(406) 404-1600

Jesus and Gethsemane: Human Comfort in Divine Grief

November 15, 2022 | Dr. Bill Fowler

, , , ,

“He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him,
and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
Then he said to them,
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.
Stay here and keep watch with me.”

— MATTHEW 26:37-38

Have you ever imagined that God would seek your presence to be with Him in His grief? And that your presence would, in some way beyond your comprehension, be a comfort to Him? The thought that He loves me and delights to spend time with me is an idea that I have long held to be true. Love relationships are about delighting in one another’s presence. Indeed, I can wrap my head around that thought. But that He would desire my presence to comfort Him in His grief…the thought never occurred to me until I read Matthew 26:37-38 recently and pondered what it might reveal about God’s heart.

Is This Only About Jesus?

I suppose that a case can be made for limiting this idea to Jesus in His full humanity facing death on the cross for mankind and desiring that His closest friends, Peter, James, and John, join Him in His struggle as He agonized in the Garden. Sharing His deep sorrow with them and asking them to keep watch with Him appears to be done to enlist their comfort during this excruciating time. That the incarnate Son of God would so treasure human presence and take comfort from it is mind boggling in itself. But is that the whole picture to be observed in this passage? Could it point to more than just Jesus in His humanity? Could it point to something in the Father Himself?

Philip once asked of Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” To which Jesus replied, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” (John 14:8-9b). Paul says that we gain “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” (2 Corinthians 4:6b). Hebrews 1:3 declares that Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…” Is it possible that when we view Jesus in the Garden calling on human presence to comfort Him in His sorrow, we are also getting a picture of the Eternal Father longing for us to join Him in His grief? And that, by doing so, we are a comfort to Him?

To See Jesus Is to See the Father

My world is not as the Father created it. It is broken and fallen. People do not treat one another as God intended. And the creative order itself has suffered the corruption of a fallen humanity. Some religious leaders seem to believe that God’s primary disposition in all of this rebellion and corruption is to be angry, pissed off, and plotting His revenge. What if, instead, God is grieved? Not a “I am grieved that I ever created this mess to start with” kind of grief, but a deep sorrow over all that sin has done to His beautiful creation, and to the very beings that bear His image? Not like the sorrow of a little boy whose toy has been broken, or even the sorrow of an artist whose prized painting has been defaced, ripped to shreds, and covered with filth in a dumpster, but more like the sorrow of a parent whose child has been lost. I know that sorrow. It is deep, and longs for a comforting presence.

Would we dare to imagine God the Father sitting in sadness over this broken world we inhabit, and then imagine Him beckoning us to “stay here and keep watch with me?” Would we dare to join Him, truly come to see His anguish, and enter into “the fellowship of His suffering” with Him? Would we dare to imagine that we, in drawing near to Him, by being present with Him, by letting what grieves Him grieve our hearts as well…that we could comfort Him with our presence? Somehow, I think that is the invitation of Gethsemane today. I cannot join Jesus in a garden 2000 years ago. But I believe that I can join Father, Son, and Holy Spirit today in their divine grief over our broken world…and be a comfort! And that just blows me away…!

Dr. Bill Fowler

Professor Emeritus

As professor emeritus, Dr. Bill Fowler brings a strong and authentic understanding of the power of theology to YTI students as he helps […]

Read More

Stay Connected!

Start receiving email announcements
and our quarterly newsletter, Inscribed.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.