Today, almost 2,000 years ago Jesus and His disciples ate the Last Supper together and then went out to the Garden of Gethsemane. There Jesus wrestled in agony over the cup He was about to drink. As Easter approaches and we prepare to celebrate Good Friday, let us consider the events of Thursday and how they apply to us today.
But we can’t just examine the events that occurred in one garden. We need to look at the choices that were made in two gardens, by two men, who made two very different choices. The fate of all Creation hung on these decisions. A choice in one garden led to death. The choice in another garden led to eternal life.
Before we venture into these Gardens we must look at the events leading to those fateful decisions. Thursday of the Passion Week is a turning point for all of us. Matthew 26 details what we Christians today call the Last Supper, the final moments our Savior spends with all His disciples before the Garden – before the Fateful Choice.
The Passover Meal
The Jews of Jesus’ time would have celebrated this Last Supper as the Passover Meal. This meal, also known as a Seder, commemorated the story of the Exodus. After 400 years of bondage, God miraculously set His people free from Egypt. According to Jewish tradition, this meal included the sharing of four cups filled with wine. The wine symbolized the blood of the Passover lamb which provided life and protection from God’s wrath. It is a foreshadowing of the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, as He says in verse 28, “…this is my blood of the new covenant.”
However, there is a fifth cup. A cup, though filled with wine, no one was to drink. Why? This cup was known as the Cup of Elijah – the Cup of God’s Wrath. Tradition tells us no one was to drink this cup until Elijah announced the coming of the Messiah – the One worthy to drink this cup of wrath. Malachi 4:5 says, “I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.”
The Gardens of Decision
As the Passover meal ended, the Gospels take us to a garden called Gethsemane. Gethsemane wasn’t just a name of a place. The word “gethsemane” means = oil press. In autumn, olives would be crushed and pressed to produce the finest olive oil. In the spring, the time of the Passover, gethsemanes were used as resting places for travelers and other out-of-town guests, such as Jesus and His disciples. As Isaiah prophesied, “He was crushed for our iniquities.”
As Jesus entered the Garden with His closest disciples He knew the moment was drawing near when He would have to drink this cup of wrath. Though He was mysteriously both fully man and fully God, this is no easy decision. He cried out, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death!”
In another garden, at another time, there was another man. He made a different choice. This first man was Adam, who in the Garden of Eden – Paradise – had to chose, whether to follow his own will or to follow the will of his Heavenly Father. His choice to reject the will of God, to follow his own will, doomed all of Creation to death, pain, and bondage.
In the depiction of Christ’s Garden we are told, “…and He became anguished and distressed.” This translation does not do justice to the power of the original description. A better way to understand what Christ was going through would be sheer terror, because He realized what drinking from this Cup of Wrath meant. In fact, the physician Luke tells us Christ was in such agony his sweat become as drops of blood. No doubt Christ was suffering from a rare physical condition known as hematohidrosis which only occurs when someone is under extreme stress. Would He submit to the Father’s will?
In this garden, not of perfection, but of gethsemane, Jesus prayed three times for the cup to taken away. The turning point for all Creation had come. Jesus had 12 legions of angels at His disposal (Matt.26:53). He could call on them to rescue Him, but the King of Glory had made His choice. He proclaimed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
That decision, his choice, is the apex of all history. Though Christ would still suffer and die, through the yielding of His will to that of His Father’s, the curse of the Garden of Eden was broken. Our Redemption was purchased.
On this day, when we remember the Last Supper and this night, when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane we reflect on the decision that Jesus made to drink the cup of God’s wrath.
We will not have to face the same sort of decision that Jesus did almost 2,000 years ago, but we do have a decision to make. Though the consequences are different, we too must decide whether we follow our will or our Heavenly Father’s. This is not just a one time decision, it is a daily decision to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
Are we here to further our Kingdom or God’s Kingdom? Though our souls are redeemed our sinful natures continue to battle against us. In Gal. 5:24, we are told to crucify our flesh. In Luke 9, Christ tells us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. Will we follow Adam and his decision in the Garden of Eden? Or will you choose to follow Jesus and his decision to submit to the Father’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane? Will we say, “Not my will but Your will be done?” The choice is clear. The decision is ours to make.
“I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have presented you with life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants, loving Adonai your God, paying attention to what he says and clinging to him — for that is the purpose of your life!” – Deuteronomy 30: 19-20