.
The story is in three of the four gospels, two simple and emotionally loaded statements:
Matthew 26:39 – “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.”
Mark 14:36 – “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Luke 22:42 – “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Scripture indicates Jesus prays this prayer three different times.
I agonized over these statements, alongside, with, for, and because of Jesus.
I mean, come on, in one sentence, He is asking His Father to take away this destiny, to stop the struggle, to fix this. He is basically saying, “I don’t want to do this!” And then that very next statement, with no transition and what appears to hardly be even a breath, He says, “I trust you, let’s do this.”
How much time passed between those sentences?
What was Jesus thinking?
Better yet, what was He feeling?
One of my pastors said to me as I was wrestling through this piece, “Justine, there isn’t a whole lot written on how Jesus felt, just His actions and His quotes. I think people didn’t want to assume His feelings.”
True and decent point, pastor.
BUT WHAT WAS HE FEELING?
True, we don’t see many feeling words in these scriptures, and yet we see the scene, His actions, and His words.
And, this therapist by trade knows enough to know that our words and actions are very fair assessments of our feelings!
Jesus prayed harder, fervently, and was in such agony sweat fell to the ground like drops of blood. He tells Peter, James, and John his soul is, depending on the translation, overwhelmed, grieved, sorrowful, and even so far as crushed in the NLT.
I mean, there He is in the garden, knowing what is coming for Him and asking His Father for a way out.
And, He is the Father.
Pause. Mind still blown by that one.
And, He knows this is the only way to love and save the world.
It’s brutal. It’s gonna hurt. And it is scary.
And, He must. He will obey.
Because He trusts.
Could it be that Jesus felt both fear and faith in that moment?
There is a lot of The And in and in between those two statements that Jesus pleads with the Father in the garden.
And, I know what many of you may be thinking, especially those of you who grew up in the church or perhaps have walked with Jesus (knowingly) for a long time… do not fear – if we have faith, we cannot fear.
He commands us, over and over, to not fear, to take heart, to be courageous, to be still.
Do not fear, my daughter, my son.
Is this true, though?
Is this realistic of this life here on earth?
The world where He tells us we will have trouble.
And there in the garden, the God who loved us enough to enter the story himself, to suffer and die as His Son for us, I believe felt both fear and faith.
It is this moment in scripture, in three of the four gospels, just in case one wasn’t enough, that we must receive both as a gift and as an example.
This perfect human, also fully God, not only loves us enough to suffer and die for us, He loves us enough to walk it all first.
He’s Jesus, and in that moment, He struggled too. It is nearly impossible to read that scene, times three, and not feel the weight of Jesus’ fear and even perhaps his loneliness.
Scripture doesn’t allow us to stay there very long, though, two sentences back to back, simply separated by a space and a period in each gospel.
It is in the struggle and the fear that we can know that God not only walked this all first, He also knows what this walk is like. He himself has agonized and struggled. He himself felt fear and faith in the exact same moment.
He sits beside us with our pain.
Because He knows.
That very next breath after the fear?
The part we must never forget, though?
Jesus felt the fear and obeyed anyway.
The fear didn’t determine His choices. He didn’t choose to stay stuck. He chose to feel the fear, take a breath, and trust and obey.
He felt His fear, His Father turning His back on Him, and still, He chose to believe in the character of His loving Father. It is that moment in the garden that Jesus, in His fully human self, did something very different than so many of us do here in this life.
He didn’t partner with evil, and he didn’t make an agreement with the enemy.
He didn’t buy the lie that He was alone and that God was unfair and punishing.
He didn’t allow evil to chain him to the lies of bondage. Instead, He held onto, leaned into, and fully received the love of the Father. That all will be for good and glory.
I don’t want to do this and I trust you.
How much does this describe our own times of struggle? When we are floundering in a dark season or waiting season, or simply, a shit season, we know the only way to the other side is to keep going and to keep trusting Him.
God commands us to fear not, and when this is used as a way to minimize the struggle and pain we suffer in this world, when it is used as a quick fix, or to dismiss something that doesn’t fit into this perfect Christian life, it doesn’t reflect God’s love or the grace of Christ.
That moment in the garden is the moment of The And. The moment we put down the simple answers and black and white thinking. The moment we have as a gift and as an example that this life, especially this life with faith, is anything but simple.
It is messy.
It is complicated.
It is holy.
It is The And.
I think Jesus felt fear in the garden and uncertainty and had a moment of ‘nuh-uh, don’t wanna do this Dad’ right alongside His faith, obedience, and trust.
And then, He trusted Papa, and He chose us anyway.
Jesus knew with every cell of His human body He didn’t want to do this. He felt His fear and chose the loving and faithful character of our loving Father, and He chose us.
He chose in that moment to believe in the love of His father, in the truth of what was promised to Him, He knew the cost, and He loved us that much.