The Gethsemane Agony

Today's Bible reading: Matthew 26:36-46

Jesus Christ was crucified - nailed to a cross, hung there, and died - for you and for me for the forgiveness of our sins.  Yet, at no point in the passion stories do we find any detail recorded simply to excite our feelings of pity for the suffering Jesus endured.  Nor is there any stress on the obvious pain that He most certainly suffered.  Crucifixion was a long, slow, brutal, painful and agonizing death – actually buy suffocation.  It was a common death in the Roman world for criminals, slaves, pirates, prisoners of war … any enemy of the state who deserved death.  It was considered the most shameful and disgraceful way to die … and usually this torturous - this “excruciating” (actually, the word “excruciating” comes from two Latin words: ex cruciatus, literally “out of … the cross”a defining word for pain.) - this excruciating process could last for many days.  Jesus, in fact, died rather quickly … so the meaning of His death cannot be found in the amount of agony He suffered.  It is found rather in the fact that He suffers in utter loneliness for the sins of the world – for your sins and for mine.  This we find in the passion narrative’s repeated references to the Old Testament Scriptures.  God’s plan is being carried out in this reprehensible death.  But we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves…

Last week we left off speaking about Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper.  Today we begin with the next scene: in the Garden of Gethsemane.  St. Luke speaks of Jesus being in an “agony” as He is there praying …  and all the Gospels picture Jesus as a man who is afraid of death.  In that, He shares our own common human fear.  Even worse, He has to endure this trial without any support from His disciples.  Jesus watches in prayer alone, while they continually fall asleep.

It is just this contrast - together with Jesus’ prayer to the Father - that gives the clue to the scene.  He recoils in holy horror from bearing the guilt of the world’s sin.  Here Jesus begins His passion for us … one which He alone must endure.  Three times He asks for this cup of suffering to be removed … three times He accepts the inevitable.  The Father’s will must be done.

Prayer: Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe.  You have poured out upon us Your never-ending love by giving your Son, Jesus Christ, into death on the cross for us.  Give us grace to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Strengthen the ministry of Your Church to bring Jesus’ love to all those for whom He died.  For He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.