April 16

APRIL 16
by Becca Selbo
“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” 
Matthew 26:39
 
One of the things I look forward to in the time leading up to Easter, is the music. The Holy Week songs in minor keys bring, for me, depth and weight to the solemn experience of Jesus in the garden and on the cross. So, when we sang “Go to Dark Gethsemane” this past Good Friday, I was expecting it to move me emotionally, as it always does, but what I was not expecting was to be so struck in a new way by the very first line: “Go to dark Gethsemane, / All who feel the tempter’s pow’r.”
 
Perhaps it’s this new routine of living life confined in my home, but the power of temptation feels nearer to me than ever. I have been faced with opportunities to explicitly choose: my way, or God’s way. Plenty of opportunities to decide: dwell in fear and anxiety, or let it go and trust in God’s goodness and his omnipotence? Approach my (poor) family members who are quarantined with me with patience and grace, or… not? To forge an easy, often self-seeking, path, or to follow the more difficult, more narrow path God is asking you to go down? How convicting, how deeply convicting, to think that when I am faced with those temptations, this song is calling me, of all places, to dark Gethsemane.
 
Dark Gethsemane, where Jesus fell down on his face before God. Dark Gethsemane, where Jesus’ soul filled with sorrow. Dark Gethsemane, where Jesus pleaded with God, “May this cup be taken from me.” Even though he was God, it’s hard to blame him for feeling this way in the mere hours before he was to be handed over to death. But in the very next breath, he added, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” He was on the road to resurrection, but first needed to pass through the garden, then the cross. The first verse of that old hymn ends like this: “Turn not from his griefs away; / Learn from Jesus Christ to pray.”
 
To be honest, I think on Gethsemane about once a year. At the end of Holy Week, when Jesus is in the garden, I think about the garden. I think about it in broad terms. Jesus prayed before His death, as he was about to take on the entirety of sin of the whole world. The entirety of sin of my whole life. However, I’ve never before thought of it as a place to go when I “feel the tempter’s pow’r.” Gethsemane as an antidote to temptation. Not after I’ve sinned and am asking for forgiveness, but before. When I am tempted to take the sinful path, to stray from God’s will for my life, remember Gethsemane. Remember that even Jesus wrestled immensely with following God’s will, because God’s will for His life was hard, painful, and forced him to walk, knowingly and willingly, to his torturous death. 
 
May our prayers resemble, more and more, Jesus’ willingness to follow God’s will. “Not my will, but yours be done.” Even when it is most difficult. Even when it feels like this can’t possibly be God’s will! It’s too difficult, too painful, it’s asking too much. 
 
It asked everything of Jesus. 
And yet, three days later, it was Easter.
 
The final verse of the hymn ends like this:
Early hasten to the tomb
Where they laid his breathless clay;
All is solitude and gloom;
Who hath taken Him away?
Christ is ris’n! He meets our eyes:
Savior, teach us so to rise.
 
It is no small task to die to our sin. No small task to choose God’s will over our own wills. Even Christ experienced that anguish of pleading for there to be another way. But ultimately, He trusted that the only way out was through, and that God would complete His work in him. That death and suffering would not be the end of the story. We must remember there can be no resurrection without first there being a death. No Easter, without the cross. Without the agony and honesty of Gethsemane. Sometimes the darkness lasts weeks, months, even years, and we may need to wait more than three days for our Easter. But we must trust that on the other side of that death, God promises us that there will indeed be a resurrection. 
 
My exhortation for you today is twofold: first, to remember that Gethsemane is not merely a place for us to go during Holy Week, but to remember Gethsemane in the midst of trials and temptations all throughout the year, and to “learn from Jesus Christ to pray.” To trust and follow God’s will, even when it costs us everything. And second, remember that even the darkest of trials will end with a resurrection. We are in the middle of a story that is not yet finished, and the story is a good one, with the happiest of endings. May we humbly ask Jesus, our Savior, to teach us to rise with him as on Easter. To trust that God’s will is sometimes hard, but it is always good. Just as there can be no resurrection without first there being a death, neither will God ask you to face a death, without promising you a resurrection.

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