The Gethsemane Church of All Nations, also known as the Basilica of the Agony, was built in 1924 at the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane. Inside the church is a rock, now enclosed by a wrought-iron crown of thorns, said to be where Christ prayed on the night before His crucifixion. The church’s ceiling domes suggest a night sky—blue with stars, accompanied by olive branches to evoke the garden.
The Garden of Gethsemane lay on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives, one of Jesus’ favorite places (note “as usual” in v. 39). The Mount of Olives, a long ridge east of Jerusalem, stood some 100 to 200 feet higher than the city itself and provided a good view of Jerusalem. Not surprisingly, it had many olive trees growing there. The name Gethsemane means “olive press” or “oil press.”
The focus of today’s reading is Jesus’ prayer: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (v. 42). The “cup” was the cup of God’s wrath and the suffering for sin that Jesus was about to undergo. He was perfectly submitted to His Father’s will, but He also needed to pray in order to remain perfectly submitted. The struggle was real, for an angel was sent to strengthen Him and “His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (vv. 43–44). He had invited His disciples to pray with Him, but they had been too sad and tired to do so.
Prayer here includes watchfulness, a way to stay on guard spiritually. Jesus was tempted to resist His Father’s will. His disciples’ faith was tempted to falter in the face of crisis (vv. 40, 46). The response to both temptations: “Devote yourself to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Col. 4:2).
In the spiritual geography of our own lives, do we have a place to retreat and pray? When we do, the prayer “Not my will, but yours be done” is always appropriate. We often bring God a grocery list of needs and concerns—and He is pleased when we trust Him to provide. But we should also follow the example of Jesus and pray to submit better.
We are grateful for the computer skills and expertise of our Enterprise Infrastructure Services staff who provide Moody with sound computer communication capabilities. Would you pray for Paul Walker, Michael Paniak, and Kyle Sparrow?