COVID-19 is affecting everyone and taking a toll on both our souls and relationships; some of us are in danger of becoming shells of our true selves. For me personally, preparing texts to preach on has become a difficult task. In preparation for this weekend, I was struggling with a text to commit to. After fumbling through my New Testament, I felt especially drawn to Mark’s account of Jesus in Gethsemane. There I found three ultra-basic lessons for believers during this strange and unsure time.
1: “Watch and Pray”
By this I mean: be on the lookout for those undergoing turmoil and those with tormented or heavy-laden souls. Jesus himself was in this category of people, admitting plainly “my soul is troubled even to the point of death!” Be on the lookout. Text people! Call them! What’s the worst that can happen? Check in! Be the first to reach out.
Though it can be difficult during such a strange season, we should avoid indifference at all costs. Peter, James, and John proved cold, numb and detached. Though they were physically present with Jesus, they were emotionally and mentally far off, and thus could not be there for him spiritually.
The disciples’ sleeping is a reminder of just how easy it is to sleep through the pain and torment of others, even those closest to us. Jesus needed people during his trial and they ultimately failed him. People need you and people need me. “Watch and pray” is a call to be on the lookout for souls that are burdened, as well as a call to offer ourselves fully, both emotionally and spiritually. In seasons of pain, humans need support.
What about those of us undergoing torment ourselves?
For me, every week of this pandemic has proven different. While some weeks seem fine, others I find extremely burdensome, and that’s putting it mildly. In Gethsemane we find a model for what to do:
2: Pour your Soul to God
In the spirit of the psalmists, Jesus here brings his deep anxiety and anguish to his Father. “My soul is grieved to the point of death” is an echo of Psalm 42 (see verses 5, 6 and 11); Jesus is identifying himself with the psalmists and the way they are not afraid to lament. The Bible is clear with examples (none greater than Gethsemane) that lament is not a sign of weakness.
Many in this season can relate to Jesus and his soul being “troubled even unto the point of death.” Jesus invited some disciples to join in his groaning before God. We as well should invite others to join us in our journey, but if they fail to be present for whatever reason, as the disciples did, let your trust rest in God alone.
3: Wear your heart on your sleeve
We can find comfort in the fact that in taking upon himself our mortality and humanity, Jesus also suffered. He understands us, and he admitted when he was suffering! “I’m troubled unto the point of death!” There is power in simply vocalizing your pain and suffering. There is healing in doing just that. Jesus was strong enough to admit his soul was troubled and heavily burdened. Jesus admitted to spiritual and emotional exhaustion.
Jesus admitted to spiritual and emotional exhaustion.
In this strange and unsure time, we take comfort in the fact that Christ has gone before us, suffered before we did, and faced death before we ever had to. Because he has been tested in every which way, we can run to him knowing full well that he already understands us fully, both our situation and our suffering.
While reflecting on Gethsemane is not a fix-all, there is hope in the fact that before I ever suffered, Christ had undergone intense groaning and suffering.
Below are a handful of quotes from two commentators on Mark’s account:
“The Son of God is human enough to need support at this testing time…” R.T. France
“Perhaps more than in any other event in Jesus’ ministry, Gethsemane reveals his true humanity.” Mark Strauss
“Jesus’ sorrow and deep distress is understandable… Yet in another sense it is surprising—even scandalous. Martyrs are supposed to face death with courage and confidence, expressing steadfast faith in God…” Mark Strauss
“The Jesus who accepts his Father’s will does not do so with a ‘docetic’ indifference but with a mental as well as physical agony which will reach its horrifying climax in the cry from the cross…” R.T. France
“While the deity of Christ is a doctrine that is well defended in evangelical circles, his humanity is often a neglected one.” Mark Strauss
Photo cred: Rodolfo Clix https://www.instagram.com/rodolfo.clix/