Gethsemane—Then the Cross – Elbridge B. Linn

Elbridge B. Linn

This is a lesson for those who are in pain, or who have suffered the pangs of an ailing body, perhaps for years. It is a helpful word to all who are in trouble—who find themselves bearing a cross which seems at times to be entirely too heavy.

Many times have loving disciples of our Lord lingered by faith near the cross, as He suffered in the agony of atonement. Often, we have looked upon a lifted-up Christ, and been drawn to God by Him. One cannot speak too much of the Christ of the cross, for he is the hope of the world. But many have missed a wonderful lesson from the cross in failing to follow Jesus through the garden the night before. Gethsemane came first, then the cross!

After Jesus had taught the disciples to eat the supper in His memory, they left the upper room, and went out unto the Mount of Olives, where there was a garden called “Gethsemane.”

Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, abide ye here and watch with me. And he went forward a little, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt (Matt. 26:38-46).

Three times Jesus repeated his prayer while the disciples slept. And finally He saw the betrayer approaching and awakened the disciples.

Gethsemane prepared the Lord to bear the cross. It was there, when He had bowed his will unto the Father’s, that an angel came and ministered unto Him. There, probably more than at any other time in His life, do we see the humanity of Jesus. But when He had passed through Gethsemane, we marvel at His unflinching courage in the face of His foes, His serene silence in answer to slurs and blasphemies, His patient endurance of the cruel buffetings.

The disciples slept, while Jesus prayed; and when the enemy came out of the city to take their Master, they were scattered as sheep without a shepherd. Even as it was then, so is it today. When people refuse, or fail, to watch with their Lord in Gethsemane, they cannot bear their own crosses, nor share the glory of His. Only when the meaning of Gethsemane—“My Father, thy will be done”—comes to be the motive of our lives, can we bear our crosses!

The Apostle Paul had some physical ailment which he referred to as a “thorn in the flesh.” He prayed three times that the Lord would remove his affliction, but the Savior replied, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Then, Paul showed that he had truly passed through Gethsemane, where one says, “Thy will be done,” for he declared,

Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

Gethsemane came first, then the bearing of his cross.

Sometime ago, while engaged in a meeting in a certain city, I was taken into the home of a Christian lady who was an invalid. For years, she had been afflicted with arthritis, and had not walked a step. Her hands, her feet, and her knees were stiff and drawn.

As I sat there, and with growing wonder and admiration heard her tell of her life, my heart kept saying over and over again, “Gethsemane.” It was difficult for this little Christian mother to say years ago, “Father, thy will be done” but now the cross is much easier to bear. Whereas others might have snapped under the strain, and many others might have been driven by the pain into cynicism, she smiled almost constantly, wrote beautiful poetry about her family and her life, and ever sang the praises of her God. Just before we left, she said, “Oh, I’m so thankful to God for the health that I do have.” Yes, it’s true! Gethsemane makes the bearing of the cross easier.

Christ-following demands cross-bearing. We are not better than our Master. His cross was not only the wooden beam to which they nailed Him at last, but also all His sufferings for mankind. And He said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” The crosses that come to us are many and varied. A feeble and ailing body which ties you to one place and robs you of many joys—that is a cross. The unfaithfulness and ingratitude of friends and of those you have done your best to serve—these are crosses. How often the ill deeds of loved ones make a cross! To have your home made desolate by death, so that each day you “long for the touch of a vanished hand and the sound of a voice that is still”—surely here is a cross!

But God will not be far away. He strengthened His Son in Gethsemane. His grace was sufficient for Paul. We are told to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). We have also this encouraging word:

For verily not to angels doth he give help, but he giveth help to the seed of Abraham. Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” (Heb. 2:16-18).

The Apostle Peter urges us to cast “all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). Paul gives great consolation when he says, “In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).

May these thoughts from God’s word help you to pass through Gethsemane where you say, “Thy will be done, O God,” that you may better bear your cross. For, of certainty, there is a cross after every Gethsemane! This is truly expressed by Ella Wheeler Wilcox in her short poem entitled, Gethsemane.

All those who journey, soon or late

Must pass within the garden’s gate;

Must kneel alone in darkness there,

And battle with some fierce despair.

God pity those who cannot say:

Not mine, but thine,” who only pray,

Let this cup pass,” and cannot see

The purpose in Gethsemane.

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Author: Editor

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