For these dark Lenten days, a few words from Rev. Gardner C. Taylor’s sermon, “Gethsemane: The Place of Victory.”
Calvary is looked upon as the place of our Lord’s great victory, the overcoming point in the struggle for God’s supremacy and human redemption and deliverance in the earth. Calvary, said the old preachers, was the place where God in Christ took on himself our sins before a sorrowing heaven and a sinning earth. Calvary represents the central event in our Christian gospel, the focus of all divine history as far as the sons of men can see. There the Lord Christ lured the powers of hell into a fatal misstep and an overreaching of their evil designs and ways. Calvary is the supreme public event in the divine purpose.
I am suggesting this morning that that great pubic victory, that unspeakably enormous event which we call Calvary, has its source immediately in a private and solitary act in a garden called Gethsemane, where the seed, the essence of the public victory was won in a lonely, secret struggle in prayer. The supper we now call the Lord’s Supper is just past. That will be the last tender, serene occasion in our Lord’s life until the glories of resurrection morning. As the disciples and their Master file out of the upper room, the last golden rays of pleasant sunshine depart from the skies of our Lord’s soul. All beyond that is composed of gathering, deepening, threatening clouds and darkening skies, except perhaps for a bright moment in Gethsemane where Jesus prayed for strength and resolve and final commitment to the Via Dolorosa, the way of sorrow, which lay before him unto death. In Gethsemane that prayer was answered, and the Savior moved on his appointed way.
As they leave the upper room we follow the little band, already looked upon as outlaws, as they walk slowly through the streets of Jerusalem. Now the disciples pass likely out of the fountain gate in the east wall of the city of Jerusalem, and then across Kedron Brook they make their way. Once among the gnarled olive trees of Gethsemane garden, the Master stops a moment and then bids three of his followers, those closest to him, the inner circle, Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, to go on a little farther into the garden. I seem to hear in the Master’s next words a strangely tender, pathetic, almost pleading note. He unburdens his soul a little to them. How slow many of us are to reach out to others for fear that they will not understand or accept or appreciate our need. How the Master must have felt that if any of these twelve, no, now reduced by one, these eleven, could sympathize with the great secret spiritual issues which confronted him, surely these three would understand. He said to them, opening the hurt and anguish he felt in these hours, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.”