The Way of the Cross: Gethsemane, Matthew 26:36-41

As we prepare for Easter, past and present Pepperdiners contribute reflections on Jesus’ journey to the cross. Today’s is from current Pepperdine Senior, Lauren Burnham.

Matthew 26:36-41 Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

Praying at Gethsemane, He Qui

I met one of my best college friends in an 8 am math class. Every morning we would both arrive groggy eyed; however, he was great at math and I wasn’t. He would mumble sarcastically that it was all so easy, while I strained my mind to grasp each lesson. How could he say such things to me? I thought he was a jerk.

Over time, his actions out spoke his words. He always helped me slog through the work, even though his bright mind would have finished it quickly. Besides being kind and smart, he was funny too – alongside the notes he took in class, he would draw donkeys and rainbows to amuse me.

The next year, when we returned from summer break, things changed. He sunk into a cryptic depression, making cynical remarks about everything and everybody. He was awful to be around – but I couldn’t let go of the friend I had known before.

One day, I snapped. This particular time his complaint was that Pepperdine girls were all so ugly, and I couldn’t believe it. How could he say something so pointless, strange and negative all at once? I responded as such, and asked him what his problem was lately. He answered with a barrage of insults, and it cut me to the core. I had felt so patient thus far, and it had gotten me nowhere.

I couldn’t talk to him for months after that. I was too busy to slow down for someone who hurt me so much. But I couldn’t put him out of my mind either. I was worried that he would never recover. I felt hopeless. Wise friends helped me remember that even though I couldn’t do anything directly, I could pray.

He improved a lot in subsequent years, in ups and downs. A few months after our argument we started speaking again. I started telling him the important things – how much potential and value I saw in him. He said he wished he could see those that in himself. I learned things too: my friend’s family was falling apart, his financial support for college going along with it, and it didn’t help that everybody around him seemed sunny and carefree, worrying about nothing but midterms and convo.

Depression is complex – a mix of both physical and spiritual elements, as our personalities generally are. On the spiritual side, it seemed that God had removed all knowledge of self-worth from my friend, leaving it only in those around him. In the process of attempting to transfer it back to him, I discovered my own weaknesses: my unwillingness to include God in the process or to sacrifice some of my own priorities for my friends.

In Gethsemane, Jesus wasn’t suffering from clinical depression, but he was preparing for the most harrowing experience of his eternal life. Meanwhile, his earthly friends seemed to have no idea what he was going through, why it was so important for them to be fully present, or the importance of seeking God’s strength. As a result, their performance as supporters was less than ideal. How often we fail to grasp the significance or depth of events in the lives of our fellow people? And how often do we feel abandoned by our friends and family who seem blind to our pain? Out of this feeling, we’re more likely to lash out like my friend did than we are to use Jesus’ response, a rebuke that is both appropriate and truthful. Even in that moment, he pointed us to his Father. And whatever side of the situation we are in, we are called to do the same for our friends. We must point them to the One who is their healer and their hope, centering ourselves in Him as well.

Lauren is an International Politics major at Pepperdine University. She is a singer, writer, and aspiring vagrant. You can find more of Lauren’s writing here.


One response to “The Way of the Cross: Gethsemane, Matthew 26:36-41

  1. Yes. Exactly. “How often we fail to grasp the significance or depth of events in the lives of our fellow people? And how often do we feel abandoned by our friends and family who seem blind to our pain?”


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