In the Garden…


The Pas Palm/Passion Sunday
Year B
25 March 2018

Mk 11:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-9
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Mark 14-15

Compassionate God,
your love finds full expression
in the gift of Jesus Christ your Son,
who willingly met betrayal and death
to set us free from sin.
Give us courage to live obediently in these days
until we greet the glory of our risen Saviour. Amen.


“32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.””(Mk 14:32-33)

In the monumental, and life changing passage that we have heard today, as we do every Palm & Passion Sunday, I wanted to look at an image that we know.

I wanted to look at a passage that often inspires each of us, when we face trials and tribulations in our own lives. Yet, the institution of the Lord ’s Supper, the Eucharist, and Jesus Passion and crucifixion often overshadows it.

Today I want to look at Jesus time in the Garden of Gethsemane.

And this reminds me of other instances of gardens, as well as the fact that Jesus’ experiences, today, and throughout the coming week, begins and ends in gardens.

Today we find Jesus, before the act of betrayal, praying in the garden of Gethsemane. He’s already given us the rite of the Lord’s Supper, in the midst of the Passover Celebration.

He’s already made his predictions of the betrayals, and the abandonment around the impending passion and crucifixion. So this, then, is the calm before the storm.

This is the time to breathe. The time to collect, to remember all is to come in the next twenty-four hours and all of the reasons to continue to move forward with God’s plan of salvation, and to mentally prepare for what comes next.

In my life, I always find myself pondering this scene, this time in the garden, this calm before the storm, when I have to make tough decisions, in and for my life; and I’m sure I’m not alone in such meditations.

At the same time, we see that Jesus isn’t alone in the garden. All of the disciples are there, except Judas, yet he takes Peter, James, and John with him, but they’re overcome by an excellent meal, by the news and puzzling experiences during the meal, and by the lateness of the hour. They fall asleep, exhausted, yet unknowing of the events that will keep them up all night, that will affect them, as it does each one of us, for the rest of our lives in Jesus passion and crucifixion.

Jesus, however, has the burden of knowing what is to come, in the next few hours. He knows what comes next and he has chosen to come to the lushness of a garden, the lushness of creation in order to pray, in order to connect with God, in order to find a few minutes to ‘collect himself,’ to prepare.

And when we’re looking at life changing events in and around our lives, events at or through which our lives are forever changed, pausing, taking a deep breath, considering what comes next, considering where those next steps can and will take us, and how they will (not might, but will) change us and our lives, forever.

“35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”” (Mk 14:35-36)

There’s a reason we call this service a Passion Sunday service. Just think of, look at, hear the passion in these words. Jesus prays, with his heart, with his strength, with his soul: “36 “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”” (Mk 14:36)

Jesus knows the pain, the torment, the torture that is coming, that he will endure, not for his sake, but for yours, for mine. For all who have lived and will live in the faith of Christ.

This is the burden that he bears, this knowledge, and the burden of our sins, our errors, our faults, and our mistakes.

When we see this scene in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” we see Jesus face down on the ground, writing in agony at what he knows is coming, as he takes on, at this time, in this place, the burden of each of our sins, our errors, our mistakes.

And not just ours but all sins, errors, and mistakes from the dawning of the world to the end of it, again. From all who have believed, and who will believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

He takes on the sin of Judas’ betrayal, of Peter, James, and John falling asleep, falling into the temptation that they can just close their eyes for a moment, not knowing the car wreck of a night that lies before them.

He takes it all on his shoulders, on his back, for each one of us to be able to have the relationship with God that we are able to experience, today.

And Jesus prays this way three times.

Three times he asks God to take away the cup, but still acquiesces to God’s will in this. Jesus is the sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus the Son of God, stands where we cannot and bears our punishment for the sins we’ve committed and will commit in our lifetimes.

Jesus the Son of Man, falls before God, under the weight of our sins, as Satan stands by and asks who are you that you think you can bear this weight?

There is a well-used garden sign that says “One is Closer to God in a Garden than anywhere else on earth.” I see it in many garden types of places, many places that sell yard décor for the modern gardener.

But still, this is where we find Christ, the Son of God, today.

We find him wrestling with the demands of God on his life. He’s known it would come to this point, but like knowing that an inoculation will hurt, we still go to the doctor or the clinic and proceed with what we need to endure to receive the benefits of the inoculation.

From the movie “The Passion of the Christ” we find the following dialogue between Satan and Christ, in the Garden. The disciples only see and hear Christ, they don’t see, or hear Satan’s contribution to the debate. Satan says: “Do you really believe that one man can bear the full burden of sin?”

Jesus prays: “Shelter me O Lord, I trust in you in you I take refuge”

To which Satan says: “No man can carry this burden, I tell you. It is far too heavy. Saving their souls is too costly. No one. Ever. No. never.”

And Jesus continues to pray: “Father, you can do all things. If it is possible, let this chalice pass from me… but let your will be done, not mine.”

Leading Satan to ask: “Who is your father? Who are you?”

And this is also where we find ourselves, today. Looking at each other, wondering if we are strong enough to bear the burdens God asks us to bear: to be a good neighbour to our brothers and sisters? Are we able to treat people as we wish to be treated? Are we able to love God as God loves us?

And we can see evidence of this love in today’s gospel, in today’s procession from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem with which we began today’s service, to the cross and the grave where we will wait until Easter morning.

In the beginning of today’s sermon I pointed out that the passion begins and ends in a garden. It begins in the garden of Gethsemane, before our eyes, as Jesus takes on the mantle of our sins, errors, burdens, and bears them to the cross. It finishes in the garden of the tomb, as the Hebrew people prepare for the Sabbath, which begins at sunset.

We are able to, in our lives, feel closer to God in gardens, perhaps because the plants, the green, the sunshine and the scent of growing things reminds us of God, of what God has created, including you and me.

We are able to find God in gardens, in the same way that Jesus goes apart, in this passage and prays: “36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”” (Mk 14:36)

And in my pondering of this, this is the most significant moment that Christ experiences since his first breath in this world, as an infant, in the stable in Bethlehem.

Here, in this garden, praying so hard that he falls on his face, that he breaks out into a sweat, we find Jesus submitting to God’s will for all of humanity, for all who believe.

He bends his will to God’s need. He takes on a burden that forever separates you and me from the love of God, so that we are able to stand in God’s presence and serve God.

And he does this three times, in the Garden of Gethsemane. Three times he asks that the cup be removed, three times he bends his will to God’s need, so that the sins of the world can be healed.

Sin entered the world in a garden, in the garden of Eden, when Eve was seduced by the serpent to eat fruit that was forbidden.

The sin of the world centres itself on one person, one life so that it is able to be destroyed from the world, in this one person’s actions, on the cross.

And our journey, through Jesus passion and crucifixion, ends in the Garden of the Tomb, as Jesus’ lifeless body, spent in God’s salvific action for you and for me, as he dies on the cross, on Golgotha, is then lovingly laid to rest, just before sunset on Good Friday.

Our life begins and ends in the garden of God’s love, in the garden of God’s creation, in the garden of God as we turn to God, and like Christ say “not what I will, but what you will.” (Mt 14:36b)

And these are the hardest words to utter. This is the most difficult stance to take, in our lives, bending to the will of God, not for your life, or mine, but for God’s will to be done, so that all of humanity, including you, me, Judas, Peter, John, James, and all of those who believe, are able to look upon the cross of Christ, and believe.

We bear our souls to God in gardens, and in gardens we receive the strength we need to carry on, to be the people of God, to be the ones who look to Christ, and declare ““Surely this man was the Son of God!”” (Mk 15:39b)

But that is what the Temple Authorities think is the end of the story, and we get ahead of ourselves.

“41 Returning the third time, [Jesus] said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”” (Mk 14: 41-42)


About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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