The most difficult things in life to accomplish must always be settled in advance, never in the moment. Let’s understand that Jesus had an important decision to make. Before there was an empty tomb, before there was a cross, there was a garden. There Jesus went to finalize a decision that will shape the rest of human history.
The Garden of Gethsemane was surrounded by ancient olive trees and actually means “olive press.” Olives were crushed for their oil, and there Jesus would be crushed as well. Along with three of His disciples, Jesus arrived there to pray. And how was Jesus feeling that night?
Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38b).
Then we’re told, “Going a little farther, he (Jesus) fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39).
There it is. The decision. If there was any other way for humankind to be restored to God, other than for him to go to the cross, Jesus wanted to know.
This needed to be decided, once and for all. Because amid public trials, physical torture and eventually crucifixion, the decision to follow through needed to have happened in advance, not while it was happening.
In life, we often like to just skip to the good part. Let’s just fast forward to the empty tomb. That’s where the celebration is, right? But without the cross, there is no empty tomb. And without the garden, there is no cross.
Difficult decisions are settled in the “garden,” not on the “cross.” How many people in life get to their “cross” only to bail on something they should have done but never decided in advance to do while they were in the “garden”?
During this emotional time for Jesus, He couldn’t even count on those who were closest to him. The disciples He brought with him that night fell asleep on him three times. People, even those closest to us, can let us down, particularly when we need them the most.
In 2006, I had to go to the “garden.” My wife and I felt God leading us to start a church in McCordsville. So for one week, I went away just to be with God. Right before and right after this time, just like Jesus, I had people “fall asleep” on me.
Close friends and family advised me on how difficult this would be and even tried to talk me out of it. But I knew what God was asking me to do. And in many ways, the first few years of planting a church were my “cross” to bear. It was difficult. And it was only in January, eight years into this journey, that our church was able to purchase and renovate a facility to call home. Our moment of highest celebration was eight years in the making. And it all started with a “garden” experience.
Before deciding to retire, Peyton Manning talked to his former coach Tony Dungy. Dungy advised Manning not to make an emotional decision during the Super Bowl, but rather take some time after to process and decide. In some ways, Dungy was recommending that Manning go to the “garden.”
If you too are facing a decision right now, my recommendation to you is to spend some time in the “garden” with God.
In fact, if you have never considered a relationship with Jesus, I highly recommend you join him tomorrow for an Easter service. What decision is weighing on you today? Before you head out to face what’s before you, I hope your first stop will be to the “garden.”
Brad LeRoy is pastor of Harvest Church in Mt. Comfort. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.