Thinking about how I might paint the Gethsemane episode I was struck again by its pivotal role in the whole Easter story. When Jesus pleads with his Father that he might not go to the cross, he is in deep grief because this is the moment of facing its horror. Not just physical dread (though that would be painful enough) but spiritual dread of separation from the Father. Facing the cross - its dereliction, sin-bearing, loneliness and grief as never ever experienced before.
In Gethsemane Jesus is wrestling with the costs of Calvary. Can he avoid the cross? Is there some way that the Father can let the cup pass him? Can his mission to save the world be accomplished without this ordeal? This is the time of decision. Facing the cross before the act of crucifixion. It's the cross before the cross. Because in this agony in the garden the greatest decision in the history of the world is made. Jesus commits himself to die. In all that will happen next - the injustices and cruelties of betrayal, arrest, imprisonment, judgment, floggings, the climb to Golgotha - Jesus knows he is doing God's will. With equanimity he faces his accusers, with forgiveness his persecutors, with love his mother. He is controlling his destiny because his destiny was decided in the garden.
How do you put this theology into paint? Was there a way to convey the agony and horror of Jesus seeking to avoid the cross? I know the other option was to focus on his yielding to God's will but so much of the description relates to the tension, struggle - the sheer anguish. That's where I chose to focus.