Negative Emotion Not Sinful (v. 34)
We can sometimes begin to use the categories of pleasant and unpleasant as synonyms for the categories of holy and unholy or right and wrong. We prematurely assume pleasant emotions or situations are good (or an “open door”) and that unpleasant emotions are bad (or a “closed door”).
This can lead to compounded false guilt and poor decision making. We feel bad for feeling bad and then make decisions based on those emotions. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, said, “My soul is over-whelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” This was not wrong. While he did have Philippians 4:4 (“rejoice always”) in mind in terms of Hebrews 12:2 (“the joy set before him”), this in no way diminished the intensity of Gethsemane or Calvary.
Reflective Questions: How do you know when you are suffering for righteousness sake or as a part of God’s will (I Peter 2:20, 3:17, 4:19)? Are you prone to feeling guilty whenever you are over-whelmed? How can we maintain faith and hope in the midst of our frailty and daunting circumstances?
Take This Cup From Me (v. 36)
On this verse Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Reflections on the Cross:
This is but one of many bold (but true) contradictions in the life and ministry of Christ. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “The last shall be first.” By dying Jesus would conquer death.
We, like Jesus in his full humanity, do not waltz into these moments without hesitation. No amount of faith (not even being God) steadied Jesus’ heart rate. The natural question sprang from his lips, “Is there any other way?” Yet this was the way, the truth, and the life… by death.
Reflective Question: Consider from personal experience or testimony of others how God has faithfully dismantled evil by allowing or willing that you endure it. How does this action of sustaining and prevailing create a unique faith (in contrast to God delivering you from evil)? Thank God for both His grace and power to deliver from and conquer within evil.
The Spirit is Willing, But the Body is Weak
How do you hear these words? Read them (v. 37-38) several times with different inflections: anger, despair, condemnation, numbness, compassion, or instruction. Which fits the context and character of Christ best?
We learn something very significant about ourselves in these verses – our body must be cared for in such a manner that enables our hearts to express their obedience. Consider the following areas of body health and mind skill that affect heart expression – stamina, attention span, literacy, drowsiness, nutrition, soberness, strength, etc…
In what ways do you need to strengthen your body and mind so that they are not an impediment to your spirit?
Do you view the practices you just listed as “spiritual”? Walk through the areas of body and mind that you considered weaknesses that needed strengthening. How does each on of these areas impinge your ability to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself?
I do not propose that Jesus was trying to teach the disciples about physical and mental conditioning on this dark night. I do propose that he was teaching (in a tone of over-whelmed instruction) a lesson that would prepare them to handle the hard days ahead in the life of the early church.
Take time to be a good steward of your body (the temple of the Holy Spirit). Not to win a HGTV temple display contest, but so that full expression of your heart and soul will be unrestrained by the body and mind through which they are expressed.