Gethsemane and Easter
ON this particular Friday many Christians around the world are pondering Christ Jesus' death and resurrection. Traditionally, Good Friday is a day of sadness because it commemorates Jesus' death on the cross. Yet because of Jesus' proof of God's love, Christians know in their hearts that Easter must inevitably follow. However crushing his night in the garden of Gethsemane -- and Luke tells us it was ``an agony''1 -- our perspective on the events enables us to see that the resurrection had to be the outcome.
Jesus had spent his life proving that God's love and His divine law are ever present. He had healed the sick, freed many trapped in sin, taught those who wanted to know and understand God. There are even three different accounts of his raising people from death. But the proof of his lifetime of obedience came in the garden of Gethsemane. He prayed to be freed from the final test, the crucifixion, ``Saying,'' the Bible records, ``Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.''2
Those crucial words, ``nevertheless not my will, but thine,'' were a summation of his whole ministry. He had repeatedly told his followers that without God, the Father, he could do nothing. And in selfless obedience, he was willing to put his life on the line for the truth he believed in.
The result of his steadfast reliance on God forever changed religious thought. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes of Jesus in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``He proved Life to be deathless and Love to be the master of hate.''3
This is a potent statement of the great spiritual facts that Jesus was proving. Yet so often this powerful proof of God's love for man is crowded out by the human festivities associated with the holiday -- Easter egg hunts, the need for candy, oversized bunnies at the mall.
Perhaps it's not that we don't want to take Easter seriously; it's just that it happened so long ago, and we know how the story came out. And sometimes we forget to think of Easter in terms of how it can make a difference to us.
We may not even realize that thanks to Easter, we know for a fact that man is truly spiritual and inseparable from God. Indeed, if we think of God as Life itself, we realize that Jesus proved this Life can never be lost. Such spiritual truths are transforming. They show us that life really is eternal and that no matter what happens, God's presence -- His Christ -- will never leave us.
The promise of Easter can be fulfilled daily in our lives through the obedience that we express toward the law of God, of good. This occurs whenever we need to challenge the belief that we are mortals, living in matter and subject to it instead of to God, who loves us. And to greater or lesser degree, these experiences of challenging and overcoming this belief that we are material can be our own times of Gethsemane.
Our willingness to yield to God's will is crucial in our gaining the sense of resurrection -- a clearer understanding of our own spirituality and relationship to God -- that follows such obedience.
Some years ago I had an experience of Gethsemane that forever changed how I viewed Easter. I had taken on a project of restructuring a section of the department in which I worked. It was a difficult assignment and despite my high hopes -- tempered somewhat by my knowledge of the challenges -- the problems gradually began to affect my physical health. Then, just when the restructuring seemed finished and the section seemed ready to operate on its own, the staff rose up and seemed to be trying to destroy everything my supervisor and I had tried to accomplish.
I prayed for hours, agonizing over what to do. Then one night, very simply, the thought came that I should resign from the assignment. But because of the circumstances, I felt worried that the section and its work might collapse. I was also concerned that people might think I was a quitter or that I had been fired.
I continued praying, and I must confess that my prayers were very much along the lines of ``Anything but that!'' Until the night when I suddenly got a deep and strong feeling for what Jesus accomplished in the garden of Gethsemane and his prayer that God's will, not his, be done. As I considered this, I realized that if Jesus, knowing the great suffering that lay ahead of him, could willingly submit to God's will, how could I -- one of his professed followers -- refuse to do something that was so much simpler?
The next day I spoke to my supervisor, who had also been giving the matter consideration, and we both agreed that my resigning would be the solution. Much to our joy, we found that the office was able to function as we had planned. I went back to my previous work within the department and found to my amazement that the people I had thought would be critical of the change had assumed that I had been promoted! My physical health was also restored.
Since then, the Easter season has never been the same for me. I have learned that God's will, obeyed, does bring us through the hard times to greater freedom and opportunity for service to our fellowman. The sacredness of Easter has a ``here and now'' relevance that can help us face challenges with God's help.
Our individual Gethsemanes -- no matter when in the year they occur -- don't need to end there. Through our prayer, they can lead us to the promise of Easter fulfilled -- to spiritual resurrection in our own lives.
1See Luke 22:44. 2Luke 22:42. 3Science and Health, p. 44.