Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane

This is a guest post by Taylor Mertins.

While I was at Duke, I took a class on the Greek Exegesis of the Gospel according to Mark. Throughout the course of the semester we translated the entire gospel from Greek into English and we dissected every verse looking at the grammar and discussing the depth of the Word of God.

On one such occasion we found ourselves translating the story of Jesus in the garden (Mark 14:32-36):

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”

We discussed certain grammatical options when my professor finally asked, “Why does Jesus pray for the cup to be passed from him? This is a very troubling verse. On the eve of his execution he calls out to God to save him from death. So, why does Jesus pray for the cup to pass from him?”

One of the saddest things about seminary is that everything became a competition:

I tried to explain why Jesus prayed this, “I’m sure he knew what he was doing, he prayed this for our benefit in the future, so that we would know about prayer.”

“No,” one of my peers interrupted, “Jesus did this to help us recall the Psalmist words of prayer to be delivered from the pit, Jesus wanted us to understand his command over the Old Testament Scriptures…”

This went on and on. We showed off in front of our professor explaining and rationalizing why Jesus said what he said.

agony in the garden

Our answers got better and better, we began to yell at one another across the room when all of the sudden my professor slammed his hands on the table and said,

“I am so sick and tired of hearing young seminarians like you, try to explain away what Jesus said. This verse in Mark is one of my favorites. Do you know why? Because in this scripture Jesus is just like me.”

Then it was silent.

Though we still had thirty minutes left in class, my professor packed his belongings and walked out of the room.

For days it was all I could think about, and even now I think about it all the time. That in the garden, in this precious moment we have recorded, we see Jesus just like us.

You can bet that if I was in the garden and I knew what was going to happen to me, I would’ve shouted out, “Please God don’t let it happen!” If I found myself hanging on the cross I would’ve shouted out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus is just like me.

But at the same time, Jesus is completely unlike me. My prayer would have stopped with, “God take this cup from me.”

But that’s not where Jesus’ prayer ended. Jesus continued on to say, “not what I want, but what you want.”

For as many ways as Jesus can be just like us, he is completely unlike us because he knew the Father’s will and marched up to the top of Calvary to hang and die on a cross for you and me.

So I wonder: what are your prayers like?

Are they like mine: O God please deliver me from this and that…?

Or, are your prayers like Jesus’? “God I know I’m in a tough spot right now, I know that you can fix me and heal me, you can make my son or daughter well, but, in the end it’s not about what I want, it’s about what you want.”

You know that great part of the Lord’s prayer? Thy Will Be Done. Many of us say it everyday, but, do we really want God’s will?

How are you thankful Jesus is just like you? How are you thankful Jesus is completely unlike you? How do those reflections shape your encounter with God during this Holy Week?

Taylor Mertins PhotoRev. Taylor Mertins is originally from Alexandria, Virginia where he was baptized, confirmed, and raised in Aldersgate UMC. He graduated magna cum laude from Duke Divinity school in 2013 with a Masters in Divinity. Rev. Mertins currently serves as the youngest Provisional Elder commissioned by the Virginia Conference of United Methodist Church at St. John’s UMC in Staunton, VA. You can find copies of his sermons and devotions here:

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