Our “Gethsemanes” are those places where our will wrestles to find its way to God’s will. As God patiently wrestled with Jacob and his will, He also wrestled with Jesus the Son of Man, His will and His request in the Garden of Gethsemane. As Adam represented mankind by wrestling his way out of the will of God through disobedience, so Jesus represented us by wrestling His way into God’s will by obedience.
~ Robert Crosby, D.MIV 2013 ~
Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death
~ Matthew 26:38, ESV ~
Have you ever felt so weighted down by the overwhelming stress where you experienced great sorrow – even unto death? Getting to the lowest point in your life and all things pressing down onto you where you are emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted. Those around you have appeared to abandoned you. People demanding for justice and punishment. Feeling betrayed and sold out. And, all you desire in that very moment is to cry out for mercy, grace, peace, and love. Not wanting to have to walk through this time of darkness. Welcome to your own personal Garden of Gethsemane. For some of us, we may refer it to our own personal hell. However, Having our own personal Gethsemane experience means we are moving toward spiritual transformation and a new way of living life.
Stunning Symbolism of the Garden of Gethsemane
We come to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke regarding the last weeks of Jesus Christ’s life. More specifically, we read the account of the Last Supper which is symbolic within the Jewish Passover celebration. In this encounter, we become intimately aware of the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine:
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.Matthew 26:26-28, ESV
It is after this Passover meal that Christ, and his disciples, When they completed their feast, these men went out to the Mount of Olives and Christ entered into a small Garden called Gethsemane.
This Garden is between what was the Temple of Jerusalem to the summit of Mount of Olives. It is about 1200 square meters. The name Gethsemane means Oil Press. It is here where the Olives were brought to be pressed down by large milestones in order to produce oils for different purposes. The more pressure applied to the crushing of olives, the better quality the oil becomes. It is in this setting that Christ came with his disciples. And, this is where the symbolism of the Garden of Gethsemane intrigues us.
Of All the Gardens in All of Jerusalem – Why Gethsemane?
Dr. Taylor Haverson has a wonderful article on the significant and symbolic meaning behind the Garden of Gethsemane. Dr. Haverson remarks the following reasons for Christ coming into the Garden:
- It is the lowest point in Jerusalem because of its geographical locale between the City of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives
- The Kidron Brook helped wash away the blood from the sacrificial animals.
- Gethsemane (as previously mentioned) means Oil Press
In this article, Halverson shares his own personal observations of how the oil from the olives were pressed out:
The day of pressing the olives to extract the oil, I walked to the pressing station. The olives were being put under tremendous pressure between a pressure screw and the beautiful white Jerusalem limestone. As I drew near, my breath was taken away. I thought I saw blood pouring over the white limestone rock, as if a sacrificial victim was giving its life away. I was so surprised. I had no idea that olive oil initially emerges from the olive blood red before it turns the beautiful golden green we are so familiar with.
Luke is the only Gospel that records, what is now referred to as a rare medical condition – Hematidrosis – Christ sweating great drops of blood.
And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the groundLuke 22:44, ESV
This is the lowest point of Christ’s life. He was pressed down with the weight of human transgression since the fall of Adam. Christ knew his mission and purpose. He taught and prepared his disciples for what was about to take place. Yet, at the dawn of the most significant event in human history, Christ experienced severe anguish and agony. In his sermon, Charles H. Spurgeon remarks:
I do not think that this great conflict arose through our dear Master’s fear of death, nor through His fear of the physical pain and all the disgrace and shame that He was so soon to endure. But, surely, the agony in Gethsemane was part of the great burden that was already resting upon Him as His people’s substitute—it was this that pressed His spirit down even into the dust of death.
From a devotional on Jesus in Gethsemane at Ligonier’s website – we read the following:
Note our use of the word struggle. Jesus’ submission to the will of His Father was no stoic resignation to fate; rather, our Savior wrestled with the choice before Him. He begged for the cup to pass from Him, and He was so distressed emotionally that He sweated blood (Mark 14:35–36; see Luke 22:39–46). Such facts show us that the trial Jesus faced was not merely physical in nature, as horrible as that aspect was. Many others throughout history have faced a horrible physical end with more composure, but Jesus was in turmoil because He was going to death as the Sin-Bearer, as the Lamb of God who would bear divine wrath to atone for the sin of His people. We can scarcely imagine the horror of this prospect. The God-man, pure and unstained by any sin of His own, was going to become sin so that in Him His people would become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). The Savior was going to suffer the full weight of all the sins of His people. He was going to experience the separation from God’s blessing that impenitent sinners endure in hell. Little wonder, then, that He asked for another way to bring about the salvation of His people.
The agony, the choice before Jesus Christ, the prayer of respite from the bitter cup that he was to drink from. All of this pressed down upon him. The weight of the world upon his very shoulders. And, his very question Let this cup pass before me, not my will, but thine be done center’s our focus on the very heart of surrender and obedience. Was there any other way that such a sacrifice be accomplished? Maybe you have asked yourself – Is there no other way to get through this? I know I have asked myself this question many times. It is the core purpose of this message for people in recovery today.
We have only one choice and that is to experience our own Garden of Gethsemane in order to be spiritually transformed with newness of life.
Getting through your own personal Gethsemane
In various recovery rooms (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, et el.) the common belief is the idea of hitting rock bottom before any significant change is able to occur. In essence, before an addict, or alcoholic, is able to reach out for help and change; it is believed that they must come to the lowest point in their life. A place where they have lost everything, damaged everything, and there is no further way to go. Another way of saying this is that a person seems to need a Gethsemane Experience before real spiritual transformation is able to occur.
An article was published on June 11, 2013 by contributor Robert C. Crosby, D.Miv at Huffington Post’s website. This article is titled: Getting Through Your Gethsemanes. Crosby explores, quite succinctly, reasons we face our own Gethsemanes and the purpose behind those experiences. While we are not burdened with become Sin-Bearers like Jesus Christ had become; our own personal experiences is bearing our own sins and transgressions when we come face-to-face with God’s divine will and good pleasure. It is a place we come to for total surrender and submission over to Him. Here is what Crosby says:
For you and for me, Gethsemane is a place of coming to terms with the will of God. It is a place where we face God’s will, head-on. At Gethsemane, we look honestly and clearly at what God has called us to do. We consider the call and we count the cost. And at Gethsemane we discover that any uncertainty about God’s will is not in His mind. Rather it is in ours. Though we may try to change Him and His will in order to remove the stress, we soon find that His will is fixed and His purpose set.
This is where we find a more enriching meaning to the nature of realizing our sense of powerlessness over those things that have brought ruin and destruction into our lives. A place where we come to realize we have no power to manage our lives in its present state and condition. It is where we come to realize our need and dependence upon God and our own personal willingness to count the cost and surrender over to His will. The first three steps of any twelve step program brings us to our own Garden of Gethsemane before we are able to begin any spiritual transformation.
In his April 2014 Washington Post Article, Rev. James Martin writes this:
The invitation to surrender, to accept our cup, to acknowledge the inevitability of suffering and to step onto the path of sacrifice, comes in the context of a relationship with God. We trust that God will be with us in all that we do and all that we suffer. We do not simply grit our teeth, clench our fists and push on, alone and unaided. Someone is with us, helping us. To use another image from the Gospels, there is someone else in the boat with us, and pulling on the oars — even if we do not feel it.
None of us want to suffer. Yet, in our lives we will experience all manner of suffering. Much of this suffering has to do with losses we experience. Some of the losses weigh us down and trouble our very own souls to the point of suffocation. Despite our own suffering, we find peace and strength to move forward through our own Gethsemane experience.
Rev. Martin expresses these simple truths:
- Christ did not avoid the hard truth of his situation
- Christ did not ignore his pain, nor the pain of those around him
- Christ set aside his own desire to be in control and submitted to God’s will
- Christ submitted himself to God’s divine will and plan and found peace
These simple truths echo into our own hearts and minds today. When we find ourselves being pressed down and weighted by all of our past mistakes, transgressions, fears, anxieties, and being in a place of ruin; it is there we wrestle with God. Like Christ, we do not avoid the hard truth of our present situation and circumstances. Nor, do we ignore our pain and the pain of those around us. In fact, it is through acknowledging and embracing our pain and anguish that we come to God through prayer and meditation.
Through humility, we come to wrestle with God. Christ prayed three times. The Gospel accounts provide us with simple phrases, yet, we may adequately assume he prayed with great intensity to the point that he suffered agony during those prayers. Once we are humble, we are in a place to set aside our own desire to be in control.
What amazes me, personally, is that Christ had all the power in the world to prevent this from happening. He very well had the power to not go through with the subsequent torture and crucifixion. Christ created all things. Yet, with all of this power he possessed, Christ humbled himself and realized there is no other way for him but to go through with the purpose and plan of God’s divine providential will.
For us, we live in delusions when we possess the belief we have the power to control people, situations, events, and all things that we may experience in life. Our personal Garden of Gethsemane experience brings us to the reality that we no longer possess control over ourselves and our lives. Like Christ, we set aside our own personal desires for control and surrender to God’s will, submitting ourselves over to Him.
And, let us carefully consider that Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane was not a mere moment in time. Bruce R. McConkie relates this in his sermon of April 1985:
As near as we can judge, these infinite agonies—this suffering beyond compare—continued for some three or four hours.
Our own personal suffering may appear without any end in sight. However, we learn that through our own suffering, we are lifted up and transformed with new faith and hope. This is the heart of the message today – to find hope, purpose, meaning in our own personal sufferings. When we come into our own Garden of Gethsemane, there is a purpose for us being there. It is to spiritually transform us into a whole new person.
Toward our personal Spiritual Transformation
As we follow the account of Christ, he comes to an end of his suffering. By facing the reality of the situation, accepting and embracing the emotional distress, and coming to terms to follow through with God’s divine plan and purpose: Christ walked out of Gethsemane and was betrayed by his disciple Judas. Following this betrayal. Christ was placed on trial and the people demanded justice and punishment. He was arrested and given over to the Roman Soldiers for punishment.
Under Roman authority, Christ was scourged. A form of Roman torture given to those condemned as criminals. David McClister writes about this in his article, The Scourging of Jesus Christ.
Scourging, called verberatio by the Romans, was possibly the worst kind of flogging administered by ancient courts. While the Jews administered whippings in the synagogues for certain offenses, these were mild in comparison to scourging. Scourging was not normally a form of execution, but it certainly was brutal enough to be fatal in many cases. A person certainly could be beaten to death by the scourge if that was desired. Its purpose was not only to cause great pain, but to humiliate as well. To scourge a man was to beat him worse than one would beat a stupid animal. It was belittling, debasing, and demeaning. It was considered such a degrading form of punishment that, according to the Porcian (248 B.C.) and Sempronian (123 B.C.) laws, Roman citizens were exempt from it. It was, therefore, the punishment appropriate only for slaves and non-Romans, those who were viewed as the lesser elements in Roman society. To make it as humiliating as possible, scourging was carried out in public.
The instrument of torture for this scourging was a small whip, containing metal objects, balls, or the like. The purpose of this were to break open the skin. A gruesome sight and a painful and agonizing experience.
For us, we are scourged where we are vulnerable and raw. Our innermost being is exposed and we experience the humiliation, ridicule, and shame of what has happened. In a proverbial manner we scourge ourselves because of how debased we have become. Left emotionally raw, physically weak, and vulnerable. In order for spiritual transformation to have any significant impact on our lives: we face those consequences of our own actions.
Once Christ was scourged, and condemned to death, he had to make the walk up toward the place where he will be crucified. Here, we read the account of the Savior being nailed to the Cross. Our minds picture Him hanging there, struggling to breathe, and suffering even more. Through this account, we read he cried out Father, Father, why hast thou forsaken me?
It is at the point of us coming to a place of our own cross where we perceive others have forsaken us. We feel abandoned, alone, miserable, broken, beaten, and give ourselves over. Again, the application with the scene of Christ on the Cross is one of ultimate surrender. He, willfully gave himself up so that God’s purpose and plan be fully realized.
Crucified through Christ in order to be raised with newness of life
The Apostle Paul writes to the Christians in Galatia the following:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20, ESV
Paul understood the nature of humanity’s condition. Paul also understood the powerful nature of Christ’s atonement. He also understood the meaning of submission and surrender into God’s divine will and plan. No other verse seems to capture this than what Paul wrote to Galatia.
Though crucifixion was the Roman form of capital punishment – the idea of crucifying ourselves is symbolic and powerful in our spiritual transformation. A. W. Tozer makes this observation in his work The Crucified Life:
What I mean by the crucified life is a life wholly given over to the Lord in absolute humility and obedience: a sacrifice pleasing to God.
Here, we see that the symbolism of crucifying ourselves means that we come to a place where we put to death the old self in order to no longer be enslaved to our old desires, habits, thoughts, and way of living life. Again, the Apostle Paul teaches us this:
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.Romans 6:6, ESV
Spiritual transformation occurs at the moment we carry ourselves toward a place where we are able to ourselves to death. And, this may be quite agonizing and painful. it is the putting off our old way of living life that brings us to a place of peace and new way of living life. Paul taught the Christians in Ephesus this principle:
… to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:20-24, ESV
Paul Carter writes this observation at Life, Hope, and Truth:
The words put off in this verse essentially mean “putting away” or “renouncing.” Paul was instructing the members to put away their old man—the selfish, sinful way we naturally think and act in this evil world. Our old man is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), even convincing us that we don’t need to change or that God’s way is too hard. It is naturally opposed to God and His laws (Romans 8:7).Putting to Death the Old Man: What does it mean?
Living, what A. W. Tozer refers to as, a crucified life essentially brings us to mean we move out of our old world and embrace a whole new way of living. By embracing a whole new outlook, a new way of thinking, and a new way of understanding, we are empowered to move toward spiritual perfection through Jesus Christ. Tozer observes:
The whole Bible supports the idea of progressing toward spiritual perfection in our Christian Lives.
Tozer also observes:
The crucified life is absolutely committed to following after Jesus Christ. To be more like Him. To think like Him. To act like Him. To love like Him. The whole essence of spiritual perfection has everything to do with Jesus Christ.
Therefore, in our recovery journey, when we make Christ center to whom we align ourselves with, we come through our own personal garden of Gethsemane, face our own scourging and crucifixion, in order to experience the full impact of spiritual transformation. Because, the story of the Gospels do not end with the Cross. The Gospels provide the most single important truth of all of scripture. A truth that had been prophesied down through the ages. It was at that time, the most significant event in human history. Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Pastor John MacArthur provides this gem of truth. His sermon focused on Romans 6:1-14. It is the first part of a sermon series. In his sermon The Spiritual Significance of the Resurrection, MacArthur teaches:
At salvation there’s a regeneration, there’s a new birth, there’s a conversion, there’s a transformation, there’s a new creation, and this new person walks in a different way — “walk” meaning daily conduct, daily life. We die a real death. And that death is a significant thing, a significant event, with significant results. We have a new life. Psalm 40, verse 3 says we sing a new song. … Ezekiel 18 says we have a new spirit inside. Ezekiel 36 says we have a new heart. Second Corinthians 5:17, we’re a new creation. Galatians 6:15, we’re a new being. Ephesians 4:24, we’re a new man. Revelations 2:17, we have a new name, a new identity. Now all of a sudden we’re released back into this world but we’re alien to it, we’re strangers to it, we’re pilgrims in it. We don’t belong anymore because there has been such a severe transformation. A real death has occurred, and a real resurrection has occurred and we engage ourselves in a new kind of life with all new perceptions of the world around us. We walk, to put it in the words of 1 John, in the light instead of in the darkness.
Authentic spiritual transformation moves us toward a life where we have a new identity, a new way of thinking, a new way of believing, and a new way of relating to other people around us. This, I personally believe, means we have had a real true spiritual awakening in order to come into a place of living differently. A place where we find peace amidst our storms. A place where we are able to find strength and encouragement; as well as provide strength and encouragement toward others.
Through our own personal Garden of Gethsemane, we are placed on trial. We are scourged because of shame, guilt, humiliation, and face our dissenters and enemies. We carry our anxieties, our worries, our burdens to a place where we symbolically put to death our old ways of living. So that, we arise as a new person. And, it all began when we faced and endured our own Gethsemane.
Endure and Persevere through your own Gethsemane experience
The spiritual application here is this: we will face those times where we are in our own Garden of Gethsemane. How we choose to experience this encounter is entirely up to each one of us. However, consider this spiritual applications from this message today:
- The reality of our own personal suffering and brokenness will not be fully healed and restored if we do not endure our own Gethsemane
- The reality of how others suffered because of us can in no way ever be ignored and we need to face this reality
- Accepting the painful experience and surrendering to God is the ultimate means by which we are able to secure peace in our hearts and our minds
- Our old way of living life is placed on trial and scourged in order to expose our raw true sense of being
- It requires we commit ourselves over to putting off who we thought we are, old ways of thinking, old beliefs and values that no longer serve any purpose in our lives, and realize our need to forsake our own sense of self
- We are brought into a new way of life where our true self is able to embrace new values, new beliefs, and we walk because Christ walks with us
There is no other way to a real spiritual transformative way of living life. Whether we are in recovery from substance use disorders, healing from family dysfunctions, childhood trauma and other experiences.
So, if you have ever felt so weighted down by the overwhelming stress where you experienced great sorrow – even unto death? Getting to the lowest point in your life and all things pressing down onto you where you are emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted. Those around you have appeared to abandoned you. People demanding for justice and punishment. Feeling betrayed and sold out. And, all you desire in that very moment is to cry out for mercy, grace, peace, and love. Not wanting to have to walk through this time of darkness. Welcome to your own personal Garden of Gethsemane. For some of us, we may refer it to our own personal hell. However, Having our own personal Gethsemane experience means we are moving toward spiritual transformation and a new way of living life.