Two years ago, I started this post and left it in draft form. But as we approach Easter in less than three weeks, it seems a good time to revisit it and perhaps begin to reflect more on those events and the One, Jesus, the Savior who brought our salvation.
Recently, I listened to a podcast describing Jesus and His emotions in the Garden of Gethsemane. As I listened, I found myself teary thinking of Jesus as He faced the cross (Luke 22:39-46). Imagine His anguish (He was fully human after all) that literally caused him to sweat blood — and yet His willingness to stay and do the will of His Father. As God, He knew what was to happen. His suffering brought salvation for whoever believes in Him. It was costly for Him to die in our place, and it demonstrated His great love (Romans 5:8)!
The next morning, as I was getting coffee, still reflecting on this, these words went through my mind: “You have not resisted to the point of shedding blood.” I wondered where that verse was and whether it really talks about shedding blood! I looked it up and found it:
“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (ESV).Hebrews 12:4
Hebrews 12:4 would most certainly seem to be referring to the martyrs, to those who have suffered persecution for their faith. It follows Hebrews 11, that great hall of faith that concludes with martyrs who did shed their blood. And because Hebrews 12:1-3 (immediately before verse 4) urges us to fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, it no doubt also points to Jesus’ death on the cross where he suffered, bled, and died.
But I think we can also gain encouragement by remembering Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46).
There in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was resisting the great forces of evil, as he had done when tempted earlier by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), both times during which an angel or angels ministered to Him. In His obedience, in doing His Father’s will, in withstanding temptation, not only did He save us, but He gave us an example to follow. If He could endure, we can endure, and His Word assures us He gives us the strength to do so (1 Corinthians 10:13).
This section of Scripture (Luke 22:39-46, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane) is bookended with Jesus telling His disciples to go and pray that they would not enter into temptation. As He faced the cross, He didn’t ask them to pray for Himself, but twice told them to pray that they would not enter into temptation. Prayer is that necessary to defeating temptation. They instead fell asleep.
(As an aside, it’s made me wonder what might have happened if Peter had prayed that he wouldn’t enter into temptation–would he still have denied Jesus three times? Of course, this was part of a larger, sovereign plan. But what would happen if we pray, as Jesus told us in the Lord’s prayer, that we might not enter into temptation but be delivered from evil. Are we sleeping more than praying?)
In between these commands to the disciples to pray that they would not enter temptation, Jesus Himself prays the anguishing prayer that His Father might remove this cup from Him, but says, “Not my will, but yours, be done.” “Being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
Returning to Hebrews 12:4, Barnes, in his “Notes on the Bible,” writes:
[T]he fact to which the apostle alludes, it seems to me, is the struggling of the Saviour in the garden of Gethsemane, when his conflict was so severe that, great drops of blood fell down to the ground . . . It is, indeed, commonly understood to mean that they had not yet been called to shed their blood as martyrs in the cause of religion; see Stuart Bloomfield, Doddridge, Clarke, Whitby, Kuinoel, etc. Indeed, I find in none of the commentators what seems to me to be the true sense of this passage, and what gives an exquisite beauty to it, the allusion to the sufferings of the Saviour in the garden.
Barnes goes on to give three reasons why he has this view, which you can read here by scrolling way down to the Hebrews 12:4 commentary and seeing his 3-part list. It is quite moving.
The question that strikes me as I read and studied this: In our struggling against sin, have we resisted to the point of shedding our blood? The answer most certainly and always will be no, we haven’t. (In fact, sometimes, I wonder if I put up much resistance at all!) If not, we must keep praying! This is so central to the victory He wants to give us! And we can then, in His power, keep enduring as He did, we can follow His example, we can receive His strength to resist. The Bible also tells us that endurance builds character and character, hope (Romans 5:3-5). It also gives us a promise that those who endure will reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12).
So Remember the Garden of Gethsemane. It tells us of Jesus’ love and faithfulness, His determination to do the Father’s will, no matter the cost.
Remember the Garden. It reminds us He entered into humanity for us. Nothing we experience should tell us He’s disinterested or unloving. He died to rescue us. He loves us.
Remember the Garden. Pray that we would not enter into temptation.
Remember the Garden. If He could endure, there’s nothing we face (sin, temptation, etc.) that He can’t enable us to endure and resist, too.
Remember the Garden. Thank Him for making a way for us to be saved and to be victorious over sin and temptation in Jesus’ name.
*Garden of Gethsemane Photo by Stacey Franco on Unsplash