In Matthew 26:36-46, Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane and overcome with sorrow. The weight of the cross was looming over him while his friends were oblivious to his intense distress. This is where we begin to see the ultimate display of Jesus practicing what he preached. Jesus prays for this cup to be taken from him, anticipating the pain and isolation he was going to endure. However, the cup would not be removed from him.
Even so, where Adam failed in the garden and arrogantly said, “My will be done,” Jesus said through drops of sweat and blood in the garden, “Your will be done,” and submitted to the cross.
This is the man we follow. He calls us to follow him as our example, and then he goes to the cross to suffer and die.
However, it doesn’t end here. If it did, I would have no reason to follow him. Why would I follow a man into death? What kind of savior would that be?
The good news is that while Jesus walked into the grave, he also walked out of the grave. He took the punishment on the cross that we deserved and then defeated death. Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before him. He knew what his mission was and knew the joy of the outcome would outweigh the pain and suffering. This is the man we follow. Jesus said that if we take the hard path, die to self, or take up our cross, then we will find life. He promises that if we lose our life for his sake, we will find true life.
Yet even when we know the coming glory will outweigh whatever we have to go through now, taking up our cross can still be painful and put our faith to the test.
While I was recently reflecting on this passage, I came up with three takeaways for myself.
1) Jesus doesn’t call us to do anything he isn’t willing to do.
When Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed for this cup to be passed from him because of the intense sorrow and suffering he was facing. However, though he knew that the cross was coming, he still said to God, “Your will be done”. He submitted to the will of God by taking up his cross like he asks us to do.
2) Taking up your cross can be lonely and invisible to others.
Jesus asked his friends to stay awake and pray with him, yet every time he went back to them, they were asleep. If they understood the weight of the cross Jesus was about to bear, I doubt they would have been sleeping. Sometimes when we make hard sacrifices for Christ and take up a cross, we are met with apathy from our Christian brothers and sisters. It can be extremely lonely at times, but I believe two things about this: 1) Jesus intimately understands the loneliness and 2) the lonliness is temporary.
3) We are also prone to apathy toward others.
It’s easy for us to see ourselves in the loneliness of Jesus, but it is much harder for us to see ourselves in the apathy of the disciples. Other Christians are also sacrificing and suffering for Christ, yet we are often preoccupied with our own sufferings. This requires knowing people deeply. Knowing people deeply requires us to spend time together, talk, and ask good questions in order to be aware of what’s going on in the lives we interact with in our Christian communities.