After saying these things, Jesus went forth with his disciples beyond the torrent of Cedron, where there was a garden…” (John 18:1) “According to his custom” adds Luke.
“And they came to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I pray.’ And he took with him Peter James and John, and began to feel dread and to be exceedingly troubled. And he said to them, My soul is sad, even unto death. Wait here and watch.’…”
A terrible sadness overcomes our Lord ~ sadness “unto death” says the Holy Scripture. Then Jesus tells us to wait ~perhaps they are surprised to hear him say they should watch with him; it is probably the first time he has ever asked them to. Alone, he advances a few paces, falls on his face and prays…
What does faith tell us? Before all else who this man is there on his knees – the Son of God in the simplest sense of the word. For that reason he sees existence in its ultimate reality.
Wherever we encounter Jesus, it is as the Knowing One, as he who knows about man and world. All others are blind; only his eyes are all-seeing, and they see through to the very ground of human depravity. The forlornness Jesus beholds there embraces the whole of human existence. And he does not see it as one who has broken through to spiritual health and clarity with the help of grace. Jesus’ knowledge of sin is not like that of fallen mankind; he knows about it as God knows – hence the awful transparency of that knowledge.
Hence the immeasurable loneliness. He is really the Seer among the blind, sole sensitive one among beings who lost their touch, the only free and self-possessed one in the midst of general confusion.
Jesus’ consciousness of the world’s corruption is not grounded in the world and therefore the prisoner of existence. It springs from above, from God, and enfolds the whole globe, seeing as God sees: around existence, through existence, outwards from existence. Moreover, Jesus’ divine consciousness, before which everything is stripped and lucid, is not extrinsic, but intrinsic, realized in his living self. He knows with his human intellect, feels the world’s forlornness with his human heart. And, the sorrow of it, incapable of ripping the eternal God from his bliss, becomes in Christ’s human soul unutterable agony. From this knowledge comes a terrible and unrelenting earnestness, knowledge that underlies every word he speaks and everything he does. It pulses through his whole being and proclaims itself in the least detail of his fate. Here lies the root of Christ’s inapproachable loneliness. What human understanding and sympathy could possibly reach into this realm in which the Savior shoulders alone the yoke of the world? From this point of view Jesus was always a sufferer, and would have been one even if men had accepted his message of faith and love; even if salvation had been accomplished and the kingdom established alone by proclamation and acceptance, sparing him the bitter way of the cross. Even then, his whole life would have been inconceivably painful, for he would have been constantly aware of the world sin in the sight of a God he knew to be holy and all love; and he would have borne this terrible and inaccessible knowledge alone. In the hour of Gethsemane its ever-present pain swells to a paroxysm.
Selections from the chapter Gethsemane, from the The Lord by Romano Guardini
Lord, I will wait and watch with you this day.