Read Matthew 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42; Luke 22:39–46
Jesus faced the greatest test of faith in His life. He did not look forward to the events that would culminate in His own funeral.
He knew exactly what was coming. Betrayal. Shame. Torture. Trauma. Thirst. Loneliness. Death. How could He look at that and not flinch?
How do we handle the great challenges to our faith—our “Golgothas”? What happens when:
- The doctor says, “Three months, tops.”
- The dean says, “I’m sorry, but you can’t graduate till you take this course over.”
- The law intern hears, “I’m sorry, since you didn’t pass the bar we can’t use you.”
- The trooper reports, “You’ll have to wait till bail is set to get him out.”
- The funeral home phones, “When could we work out a time for you to view the body?”
- Your unwed daughter says, “My baby’s due in seven months.”
- Your boss says, “I’m sorry, but business has been off, and we have to downsize somewhere.”
- Your wife says, “I just don’t love you anymore”?
Where do we turn when there’s nowhere to turn? Where do we put our feet when the rug has been jerked from under us?
Jesus left us an example the night He faced Golgotha (cf. 1 Peter 2:21–22).
JESUS SOUGHT A PLACE to be alone
Jesus was in great demand. It seemed He could never shake the crowd, for there were many coming and going. On some occasions, He could not find “time to eat” (Mark 6:31). He never complained and always offered a hand to the helpless.
Still, on this night, the Great Physician’s office was closed. Publicans and sinners would have to come back tomorrow. He stepped out of the limelight and into the moonlight to address the deep concerns in His own heart. He got out of eyesight of the multitudes and earshot of His disciples so He could get in touch with His Father.
He went deep into the bowels of Gethsemane to gather His thoughts, wrestle with God’s purpose for His life, and summon the strength to face the inevitable.
What is the message for today’s sufferers? Take some time away from doctor’s offices, business meetings, and family gatherings. Find a place to sort things out in your own mind. Spend some time in separation, meditation, and contemplation.
The first thing God told a depressed Elijah to do was to eat a good meal and get some sleep (1 Kings 19:5–8). Often, things do not look as daunting after a good night’s sleep as they did after a long day’s turmoil. We can handle things better if our minds and bodies are well rested.
Jesus emphasized rest—both spiritual (mental) and physical. He invited sinners to come to Him and rest (Matthew 11:28), and insisted that the harried band, “come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). One day He will come back and grant us eternal rest (2 Thessalonians 1:7; Hebrews 4:9; Revelation 14:13).
Lesson #1: Facing Golgotha? Spend some time in Gethsemane.
Jesus Sought THE COMPANY OF CLOSE FRIENDS
Friends were important to Jesus. It is interesting that twelve of the sixteen times the word friend is used in the New Testament, Jesus either said it or it was used in His presence. He is the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24), and the “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34).
We are not surprised to find that though Jesus sought solitude this dark night, He did not go far from His friends. He took the Eleven to the Garden and invited three close friends—Peter, James, John—into the Garden.
Jesus prayed alone, but He alternated between His Father and His friends. He wanted Peter, James, and John to stay awake and pray with Him. No doubt part of His reason was for their benefit, protection, and training, but it is safe to say that even the Son of God wanted friends around when the night was dark.
God did not create us to be soloists either. Solomon taught his readers to pay attention to friendships, for one day they will be needed: “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away” (Proverbs 27:10).
Good friends make us better (Proverbs 27:17). A wise man does not keep his problems bottled up; he asks counsel of other wise men: “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22).
Our friends may be unable to offer a perfect solution or even to give suitable words of comfort—Jesus’ friends let Him down that night—but speaking our mind is often a relief. “A joy shared is doubled; a burden shared is halved.”
Lesson #2: Don’t try to climb Golgotha by yourself.
Jesus sought COMFORT FROM his FATHER IN PRAYER
In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed as no man had ever prayed.
He wrestled with severe mental anguish (Matthew 26:37–38). Mark says He was “troubled” (ekthambeo, “astonish utterly; affright”) and “deeply distressed” (ademoneo, “in distress of mind”) (Mark 14:33).
If you had visited that spot at daybreak, you could have found a damp place where His sweat dripped during those prayers. Many believe He prayed until His capillaries burst into His sweat glands and literally sweated blood1 (Luke 22:44–45). If so, when you found the dampened earth, it would have been tinged red.
Think of the power of prayer. When God’s child lifts his tear-stained face to heaven and says, “Father,” the God of the universe turns His head and bends His ear to listen. Imagine! What a joy to know that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). He knows (Matthew 6:8); He cares (1 Peter 5:7).
Lesson #3: Don’t try to climb Golgotha on your feet. Use your knees.
1A rare medical condition called bloody sweat or hematidrosis. The blood loss was minimal, but the high stress level is tremendous.