The Garden of Obedience

Mark 14:32–42 [32] And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” [33] And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. [34] And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” [35] And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. [36] And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” [37] And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? [38] Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” [39] And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. [40] And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. [41] And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. [42] Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

 Obedience is a responsive action. It assumes that God has already acted on our behalf, and that our fitting reply is to follow his will. This is understood even in the basic commandments of God. The preamble to the ten commandments, intended to be the basis for obeying those commands, as we see in Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. The ten commandments are a response. To what? To a God who simply commands from on high? They are a response to God’s deliverance.

In both the OT and the NT, the category of words relating to obedience are often words related conceptually to hearing and watchfulness. Both concepts express the ideas of yielding to persuasion and submitting to authority. Commands “to hear” often express a general call to God’s people to follow God’s commands, whereas the visual words (signifying “to watch, to keep”) tend to focus on individual statutes as in the Garden of Eden. The first man was told to Watch and keep the Garden and was given a Command; “don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil.”

The biblical idea of obedience is a response to the actions and commands of God – hearing that leads to compliance with his requirements. The first Adam failed to watch out for enemies. He failed to keep what was given to Him by disobeying the word of God’s command. Adam failed to protect the garden by disobeying in the garden, leading to His hiding in the garden.

Paul comments on this passage in the book of Hebrews.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. [8] Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. [9] And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:7–9).

The only begotten of the Father prayed in anguish, was heard and yet still suffered death, that he might be taught fully what it means to obey. Every word of this passage is full of meaning. Without the dark night of the soul and its anguish of sorrow; no solace would be found in Christ’s suffering for us. Jesus prayed with tears, in intense grief and by showing forth this miracle of the incarnation, Mark encourages his readers to do likewise.

Paul adds that Jesus’ prayers were heard, lest we think that because Christ was not delivered immediately from death, that Abba did not hear him. It would diminish the Father’s authority to acquiesce to any and all requests made by His children. Calvin’s comment here is helpful, “yet he shews that he grants our prayers in everything necessary for our salvation. So, when we seem apparently to be repulsed, we obtain far more than if he fully granted our requests.” On God’s part, hearing and action are not equivalent – as they are in human obedience.

Overwrought by our circumstances and weighed down by hardship we can know that we are in the company of Christ, God’s child. Because we see Him there before us, leading us on, beckoning, knowing from where we stand, the glory to which we will reach if we come. Calvin, again;  “It may at the same time be truly said that Christ by his death learned fully what it was to obey God, since he was then led in a special manner to deny himself; for renouncing his own will, he so far gave himself up to his Father that of his own accord and willingly he underwent that death which he greatly dreaded. The meaning then is that Christ was by his sufferings taught how far God ought to be submitted to and obeyed.” Gethsemane invites us to consider, above all, what it meant for Jesus to be, in a unique sense, God’s obedient son. The very moment of greatest intimacy – the desperate prayer to ‘Abba, Father’ – is also the moment where, hearing the answer ‘No’, Jesus is set on the course for the moment of God-forsakenness on the cross (Mark 15.34).

The triple scene of His disciple’s failure invites us to consider where we ourselves belong. Are we, like the disciples, full of bluster one-minute, spiritual weariness the next, and confused shame the next? Are we ready to betray Jesus if it suits our other plans, or if he fails to live up to our expectations? Or are we prepared to keep watch with him in the garden, sharing his anguished prayer? We are not called to repeat his unique moment of suffering; he went through that alone on behalf of us all. And so, we must stay awake and pray. And we can because we have the Spirit of God.

The problem is we don’t access the throne of God by His Spirit, we don’t rely on the Spirit of God in our walk and so we do not follow Christ on the way of the Cross, We don’t rely on the spirit as we ponder the deep mysteries of God’s word. What does obedience look like? Come to the garden of obedience, the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is awake, aware of His struggle and the weakness of His flesh, framing his circumstances with the scriptures, He turns to God the Father and seeks to reconcile His will with the Fathers’.

He did it so that you can do it too.


Author: Michael Kloss

There is a Sunday conscience, as well as a Sunday coat; and those who make religion a secondary concern put the coat and conscience carefully by to put on only once a week. - Charles Dickens

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