Mark moves directly into Jesus’s prayer in the Garden: “They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’” Matthew begins differently, saying “Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane.” As Harrington notes, by naming Jesus first Matthew highlights that Jesus is directing the events of the Passion. But both point to an almost instantaneous change in his emotions. Jesus takes with him three people from his innermost circle—Peter, James and John, three of the earliest disciples—and he “began to be distressed (ekthambeisthai) and agitated (adēmonein).”
Those two words indicate extreme emotions, and translations vary from “sore amazed…and very afraid” to “grieved and agitated.” Raymond Brown, in his book The Death of the Messiah, perhaps the most comprehensive study of the Passion narratives, expounds on those two powerful words:
Ekthambeisthai, “to be greatly distraught”…indicates a profound disarray, expressed physically before a terrifying event: a shuddering horror. Adēmonein, “to be troubled,” has a root connotation of being separated from others, a situation that results in anguish.
Only when Jesus is alone with three close friends do his emotions surface. Often when we are straining to withhold our emotions it is not until we are with those closest to us that we can “let go.” At the wake before my father’s funeral, I remained relatively unemotional, until one of my closest friends entered the room, smiled and hugged me. A surge of sadness overtook me and I wept. Somehow the presence of my friend enabled me to be myself and to honestly express how I felt. Here Jesus, shielded from the larger group of disciples, is able to share himself. His emotions welled up as soon he is alone with his friends. They must have been very close to him, and he to them.
Episodes such as this and the story of Jesus’s weeping at Lazarus’s tomb reveal that Jesus is not a cool, distant sage, but a flesh-and-blood human being. The time in the Garden gives us an extraordinary window into his heart.
Excerpts from “Jesus: A Pilgrimage” by James Martin, S.J.
Reflection from pilgrim Margaret Shafer
When I was asked to offer a reflection on my time this week—the final reflection no less—I was (am) intimidated. How do you encapsulate a week’s worth of feelings, sights, sounds, smells and no shortness of emotions?
You just start writing.
While I was thrilled that my mom signed us up for this trip, I have to say that I had not processed the idea that I would be on a pilgrimage until I boarded my flight to New York. My focus and excitement leading up to this week was the fact that I would have my mom all to myself, as quality time and moments are rare with three siblings, and seven nieces and nephews competing for attention. As my fellow pilgrims have come to find out, my mom is quite the amazing travel buddy.
I assumed, and was proven right, that most of my companions here would be of a more mature set. This was something that I was looking forward to: How often do you have access to another generation’s faith, wisdom and, as I’ve learned over and over again this week, humor?
I came here unsure of what I believe as far as Jesus the man, as my devotion has always been to Our Lady through experiences in Lourdes. While his message has always resonated, I, like so many others he interacted with, was unsure about this Nazarene.
Looking back on my week, I can see that one theme or idea that has come up again and again is meeting people where they are. This was something Father Jim brought up while in Galilee when he talked about Jesus meeting his disciples quite literally in their “office” on the seashore—these “fishers of people.”
This became true of my interactions with my fellow pilgrims who started as only words of a bio. After the first couple of days people were opening up, exposing their vulnerability, stories and burdens. These pilgrims became individuals and I’ve tried to meet them where they were, both of us exposing and sharing in our humanity.
I realize now these moments are gifts and glimpses into Jesus’ own humanity, a side that I had never seen before.
Today, one of our final days in Jerusalem, aptly closed with a small group of us visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Jim pointed out the spot where Mary stood as she watched her son on a cross. As we prayed there I felt her presence and strength, just as I do each year in Lourdes.
An overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude overcame me as I left the church, as I knew I could leave this place and steps away had my own tower of strength, my mother, to hear about my experience.
And just one last expression of gratitude—thank you to the incredible team that put such thought and care into each day’s schedule and events. It has not gone unnoticed.