“Leaving there, he went, as he so often did, to Mount Olives. The disciples followed him. When they arrived at the place, he said, “Pray that you don’t give in to temptation.” He pulled away from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, remove this cup from me. But please, not what I want. What do you want?” At once an angel from heaven was at his side, strengthening him. He prayed on all the harder. Sweat, wrung from him like drops of blood, poured off his face. He got up from prayer, went back to the disciples and found them asleep, drugged by grief. He said, “What business do you have sleeping? Get up. Pray so you won’t give in to temptation.”
It’s been a long night. Jesus has spent the better portion of the evening with his disciples eating dinner, saying cryptic goodbyes. And now on this cold night, he goes for a walk.
He’s going out to that garden again.
That garden where he normally goes to be alone, but now his disciples follow him there. Follow him to that place where he prays. Where words are exchanged between He and His Father. Words they have never heard before. They must have wondered what those times were like in the garden. How did Jesus pray? What did he say? Did he shout and pace back and forth, or was he silent, still. He tells his disciples to pray and watch.
I guess we’ll finally get to see the secret prayer life of Jesus. It must be grand, full of power and spectacle and…
And then they see it. Just a stone’s throw away. Not a proud man with arms outstretched to the heavens, not a humble man quiet and contemplative.
The Son of God.
On the ground.
They hear their fearless leader pleading with God for His life, begging for another way, and then in the same breath accepting God’s will that He lose it. The disciples are speechless. They’ve seen Jesus cry before…but not like this. Jesus knows that this is the last moment He will spend with his disciples. This is a moment they will likely replay in their minds after he is gone. And he chooses a moment of weakness. He could have gone to the garden alone like he always did, and cried in private like a real man. He could have done a bunch of miracles to remind them how strong he was. Why did he bring them there to see this awful moment?
Life is full of awful moments.
Jesus said, “In this world you will have sorrow…” And wow, He wasn’t kidding. You will have sorrow, your kids will have sorrow. You will read sorrow in the news and see sorrow in the cinema. You’ll wake up with a smile on your face, but then read that another school shooting has taken place. Jesus commands His disciples to pray so they don’t fall into temptation. What kind of temptation? Sleep. Sorrow is heavy and exhausting. And it doesn’t even have to be yours. The disciples became “drugged with grief” just from watching Jesus cry. And in that exhaustion we begin to question and worry and fear. The ONLY thing that keeps us on track, keeps us focused and sure and hopeful is prayer. Only through prayer can we see beyond the sorrow, beyond the awful moments, beyond the cross and to the resurrection that God has promised.
Everyone’s life is full of awful moments.
Jesus could have hidden this vulnerable moment from His disciples, but he didn’t. He gave them a front row seat to His agony. He let them see Him struggle with the heaviness of God’s will not looking like much fun, with wanting to avoid pain, with needing strength just to keep praying. He, in great humility, modeled sorrow. I used to think that good leaders never had problems, never cried on the ground in a garden. But I have learned more from the suffering of my leaders than from their strength. When you let people see you struggle you also give them the chance to see you win. Let’s stop trying to make our walk with God look like a photo shopped magazine cover. We may look good, but we’ll just have a trail of anorexic followers desperate to live up to an impossible standard.
Jesus was a man acquainted with our sorrows. Let’s be people acquainted with each other’s. And let us be awake, vigilant, prayerful and determined to find purpose beyond our present pain.
This guest post is brought to you by Katie Scott, who is a content creator for The Well Conference. She lives in Bend, OR and has attended and served in various leadership roles at Westside Church for 12 years. She's currently in medical school, and loves all things words, melodies, and decaf.