In the Catholic church in the town to our north, there is a beautiful stained glass window of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemene. He is kneeling in prayer, his eyes lifted toward heaven, a look of intense sadness on his face. In Luke’s gospel, his prayer is recorded: “Father, if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done.” I remember meditating before the window one day, pondering the meaning of such surrender as this.
Jesus turned his will over to God and the next thing you know, he’s arrested and the walk to his death began. That is pretty scary. It can make a person thing twice about surrendering to God. But does surrender to God have to mean bad things are going to happen? It occurs to me this morning that the surrender that Jesus made in the quiet of the garden that night was just one in a life-long series of surrenders. Every story of his encounters that we read about in the gospels were surrender. We know he went off to pray. I can imagine him saying to the Father, “Not my will, but your will today.” And then he went fishing or played with the children of the village. Maybe he went and had breakfast at Peter’s mother-in-law’s house or went to check out some crazy guy he’d heard about that ran around naked among tomb stones. These surrenders had different outcomes than his last. They led to life and love and healing. Only this last surrender led to his death.
I have a friend who said to me once that when things are going really well, he is always waiting for the “other shoe to fall.” In other words, he believes in a God that can’t just give good things to people. There has to come a day when something bad will happen. It is just a matter of time. I think this is what we come away with from the story of Jesus in the garden.
Today I choose to remember all of the other surrenders of Jesus, the ones that led to another day of living in love.