14-7-4 Paul's Exposition Of Gethsemane
" Gethsemane, can we forget?" we sing, as if it were so unthinkable
that we should. But we do. His agony, His bloody sweat for our redemption
slips out of our mind so easily. Yet for our Paul, this wasn't the case.
The record of Gethsemane was firmly imprinted on his mind (see the list
of allusions tabulated in our first study). He saw his own spiritual struggles
as bringing him close to his Lord, as in utter prostration he battled
with his deep inner nature to an intensity that none of us have reached.
" Ye have not yet resisted unto blood (in your) striving against
sin" (Heb. 12:4, alluding to His sweat as blood drops) is Paul's
call for us to recognize this, and to have the picture of our Lord in
Gethsemane as a motivation " lest we be wearied, and faint in (our)
minds" . He's saying 'You've never got anywhere near that intensity.
So don't get tired of the unending mental battle against your natural
mind. Consider him there'. Paul's description of himself on the Damascus
road falling down and seeing a Heavenly vision, surrounded by men who
did not understand, is framed in exactly the language of Gethsemane (Acts
22:7 = Mt. 26:39); as if right at his conversion, Paul was brought to
realize the spirit of Gethsemane. His connection with the Gethsemane spirit
continued. He describes himself as " sorrowful" (2 Cor. 6:10),
just as Christ was then (Mt. 26:37). His description of how he prayed
the same words three times without receiving an answer (2 Cor. 12:8) is
clearly linked to Christ's experience in the garden (Mt. 26:44); and note
that in that context he speaks of being “buffeted” by Satan’s servants,
using the very word used of the Lord being “buffeted” straight after Gethsemane
(2 Cor. 12:7 = Mt. 26:67). " We cry Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15;
Gal. 4:6), as our Lord did then (Mk. 14:36). We can, we really can, it
is possible, to enter into our Lord's intensity then. Paul saw his beloved
brother Epaphroditus as " heavy" in spirit (Phil. 2:26), using
a word only used elsewhere about Christ in Gethsemane (Mt. 26:37; Mk.
But Paul was a realist. He saw too that there were all too many similarities
between him and the sleepy, weak-willed disciples in Gethsemane. He was
" willing" to preach (Rom. 1:15), using a word only used elsewhere
concerning the disciples then being willing in spirit but weak in operationalizing
it (Mt. 26:41; Mk. 14:38); and we know that Paul often complained that
he didn't preach in practice as he felt he ought to. Paul describes all
of us as having been saved although we were weak, using the same word
used about the disciples asleep in Gethsemane (Mt. 26:41 = Rom. 5:6).
He saw the evident similarity between them and us, tragically indifferent
in practice to the mental agony of our Lord, failing to share His intensity
of striving- although we are so willing in spirit to do this. And yet,
Paul implies, be better than them. Don't be weak and sleepy as they were
when Christ wanted them awake (Mt. 26:40,41 = 1 Thess. 5:6,7). Strive
for the imitation of Christ's attitude in the garden (Mt. 26:41 = Eph.
6:18). And yet in Romans 7, a depressed but realistic Paul laments that
he fails in this; his description of the losing battle he experienced
within him between flesh and spirit is couched in the language of Christ's
rebuke to the disciples in Gethsemane.
Note that Luke and other early brethren seemed to have had the Gethsemane
record in mind in their sufferings, as we can also do (Acts 21:14 = Mk.