Have you ever felt agony in your garden? In the days when I raised a good-sized garden, it became more and more difficult for me because of my aching back. I remember picking rows of green beans, so thankful for each beautiful fresh bean I picked, filling my big blue pail to overflowing with the most wonderful harvest ever. When I got to the end of the row my back was screaming. I inched my way to finish picking every last one on the biggest bush of all. Then I tried to step over the 'rabbit' fence as carefully as I could but I couldn't straighten my back and stand up. I crept to the house, with my pail of beans, as my back inched its way up to standing position. My little physical agony was nothing compared to Jesus'.
"Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:39-44 NIV)
It was Maundy Thursday when Jesus went to the garden, followed by His disciples. Jesus went to the Mount of Olives garden often as indicated by the term, "as usual" that Doctor Luke uses. Perhaps it was his favorite quiet place to go to speak to His Father. He was filled with emotion as He knelt down and prayed. Jesus bowed before God and poured out His dread of the impending betrayal, physical torture and the crucifixion. He asked if there was another way but agreed that He would do God's will.
This is where I read something new today; something I hadn't absorbed before: the angel that God sent to strengthen Jesus. Jesus' sacrifice required heavenly strength sent special delivery from the Father. Yet, even as Jesus was strengthened, His prayer intensified and "his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground". It chills me to the bone to think of the inner fortitude and outpouring that combined to create bullets of bloody sweat dripping from Jesus' pores. Even if these drops of blood weren't really visible, Luke's description helps us realize what true agony Jesus experienced - for us.
For us, Jesus endured agony in the garden. And that was just the beginning.