In the Garden
When I was a kid, my friend Marty and I were making a snow fort one day. We had a blast, digging a network of tunnels into a big snowbank. Marty was crawling through one of the longer tunnels when it collapsed on him. The dense, heavy snow pinned him to the ground, knocking the wind out of him. I dug frantically for what seemed like forever until he finally was able to breathe. I will never forget his desperation.
That’s the scene that comes to my mind when I think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Gospel of Mark records Jesus’ words: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (14.34). That sounds to me like a pretty sophisticated thought, and we usually read it impassively as part of a beautiful soliloquy. But in my imagination I hear it like the words of someone who’s having the breath squeezed out of them: My soul… is overwhelmed…
“Gethsemane” means “olive press.” Do you know how much force it takes to squeeze oil out of an olive? Jesus is squeezed, and what comes out of him is honesty and faith. “Take this cup from me,” he begs. Some people have said that it’s the human Jesus who says that, not the divine Jesus – as if to apologize for him. But that’s splitting hairs. Jesus was one person, and he was scared to death.
And then comes the pivotal moment in all of history, when Jesus pauses, draws a deep breath, and says “Yet” (Mark 14:36).
Jesus is overwhelmed with stress. Yet, he chooses to let God’s purposes be even more overwhelming. He is in agony, but he believes that behind it all God is good, and he can trust in that.
Jesus’ prayer in the garden is a guide for so much in our lives. He gives us permission to feel what we feel, to acknowledge the stress and fear and uncertainty. Like the psalms, he gives us language to cry out in lament. But it doesn’t end there; it can’t. There’s a “yet.”
When Jesus says in other places not to worry (Matthew 6:25), he doesn’t mean to be impervious to worry, oblivious to it. He means not to stay there. To take a deep breath, say “yet,” and choose to step in trust toward God, who is good.
Bob Jacobs is Pastor of Westminster Church, Rapid City. If you're interested in more of Bob's writings, check out his personal blog at www.brittlecrazyglass.wordpress.com.