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Which Gethsemane?

 

Last updated 4/23/2019 at 7:29pm

Wade B. Jakeway

Invariably, Gethsemane is presented as a single experience – in literature, song, art and sermon. Hoffman's marvelous painting, Christ in the Garden, comes close to being my favorite of all pictures.

The event depicted is of supreme importance because it represents the single most critical turn-in-the-road to Calvary. There in the crucible of indescribable agony was forced Jesus' final decision to go all the way to the cross. Apt students of the Bible are familiar with the outline of that drivingly important event.

There is, however, a second Gethsemane – one which not everyone thinks of as such, but which could be equally well portrayed as "Judas in the Garden." Jesus had scarcely ended his historic prayer encounter and upbraided his sleeping disciples when Judas emerged furtively from the shadows and planted the kiss of betrayal on the Master's cheek. His hypocritical act provided the gang who accompanied him with the information they needed for identifying Jesus and promptly leading him off to judgment.

Both Gethsemanes hurtled their principals down the slope of violence and death, by crucifixion and suicide, respectively. Does this, however, signify that their tragic outcomes rendered both garden experiences equally futile, equally meaningless?

A brief study in contrasts will highlight the answer, showing it to be directly traceable to one's ability or disability in handling a crisis. Webster interestingly defines "crisis" as "that change in a disease which indicates whether the result is to be recovery or death."

Great crises call for the supremacy of reason, if solutions are to be found. The chemistry of anguish is highly volatile. In fits of anger the blood tends to leave the brain and rush to the muscles. Jesus resisted yielding to passion, clinging tenaciously to spirit, and chose the route of non-violence. Judas swept aside such passivity and was drawn into the vortex of drastic action.

Great crises call for adherence to great principle. Jesus held fast to his pristine vision of the Kingdom – a reign of truth, righteousness, and justice. Judas, convinced that any kingdom required the supplementation of political power, followed the way of the sword.

Great crises call for great objectivity. The first Gethsemane demonstrates for us our blessed Lord's utter objectivity, articulated in his final, victorious cry of self-surrender, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done, O Father!"

The second Gethsemane demonstrates pitifully the utter futility of self-serving, self-destructive subjectivity. Spurning the ideas of kneeling in contrition beside the supplicating Christ, Judas asserted the humanism of his own hollow self-sufficiency.

Sooner or later, everyone caught up in a crisis will doubtless select one of the two Gethsemanes for finding his way out. Which has succeeded, will succeed, over the long haul? My answer is that history has vindicated and is vindicating number one, and history has repudiated and must continue to repudiate Gethsemane number two.

Wade B. Jakeway, an educator, preacher, artist and poet began working at Warner Southern College, now Warner University, in 1971. He was an associate professor of philosophy, history and political science. He previously was a full-time evangelist in most of the states and several countries, conducting more than 500 series of evangelistic campaigns, in addition to holding pastorates in California and Ohio. He died in October, 2013, leaving behind his wife, Betty, and son, Ron. Jakeway was a prolific writer, and we are pleased to publish some of his essays from his book, "Over the Cracker Barrel."

 

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