Matthew’s Passion: Sleeping in Gethsemane

Matthew’s Passion: Sleeping in Gethsemane

40 Blogs of Lent: 19

Matthew 26:36-46

From a private place to a private garden. Gethsemane was a place where there was a wine press, so was probably attached to a vineyard. Jesus separates himself from first the eleven disciples, Judas had already gone elsewhere, and then from the inner circle of three close disciples.

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There is contrast here between the behaviour of Jesus and that of his followers. Jesus is agitated and cannot sleep, the disciples cannot stay awake. Jesus is at the point of no return. Depending on what he does here is what he came to do. He can either go through with the crucifixion or he can back out. The fate of the world hangs on this moment which Jesus faces alone. Even his closest friends are asleep. Why should they worry, nobody knows about this place but Jesus, his 12 disciples and probably the wine press owner. This is a safe place.

Jesus is agonising. This is the hardest decision he has to make. He turns to the only help he has, his Father in Heaven. Jesus knows what is coming. He knows what he has to do. But determined as he is he is asking if there is another way for this to be done, something less painful than a Roman execution. His decision made, Jesus rises to meet his betrayer.

But what about us. What is out part?

I chose the title of this edition of my blog, “Sleeping in Gethsemane,” not from the Alt Metal band of that name, but from a song from 1978 by Graham Kendrick*. Are we facing up to what God would have us do or are we asleep in the garden. A line from the song:

It seems that I’ve no wounds to show where you my Lord were wounded,
Well fed, at ease your cross is barely touching me,
Hiding in my dreams.

Another line:

I’ve been walking in your footsteps for so long my Master,
Here my footsteps led me to my own Gethsemane.
Your voice is calling me to rise above your tree
Finally to be resurrected.

The call to the Christian is not to a life of ease, Jesus calls us to take up our own cross, the way of the cross is to be resurrected, we find life by losing it, not chasing power or fame but becoming great by serving all. Jesus calls us to follow him but that call leads through Gethsemane to Calvary. If we will submit to God he will lead us.

I still love comfort. But is God calling me to be comfortable? As the song Sleeping in Gethsemene starts and ends:

Sometines these days I seem to choke on my excuses.


Those who like to follow a reading can see it here:

36 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.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Matthew 26 ESVUK

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

*Sleeping in Gethsemene is the second track on Graham Kendrick’s album Fighter.

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