Agony among the olives #LukeActs2014

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42, NIV)

That night in the garden has always been a powerful moment for me. This week I stood in the Church of Christ’s Agony on the Mount of Olives. They have a stone there that tradition says is the place where Jesus prayed this prayer and bled. I have to confess, visiting Jerusalem was a curious experience. I felt at times a bit like Luther as people knelt and wept over stones, and yet being in places I had only read about in the Bible was compelling.

Church of Christ's Agony

We often talk about the particularity of the incarnation. Jesus was a man who lived in a certain place at a certain time. He is not a general principle or ever-recurring story. Somewhere on that hill he knelt to the ground among the olive trees and prayed “not my will, but yours be done.”

As hundreds of commentators have noted, he could have easily escaped the passion. He could have climbed the Mount of Olives and headed east away from Jerusalem. But he remained. In other points in his ministry he withdrew or avoided the hostile crowds. Now he would give himself over to the agents of death.

Jesus died because it was the will of God that he do so. He died for us. This night was not a Jean Valjean “Who Am I?” moment. It was not an identity crisis. It was the final act of his ministry, one toward which all else he said and did had been inclining.

If we would be his followers, he told us, we must follow him through the dark night of this prayer. We will encounter moments when our choice is between our desire to live and the will of God. In our culture, we are told that we deserve comfort and a life without pain, that we should strive always for these things. Gethsemane stands in start opposition to that message. I am reminded of the old hymn:

“I’ll go with Him thro’ the garden,
I’ll go with Him through the garden,
I’ll go with Him thro’ the garden,
I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way.

Where He leads me I will follow,
Where He leads me I will follow,
Where He leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way.

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