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el-greco-the-agony-in-the-gardenWho watched Him? It was the silence before the breaking of the world; it was the last moments of the old order. Life – and death – would never be the same again. As He had known where Judas was going, so too had Jesus known what was coming. Paul tells us that Christ was like us in all things save for the absence of sin; and so He was fearful.

He had told His disciples that they were handed over to Satan to be sifted; they were not the only ones. What would soon befall Him was a fate every man would seek to avoid. He must have seen crucifixions, and man would have wanted to end there; He also knew how the Romans and the Jews treated malefactors. Mark, who wrote from Peter’s recollections, tells us that Jesus ‘began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful,even to death. Stay here and watch.”’

But even that they could not do – or could they?  Although we know that Peter did doze off, someone witnessed Christ’s anguished prayer. The one thing no one would make up was what happened in Gethsemane. A Christ fearful, Apostles sleepy and lacking in duty, all capped with one of them betraying Jesus. Someone overheard that prayer, one of the three times it was said:

“Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”

The agony in those words can be hidden from us by the obedience they contain; but if we focus on them, we can see the price exacted by obedience. How often are we willing to pay it?

The silence which enveloped Him as He prayed may be likened to the darkness which envelopes us from time to time in our life as Christians – not least those times when He seems very far away. But our answer has to be one with His – God’s will be done. If we are in a dry season, then we must endure it; we cannot know why, we know only the language of obedience taught to us by Our Lord at this climactic moment.

The passion into which He was about to enter was one which would engulf any man. St. Luke tells us that ‘an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him’. We are not told so, but perhaps that ‘sifting’ by Satan was not just applicable to the disciples. At this juncture the temptation to cut and to run would have been there – Our Lord was human and must have felt that fear. All the more admirable and humbling then His obedience – obedience unto death on a Cross.

Suddenly there were lights, suddenly there was noise – and the world had shattered the silence, even as its results would change it forever. A kiss gave the guards their victim, and despite the exertions of Peter, Christ submitted to the fate that awaited Him. He had passed the test.