For these dark Lenten days, a few words from Rev. Gardner C. Taylor’s sermon, “Gethsemane: The Place of Victory.”
Before we mount up to the place of victory in prayer, let us complete the human equation. The Master retreats, and when he returns, his friends on whom he counted and whom he asked to stand sentry for a while, had failed him. Maybe he wanted to have this last little time to get ready and needed to be protected from sudden appearance and surprise attack by his enemies, who were already making their way through the chill night to arrest the Savior of the world.
At any rate, I seem to hear an almost unutterable sorrow rising like a hurt cry up out of the depths of the soul of our Lord. “What, could you not watch with me one hour?” Was that too much to ask? He had comforted them and strengthened them and guided them, and now in his hour of need they failed. Let that question pass quietly among us on this Lenten Sunday morning. Let the presence of this preacher be wiped out, let this voice be lost in another.
Hear your Lord ask you: “Was it too much to ask you to watch with me one hour? Did I ask too much when I asked that you be regular in worship one day a week? Do I go too far in saying, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.’ Is it too much that I ask you to show a little kindess to my little ones, to those who are old and tired, to those who are sick and in pain, to those who are alone in prison?” “Look,” he says now to us, “look at these nail marks. They are there for you. Do I ask too much?” In that piteous cry of our Lord I hear a word from the sixty-ninth psalm, “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none” (Psalm 69:20).
The secret victory, the gathering of his soul into a unity of purpose which would have its dramatic triumph on Calvary was not found in the garden because of friends, for people will fail us in a trying hour. He went back again and knelt and talked it over with God. He confesses, my dear Savior showing himself tempted as we are, that he does not want to be humiliated and shamed and spat upon and scorned and pushed and shoved. He did not want the excruciating physical pain and shrank from spiritual abandonment and traveling some far stretches of God-emptiness never before encountered by the sons of men. He pleads, listen! The Son of God, the Son of Man pleads, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” So! It is natural for us not to want to face great trials and hard tribulations. We have a right to ask God to spare us, please, daunting sorrows and bitter trials. And then, as we listen, not once but three times he reaches his hand and heart out toward God asking for willingness in his own soul to be ready for whatever God wants. “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
God heard and answered. The victory was won right there. Friends slept, but God neither slumbers nor sleeps. Men may have failed, but God did not. Luke says that Jesus prayed in an agony of desperate pleading until sweat like drops of blood fell from his brow. God got him ready…