He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground, praying, “Father! If it is possible, let this cup of
suffering be taken away from Me. Yet I want Your will, not Mine.” -Matthew 26:39
In the olive press called Gethsemane, with the full weight of his mission bearing down on him and
the cross now clearly in view, Jesus takes his disciples to the garden. He stations some at the
entrance and takes Peter, James, and John with him to an area suitable for prayer. Jesus is at the end
of his earthly road. He has left Bethany for the last time; he will not return there. This is it – Gethsemane, his betrayal and subsequent arrest, the scourging, the Via Dolorosa, and Mt. Moriah.
The Lion of Judah is vividly now manifested as the Lamb who will be slain.
As Jesus prays and becomes the object lesson for the namesake of this garden, one realizes a
couple of truths. First, Gethsemane precedes Calvary. This is not merely a geographical truth but an
ideological and spiritual one as well. Think about it. Jesus is pouring out his heart to his Father, and
what is his cry? “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from Me. Yet, I want Your will, not
Mine.¨ What a passionate prayer and testimony! Should this not also be the cry of your heart and
mine? Before Jesus would carry his cross, he surrendered to the will of his Father. Surrender comes
first; cross-bearing follows. And so it is and will be with us: we can’t take up our own cross until we
have surrendered our will to the Father’s own. Today’s church might think cross-bearing is some
trite thing we toss around as part of our Christian-ese vernacular. We don’t understand that before
Calvary, there is an olive press of surrender. Is the church stuck between Palm Sunday and Easter?
Gethsemane is the corrective for Eden, and the errors of the self-will can be cleansed and
commissioned by God’s grace in full surrender.
Second, Gethsemane is a place that calls for action. This is the place, the prayer closet, which
calls us to make a decision. The contemporary church stands in an opportune window of time at this
very moment. There is much work to do. Will the body of Christ rise up and seize the opportunity?
It is indeed intriguing and fascinating that at the genesis of the New Testament church, when the
Master calls his own followers to watch and pray, they fall asleep. Now, perhaps at the sunset of
time, the church continues to sleep. The bride just can’t seem to keep her eyes open. Within the
body of Christ, are we content to play at our worship and worship our play? Is the American church
too comfortable? Gethsemane calls us to action. We can choose to sleep; that is an option. Yet,
Jesus tells us: “Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing
enough, the body is weak!¨ (Matthew 26:41).
Father, by your Spirit, awaken us from our corporate slumber. Quicken us that we might see the joy of full surrender.
Grant that your people will long to bring glory to your name through a fully surrendered, obedient life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
– Dr. Marshall Stokes, Pastor, Olde Towne Church, Ridgeland, Mississippi