The sun revives its warmth and the daylight hours lengthen; the earth warms and new shoots appear from the ground. There are few places that capture the essence of springtime in Canada as well as a garden. With spring comes Easter season and another garden often gains our attention – the garden of Gethsemane. Genesis tells us that sin entered human history in a garden- the garden of Eden, and sin ended up turning that garden into a wasteland. In Revelation, we find a heavenly garden - Eden restored to its perfect state. But, between those two gardens; between Genesis and Revelation; between the wasteland and heaven; between sin and perfection is another garden. The garden of Gethsemane is needed to conquer sin and triumph over death; it’s needed to save and redeem; it’s needed to set all things right.
There are few other passages in God’s Word that are quite as raw, revealing and intimate (almost voyeuristic), as the account of Christ in Gethsemane. As much as our own gardens in springtime invoke an image of peace and warmth and cheer, Christ in Gethsemane invokes an image of immense suffering, repulsion and terror. We can understand the distress someone undergoes when they know their life is about to end - especially considering the horrific death that awaited Christ, and at first glance, it can seem as if His demeanour and behaviour in Gethsemane is not in keeping with the Christ we see in the rest of the gospels – but it is.
Gethsemane unveils and contrasts the horrifying nature of our sin with the unadulterated holiness of tChrist; it exposes the profound price Christ paid to save us; it reveals the unsearchable depths of God’s grace, mercy and His love for us.
We are all born into sin (Jr.17:9, Ps.51:5, Rm.5:12, Eph.2:3). Depravity is the default of mankind’s heart; it shaped and molded our thoughts, our motives, our priorities, our desires, our feelings, and because sin is so pervasive and prevalent in and around all of us, we often fail to see how truly appalling and gruesome it is. Christ on the other hand is eternally holy; perfectly pure and completely innocent and virtuous in every way. The anguish, agony, and terror of Christ in Gethsemane uncovers the reality of our sin and rebelliousness against God. We often fail to understand and realize the full extent and consequence of our sin, but Gethsemane confronts our ignorance and exposes our sin’s repugnance to us.
By nature, a holy, perfectly righteous God must demand perfect justice for sin, so Christ could never save us from our sin simply by forgetting it, or even by eliminating or obliterating our sin. Christ saved us from our sin by saving us from the penalty, consequence and punishment we rightly deserve, but can never pay – He did this by offering to pay that penalty for us (Is.53:5, 2Cor.5:21, Titus 2:14, Heb.9:14, 1Pt.2:24). Christ was so overcome with trepidation, sorrow and dread in Gethsemane not just because He was about to die, but because His death was unlike any other – it was to be the propitiation or satisfaction for the penalty of our sin. ‘The cup’ of God’s perfect justice, His penalty, wrath, and condemnation for sin was going to be poured out on Christ – the only One who had perfectly obeyed God, the One who had, throughout all eternity, never experienced sin nor its consequence, was to suddenly come under the full weight and measure of it. The frightful reality that Christ, who knew no
sin, was going to be made sin for us, is the reason for Christ’s anguish; the reason why His sweat became drops of blood falling on the ground; it is what compelled Christ to proclaim, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”
As troubling and as vexing as this scene in Gethsemane is, it does not end in disappointment or catastrophe. Christ is under an unfathomable weight of temptation. Christ’s temptation is the opposite of ours, for we are always tempted toward sin, but He is tempted away from sin; tempted to run from sin and its consequence; tempted to avoid the cross, to pick up His rightful and entitled place as Sovereign Lord, Creator and Sustainer of the universe. But Christ does not bend, He does not break. He denies His anguish, His agony, His repulsion, and He perfectly submits His will to the Father’s. Christ utters, “Behold, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! My betrayer is approaching.” Christ actually advances toward His betrayer and executioners. There is no timidity, no cowardice, no wavering, no backing down; there is only an unyielding determination to go to the cross. Why? God demonstrated His love to us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rm.5:8, Jn.3:16). Christ’s repulsion of ‘the cup’ was far outweighed by His grace, mercy, and love for us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord – Rm.8:38. Did you know that it actually gave Christ joy... JOY to accomplish our salvation? Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who in view of the joy lying before Him endured the cross, despised its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God – Hb.12:2. With raw, untainted, intimate detail, the account of Gethsemane reaffirms Christ as the desperately-needed, unsurpassed Saviour and Redeemer we know Him to be, and we fix our eyes on Him, the author and finisher of our faith