For those of you who don’t know me, I am not only a Bible journaler and blogger, I am also an author of fiction. I would, of course love you to check out my books … but only after you have finished reading this post! As an author, my aim is to bring the reader (you) to the conclusion of a story and leave you satisfied. I want you to believe in the story enough that you care about what happens to the characters and want them to win through. I want the ending to resonate with the reader so that they pick up the next in the series or another one of my books.
I have got to Matthew chapter 26 and the garden of Gethsemane. It is the moment in this book of Matthew where we reach a climax. Our main character is about to face the biggest battle of their life. But the thing is, this isn’t just some fictional story. This is the account of what happened in the garden to Jesus, our protagonist and hero.
(Protagonist: the leading character or one of the major characters in a play, film, novel, etc. OR an advocate or champion of a particular cause or idea. Hero: a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.)
Jesus has been with his disciples and has told them what is about to happen. He has let them know the plot. There are no twists and nothing has gone unnoticed. Jesus even told one of the characters that he was going to betray him and another that he would deny him. There are no surprises to be had in this story. Everyone had been forewarned about the coming events. Jesus knew that he was going to die and it would be very soon.
He takes his friends to a garden in Gethsemane. He wants them to pray – for themselves, for him and for what is about to happen. The dark night seems even darker in this moment of pure emotion.
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ Matthew 26:39
He fell with his face to the ground – the Son of GOD, bowed down in a garden and prayed with his face to the ground.
I am so used to reading this story of Gethsemane that I hadn’t really considered this stunning detail before. Jesus went a bit farther and fell to his face. He was alone and in need. He knew what was almost immediately before him. He knew, and no doubt had either seen or heard about crucifixion. He knew the manner in which he would die, but he submits his will to the Father. He asks if it is possible for the cup to be taken from him. In the Old Testament, after the Israelites are led out of slavery in Egypt, they lose sight of GOD and Moses and fashion a gold calf statue. They worship this idol. When Moses comes back, he burns the calf and grinds down what remains into powder and mixed it with water. The Israelites are then made to drink the result of their rebellion and foolishness (Exodus 32). The cup continues to be symbolic of the judgement and wrath throughout the Old Testament (although it can mean other things too).
This is not a moment of weakness for Jesus, it is a moment of seeing his humanity. We can easily read the gospels where Jesus’ story is told and not see him as a man, as the GOD man who felt like a man and had emotions of a man. But he is a man, the most human man you will ever witness and yet completely GOD at the same time. Jesus didn’t separate himself into the GOD part and the human part. He was completely both. Jesus felt the weight of the decision to sacrifice himself, therefore GOD felt it too. Jesus could have walked away, GOD could have too … BUT he didn’t. This was not a weak moment, this is a victorious moment.
Jesus knew that if he went ahead and drank this cup of GOD’s wrath, he would be the only one to have ever been truly alone. It is a moment of wholehearted commitment, deep strength and ultimate humility. This is the man who willingly gave himself to the will of GOD the Father, forsaking everything for the unrelenting passion of a Father for His desperate children.
You see, this isn’t just the turning point in the book of Matthew – this is the turning point of the whole of the Bible. All that went before is leading to this moment. All the questions and characters, all the plot twists and tales, all the mysteries and clues throughout the text lead us to this moment of surrender.
The story has come full circle and now has the opportunity and potential to be resolved. The narrative in Genesis, started in a garden. Adam and Eve gave in to their own will and disobeyed GOD. But everything changed in this garden. Jesus gave up his will, submitted and followed the will of GOD his Father so that mankind would be redeemed.
This is the best story that has ever been told.