Posted by: New in Every Way | April 1, 2013

Blowing on the Embers

WP_000157 - Version 2Today it may seem as if I’m backpedaling. Yesterday–the joy of Resurrection Sunday. Today–referring again to Gethsemane. But, believe it or not, my thought about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is not a somber one. It is touching and encouraging.

By the way, this photo is one I took last summer in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is an olive tree that Jesus would have seen. You can see that the branches are small in comparison with the massive trunk. They have been trimmed many times, no doubt.

. . . If there ever was a time Jesus needed his friends, it was that night in the olive grove of Gethsemane when he was staring the Cross in the face. He had brought his closest friends–Peter, James, and John–with him to a secluded spot, told them his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow, and asked them to support him in prayer while he went a little further to pray. But three times he emerged to where his disciples were and found them asleep! How did Jesus react? You choose:

  1. Jesus woke them up and reamed them for not caring very much and not being there for him when he needed them.
  2. Jesus began rebuking the devil for trying to weaken him by lulling his support team to sleep.
  3. Jesus woke them and urged them to pray for their own sakes, so God could strengthen them to respond well to the coming events.

Is 1, 2, or 3 the correct answer? Check it with this narrative:

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40-41).

Notice that the question was addressed specifically to Peter. A couple hours before, during the Last Supper, Jesus had told them they would all soon desert him.

Peter blurted out: “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

Jesus answered: “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

But Peter declared: “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same (Matthew 26:33-35).

So, in the garden, Jesus pointedly addressed Peter, saying, in essence, “You need to pray for your own sake, so that you don’t cave in under the pressures ahead. Think about it–you didn’t even stay awake to support me in prayer. Your intentions are good, but you’re not as strong as you think you are.”

. . . Are you as overwhelmed by Jesus’ response to the drowsy men as I am? He knows their fickleness but still treats them as his special friends. He is disappointed by their actions but still sees the loyal intentions of their hearts. He is engulfed in dread of torture and death but understands and cares about his friends’ much smaller struggle.

There’s a wide-spread belief out there that God views us with a frown, much of the time. This scene shows me a completely different God. It convinces me that he does take note of our glaring failures. But then he bends down and blows on the embers of our good intentions.

He so wants us to succeed. And he is able to make that happen. It makes me feel safe to trust him with my life.

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