“Tis Midnight and on Olives’ Brow”
[Read Luke 22:39-44]
Of all the texts that give us the details of Jesus’ last week, the one that touches me the most is Luke’s account of Jesus praying alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. While all three of the synoptic gospels-Matthew, Mark and Luke-tell the story, Luke gives us a closer look at the struggles and suffering the human nature of Jesus endured there. While I love John’s Gospel, it deals more with the divine nature of the Christ than the human nature of Jesus, so Gethsemane gets glossed over.
Now I know that many scholars will argue that verses 43 and 44—the angel and the sweat drops of blood—are lacking in some of the ancient authorities and therefore were not a part of the original text. This would mean that they were probably added by the early church and not written by Luke. However, for me, they fit nicely with Luke’s understanding of just how human Jesus really was. After all, Luke is known as the Beloved Physician and shows us that Jesus was really wrestling with whether or not he would face the cross.
For you see for me, Jesus had to struggle his whole life with what did it mean to be who he was. What kind of Messiah would he be: the triumphant warrior king, which was exactly what the people expected; or the suffering servant pointed to by so many of the ancient writings. I believe that early on Jesus choose to be the Suffering Servant knowing full well that choice would lead to the cross. However making that choice was not the end of Jesus’ struggles. The temptation to find an easier way and to avoid crucifixion was always with Jesus. From the time the Tempter offered him all the kingdoms of earth if Jesus would bow down and worship him, to Caesura Philippi when after Peter had affirmed that Jesus was the Christ and Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and die and Peter rebuked him and said: “That shall never happen to you.” [Mark 16:21-22], to now in Gethsemane the temptation to avoid the cross was very strong.
If you really want to understand just how much Jesus loves you, see him praying alone on Olives’ Brow until his sweat becomes like great drops of blood! I believe it was at that point the power of sin was broken. Jesus had resisted the final temptation to find an easier way and when he prayed the final time “Yet not my will but yours be done!” and got up off his knees all the forces of Hell could not have kept him off the cross! Jesus loves us that much!
William B. Tappan captures the meaning of Luke’s account so well in the words of “Tis Midnight and on Olives’ Brow” – Here they are for you:
‘Tis midnight and on Olives’ Brow – The star is dimmed that lately shown’
Tis midnight in the garden now – The Suffering Savior prays alone.
Tis midnight; and from all removed – The Savior wrestles lone with fears
E’en the disciple whom he loved – Heeds not his Master’s grief and tears.
Tis midnight, and for other’s guilt – The Man of Sorrows weeps in blood;
Yet he who in anguish knelt – Is not forsaken by his God.
Tis midnight; and from either plains – Is borne the song the angels know;
Unheard by mortals are the strains – That sweetly soothe the Savior’s woes.