Praying Mentis

A Laymen's Journey into the Catholic faith.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Garden Of Gethsemane

I have decided recently to post more theology blogs, I apologize, I meant to post this at the beginning of Lent... But... It took me awhile to edit it. Anyways, here is a fun analysis of the Garden of Gethsemane. 

Word Study 

Gethsemane, literally translated into English means "suffering." This is what the garden was called far before Jesus went there, as if he knew and chose the location to say to us, "I know the suffering that is about to come, and I embrace it openly." Which, as we examine the passage on the Garden of Gethsemane more, we'll see that Jesus conveys this point in about 26 million different ways. The story would have been completely different if Jesus was not fully aware of what was going to happen next and would not have illustrated Jesus' love for us quite as powerfully.

An early church father Chrysostom comments on the Garden of Gethesamane, particularly on Matthew 26:36: "Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, Sit here while I go over there and pray” (emphasis mine).
Chrysostom notes that Jesus' disciples were so adherent to Him and followed Him so intensely that every night before he went to bed they would wait to hear more of His word. This is why he had to explicitly tell them to stay where they were. Cooler yet, when he says commands them to stay he uses the adverb, "here", which is never used in all of New Testament. It is however found  in the Old Testament Septuagint, the greek version of the Old Testament that Jesus and his disciples would have used and read. 

"Abraham said to his servants: “Stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over there. We will worship and then come back to you." (Genesis 22:5)

Do you recognize this story? You should. Its when Abraham is leading Isaac up the mountain to be sacrificed. Perhaps Jesus was trying to tell his disciples, as always, what was about to come.



Third major point I would like to make about the Garden of Gethsamane, is that when Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray", he was speaking to all of the disciples except Peter and the son's of Zebedee (James and John).

37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

When Jesus addresses James, John, and Peter in the Garden of Gethsamane, the Greek word used suggests that he was addressing Peter in plural. You will also find that both Luke and Matthew described Jesus as directly addressing Peter. My point is that Jesus always addresses all of the apostles through Peter. We see examples of this again and again in the story of the raising of Jairus's Daughter where only Peter, James, and John are allowed in the room to witness God's Glory. (Luke 8:40-56, Mark 5:35-43, Matthew9:18-26

Under all accounts of the Transfiguration Jesus brings only Peter, John, and James with Him. Under Matthew's account Peter, and only Peter, spoke to Jesus saying, Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Peter is not only slightly elevated, he is constantly being addressed and constantly bearing witness to God's glory.


Sleepy Sleeping Disciples

Many people when they read the Garden of Gethesamane draw attention to and criticize the disciples for falling asleep. But when you really think about it, we are just like the sleeping disciples. We say, "Wow they couldn't stay awake for an hour...really?" (Even though I know many of those same people who fall asleep in adoration.) Not many realize that this wasn't the only occasion the disciples fell asleep at an important moment of Jesus' life:

 "32 Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him."

I find it Ironic that during all of the most important moments of Jesus' life the apostles were sleeping. The Garden of Gethesamen is slightly different though and Luke is the only authors that really explicitly tells the story in a way that captures this difference: 
 "When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. " (Luke 23:45)

Jesus was mad not because they were asleep, but they were asleep knowing His sorrow! That for many of us would be the last straw! What is awesome is that instead of Jesus taking out a whip and whipping his disciples over and over so that they would stop falling asleep, or instead of throwing a bucket of cold water on them... He says, "Sleep on. " ...Something that most Church Fathers comment on, but for some reason... perhaps due to mistranslations, most people never hear. 

After being comforted by an Angel, Jesus comes back:

41 And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.(Mark 14:32-12) 

Jesus says to the disciples, "sleep on now, and take your rest," as if now they are able to take their sleep. St. Paul uses the same word for "sleep on now", in his many letters, and the words, "on now," mean more of a, "finally, henceforth, or you are now able." It was almost as if Jesus was saying, from what I am about to do, you will actually and henceforth be able to rest. 

On the Cup of Suffering

 39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”40 

Back in the time of Jesus there was a tradition amongst Roman Soldiers: they were strictly forced to be obedient, and disobedience had dire consequences. For example, sometimes they had  to jump off a cliff. Literally.

With that in mind, similarly, at times the head of a platoon would be given a cup of poison to drink: if he was able to drink the entire thing no one else would have to drink it, but if he could not (or didn't really want to) it was passed to the next man in line. The next man had the same option. Jesus in his Passion wants to take all of the suffering he can, or in other words, he drinks the entire cup of poison, sparing everyone else in the platoon. Most would reluctantly take on suffering or suffer for a friend only if they had to. But Jesus loves us so much that he wants to make it clear to us that he will take on our suffering knowingly, willingly, and faithfully.

We doubt every now and then and we ask ourselves a variation of these words, "will Jesus hold back his love for us?" The answer is no. When the Roman soldiers tried to offer Him wine mixed with vinegar, he refused in an attempt to make us realize that he is not like others. 

Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. (Mark 14:23)

What some do not realize is that wine mixed with myrrh was an anesthetic during that time. What he says in this bold statement is that he will not turn his back to us in our suffering ever. Instead he will do the opposite of what his apostles and what we ourselves do. He willingly embraces suffering to show his love and to redeem humanity. 

My Soul is Sorrowful Unto Death

Mark 14: 33 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; 34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.

Mark's analysis of the Garden of Gethsemane is even more beautiful as he recalls the word Jesus used for his suffering to be the same found in Psalm 42:

5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence. O my God, my soul is in despair within me; 


11 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? 

By saying, "I am in grief to the point of death", he is basically saying that he is so sad he could die. Raymond Brown suggests that Jesus is in grief over the unrepentant sinner, Judas, who has betrayed God, how his apostles, who will be scattered, and because in His humanity he wishes His disciples would have "remained with Him" through His suffering just as we hope that our friends would remain present in ours. I will end with psalm 69. 

"And I looked for sympathy, but there was none,

And for comforters, but I found none.
They also gave me gall for my food
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."

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