Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
32 They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, "Sit here while I go and pray." 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. 34 He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."
35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 "Abba, Father," he cried out, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine."
37 Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Couldn't you watch with me even one hour? 38 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
39 Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. 40 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn't keep their eyes open. And they didn't know what to say.
41 When he returned to them the third time, he said, "Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no - the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Up, let's be going. Look, my betrayer is here!"
Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested
43 And immediately, even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. 44 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: "You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard." 45 As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. "Rabbi!" he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss.
46 Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. 47 But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest's slave, slashing off his ear.
48 Jesus asked them, "Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? 49 Why didn't you arrest me in the Temple? I was there among you teaching every day. But these things are happening to fulfill what the Scriptures say about me."
50 Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away. 51 One young man following behind was clothed only in a long linen shirt. When the mob tried to grab him, 52 he slipped out of his shirt and ran away naked.
Jesus and his disciples arrive at the garden of Gethsemane, where he takes the inner circle of Peter, James and John aside and asks them to keep watch. Jesus goes on a little farther and then, falling to the ground, begins pouring out his heart in prayer to God. He returns to the three disciples, rebukes them for sleeping, and then again goes off to pray. This scene is repeated once more before the armed contingent sent by the religious leaders and led by Judas Iscariot arrives. Judas identifies Jesus by giving him "the kiss of greeting," after which one of the disciples attempts to take on the heavily armed mob single-handedly. Jesus rebukes his arresters for their obvious display of cowardice. Meanwhile, the disciples flee.
Gethsemane (Mark 14:32)
"In John 18:1 [Gethsemane] is described as a garden (kepos), from which comes the traditional designation 'Garden of Gethsemane,' while Luke 22:40 has simply 'place' (topos). From John 18:1 it is evident that it was across the Kidron, and from Luke 22:39, that it was on the slope of the Mt. of Olives. It was a place where Jesus frequently went with His disciples (Luke 22:39f; John 18:2). Its name suggests a grove of olive trees, as does its location on the Mt. of Olives. The language of John's Gospel seems to imply a walled garden ('entered,' 18:1)."1600 "It may be that the grove was privately owned and that Jesus and his disciples had special permission to enter."1601
Crushed with grief (Mark 14:34)
"Apart from the Cross itself, the moments in Gethsemane were the most intense in Jesus' life."1602 What's more, the "deepest sorrow and suffering"1603 Jesus endured in the garden of Gethsemane is absolutely unique in the history of humanity - it never was, and never will be, repeated by anyone else.1604 "The full impact of His death and its spiritual consequences struck Jesus and He staggered under its weight. The prospect of alienation from His Father horrified Him."1605For Jesus, Gethsemane was, quite literally, hell on earth.1606
Why was it necessary for Jesus to go through the pain and suffering of Gethsemane? Because it gave him the opportunity to freely choose the cross.1607 As one source puts it:
But why Gethsemane at all? Why could not God have arranged it in such a way that at the very entrance of the garden Jesus would immediately have been arrested, etc.? Why all the agony, the wrestlings, the prayers, the bloody sweat? Could not the answer be as follows: to establish for all time that the obedience (both active and passive) which Jesus rendered was not forced upon him against his will but was voluntary? He was actually laying down his life for the sheep (John 10:11, 14). That wholehearted sacrifice, in total obedience to the Father's will, was the only kind of death capable of saving the sinner (Hebrews 5:7-9).1608
The awful hour ... this cup (Mark 14:35, 36)
The garden of Gethsemane is rightly remembered as Christ's most difficult moment. Jesus asked that, if it were possible, the "cup" would be taken from him, quickly adding that he desired God's will and not his own. By asking not to drink from the cup, was Jesus seeking to abandon his earthly mission to die on the cross for the sins of the world? The short answer: No. (Jesus agonized over the cup, not the cross.) Along these lines, several comments are worth noting:
"The prayer of Jesus is conditional from the start: 'if it is possible.' When he was using this condition Jesus reckoned with the impossibility. The condition is one of reality and assumes that, if such a possibility existed, the Father would use it. ... It is thus that the prayer is justified: 'Remove this cup from me!' We see that it is offered only with the proviso that such removal may be one of the possibilities open to God."1609
"The metaphor 'the hour' denoted God's appointed time when Jesus would suffer and die (cf. Mark 14:41; John 12:23, 27). The corresponding metaphor, 'this cup,' referred to the same event. The 'cup' means either human suffering and death or more likely, God's wrath against sin, which when poured out includes not only physical but also spiritual suffering and death. In bearing God's judgment the sinless Jesus endured the agony of being 'made sin' (cf. Mark 15:34; 2 Corinthians 5:21)."1610
Why would Jesus pray for the cup of God's wrath to be taken from him? Because enduring that wrath meant being separated from God - a prospect which brought Jesus unimaginable anguish. "God's face upon which He had ever looked was soon to be hid."1611
"The exact meaning of [Jesus' experience in Gethsemane] has been a subject of theological controversy from earliest times. But certainly there seems to be an anticipation of the cross ... Some would see in the event an intended contrast with the experience of Adam in the Garden of Eden: here the Second Adam prevailed, by prayer and inward submission to the will of God, over temptation."1612
To be sure, Jesus' faith was tested. And yet, "despite the test of faith, Jesus emerged reaffirming faith in God's possibilities and recommitting Himself to God's will (v. 36)."1613 As another source puts it: "Jesus' human will was distinct from but never in opposition to the Father's will (cf. John 5:30; 6:38). So He acknowledged that the answer to His request was not governed by what He desired but by what the Father willed. God's will entailed His sacrificial death (cf. Mark 8:31) so He resolutely submitted Himself to it. His deep distress passed from Him but "the hour" did not (cf. Mark 14:41)"1614
"[A]s his horrible death and separation from the Father loomed before him, he was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Jesus did not attempt to run from it, nor did he doubt that God would raise him from the dead and return him to glory. Jesus, in his humanity, agonized over the inevitable horror that would soon come, yet he faced it courageously (Hebrews 12:2-3). Some see in Jesus' words an allusion to Psalm 42:6."1615
"We may not face execution for our faith, but we face many problems that wear us down. We deal with irritating people whom we must love and serve; we face the burden of unfinished tasks or lack of obvious results; we cope with helpers who let us down or fail to comprehend. We must remember that in times of great stress, we are vulnerable to temptation, even if we have a willing spirit."1616 Along these lines, Jesus' experience offers us some practical lessons regarding suffering:
We must endure our deepest suffering alone. While friends and loved ones may be able to offer some encouragement, they cannot go through the pain for us. People can suffer with us, but they cannot suffer for us.
Suffering can drain us on every level: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Suffering should drive us to our knees in fervent, dependent prayer. And while it is okay to question God's will, it is never okay to rebel against him. Hardships and difficulties should teach us to rely more on God and less on self.
Inactivity and sorrow feed the flesh, while prayer and watchfulness feed the spirit.
Abba, Father (Mark 14: 36)
Jesus addressed God as "Abba," an intimate Aramaic term for "Father." While it "was a common way young Jewish children addressed their fathers,"1617 it was virtually unheard of for any Jewish person to use this term when praying to God.1618 "Abba here suggests that Jesus' primary concern in drinking the cup of God's judgment on sin necessarily disrupted this relationship (cf. Jesus' words of address, Mark 15:34)."1619 The fact that Jesus called God "Abba" on a regular basis, and apparently even taught his disciples to do the same, points toward the intimate relationship between God and human beings, created in his image, which Jesus came to make possible (cf. Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).
The spirit ... the body (Mark 14:38)
Jesus chided his disciples for sleeping - three times(!) - when they should have remained awake and alert. His words regarding the spirit versus the body/flesh speak volumes regarding the struggle against temptation. Of course the biggest temptation for the disciples would be the thought that Jesus had deceived them, that in fact he was not the Son of God or the Messiah.1620 "On the one hand (Gr., men) the spirit (one's inner desires and best intentions) is willing or eager (e.g., Peter, Mark 14:29, 31), but on the other hand (Gr., de) the body (lit., "flesh"; a person in his humanness and inadequacies) is weak, easily overwhelmed in action (e.g., Peter, Mark 14:37)."1621 As another commentator has put it: Jesus was "thinking of how both spirit and flesh act in temptation. The spirit is eager enough to endure and to overcome the temptation, but the flesh in us is weak, utterly helpless in temptation, a drag and a terrible handicap to the spirit in us. By calling on the disciples to watch and to pray Jesus seeks to rouse their spirit into full activity. By sleeping and by giving way to sleep-producing sorrow of heart they are yielding to the flesh."1622
Judas ... arrived with a crowd of men (Mark 14:43)
It is impossible to overestimate the depth of Judas's betrayal. As one source puts it:
Since he was 'one of the twelve,' it would be impossible to mention all the privileges that had been bestowed upon him during the many days, weeks, and months he had spent in Christ's immediate company. Such confidence had the other eleven reposed in this same Judas that they had even made him their treasurer. And now he was proving himself totally unworthy of all these honors and advantages, of all this trust. A shameless, disgusting quisling [= "traitor, collaborator"1623] he had become, a wretched turncoat, one who for the paltry sum of thirty pieces of silver was delivering over to the enemy the greatest Benefactor whose feet ever trod this earth, even the Mediator, both God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ.1624
"The religious leaders had issued the warrant for Jesus' arrest,"1625 and Judas led an armed contingent of men to the place he knew Jesus would be. Judas's actual presence was necessary for several reasons:
"Judas was acting as Jesus' official accuser. ... Judas pointed Jesus out, not because Jesus was hard to recognize, but because Judas had agreed to be the formal accuser in case a trial was called."1626
Without Judas the large detachment would have had only general directions to go by and, in turn, "their search would have become evident and given Jesus time to escape"1627 (not counting, of course, the fact that Jesus did not wish to escape).
The garden was dark and secluded.
Secrecy was needed in order to avoid a riot.1628
The irony is thick: "The Gospel of John also mentions 'torches and lanterns.' Torches and lanterns - to search for the Light of the world. ... Swords and cudgels - to subdue the Prince of Peace."1629 "Judas' act of betrayal when he kissed Jesus is especially sinister when it is realized that it was common in the culture of the times for a disciple to kiss his master when greeting him."1630 Why was Jesus arrested? What was the charge(s)? "No charges are stated in Mark's account; nevertheless the legality of His arrest according to Jewish criminal law was assumed since the Sanhedrin authorized it."1631
The high priest's slave (Mark 14:47)
Mark records that, following Judas's act of betrayal, "one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest's slave, slashing off his ear" (Mark 14:47). A comparison with the other gospel accounts provides a more detailed picture: "Mark graciously avoids identifying Peter as being guilty of this well-meaning but pointless act. John, the eyewitness, identifies the servant as one named Malchus and says it was his right ear that was severed (John 18:10). Peter may have swung wildly, intending to cut off Malchus's head but succeeding only in wounding him. Luke the physician mentions that Jesus restored Malchus's ear."1632 Malchus "is in a class by himself. He is not one of the huperetai or police force, he belongs to Caiaphas himself. He must have been a trusted and important member of the high priest's household who had been sent with this expedition as the high priest's personal representative to see and to report everything to his master. That explains why he is out in front under Peter's sword."1633 When it became clear to the disciples that their master was not going to resist, delay, or obstruct the arrest, they all fled.1634
One young man following behind (Mark 14:50)
Mark recorded: "One young man following behind was clothed only in a long linen shirt. When the mob tried to grab him, he slipped out of his shirt and ran away naked." (Mark 14:51-52). This is generally accepted as Mark's way of saying that he himself was there that night - that is, he was the young man. While it is impossible to be absolutely certain, many Bible scholars believe something like this took place that night: The house containing the room where Jesus and his disciples share the Passover meal belongs to John Mark's parents. (This was one of the first house churches in Jerusalem [see Acts 12:12].) Judas leaves to get the temple guard which he brings back to the house. By the time he returns, however, Jesus and his disciples are gone. All the commotion awakens young John Mark whose father, a wealthy man, also owns a garden in Gethsemane which he regularly makes available to Jesus and his disciples. Judas knows the spot and guesses that is where Jesus went. Dressed only in his bed clothes, John Mark follows Judas and the armed contingent to the garden (or possibly ran ahead of them in order to warn Jesus), from where he later flees for his life.1635
The following letter was written by a young communist to his girlfriend, breaking off the relationship with her because of his devotion to the communist cause. The letter was given to her pastor who in turn sent it to Dr. Billy Graham. He published it.
We communists have a high casualty rate. We are the ones who get shot and hung and ridiculed and fired from our jobs and in every other way made as uncomfortable as possible. A certain percentage of us get killed or imprisoned. We live in virtual poverty. We turn back to the party every penny we make above what is absolutely necessary to keep us alive.
We communists do not have the time or the money for many movies or concerts or T-bone steaks or decent homes or new cars. We've been described as fanatics. We are fanatics. Our lives are dominated by one great, overshadowing factor: the struggle for world communism. We have a philosophy of life which no amount of money could buy. We have a cause to fight for, a definite purpose in life. We subordinate our petty personal selves into a great movement of humanity; and if our personal lives seem hard or our egos appear to suffer through subordination to the party, then we are adequately compensated by the thought that each of us, in his small way, is contributing to something new and true and better for mankind.
There is one thing in which I am in dead earnest about, and that is the communist cause. It is my life, my business, my religion, my hobby, my sweetheart, my wife, my mistress, my bread and meat. I work at it in the daytime and dream of it at night. Its hold on me grows, not lessens, as time goes on; therefore, I cannot carry on a friendship, a love affair, or even a conversation without relating it to this force which both drives and guides my life. I evaluate people, looks, ideas, and actions according to how they affect the communist cause, and by their attitude toward it. I've already been in jail because of my ideals, and if necessary, I'm ready to go before a firing squad.1636
That is loyalty. It is the attitude that was sadly lacking in the disciples-turned-deserters that night in the garden of Gethsemane: "The disciples' primary loyalty to Jesus should have kept them from running. But fear took its toll."1637 True, unqualified loyalty is what Jesus demands today of anyone and everyone who would follow him. Absolute and total commitment - not to a cause or a creed, but to the person of Jesus Christ.
??? Think of a time in your life when you suffered greatly yet refused to stop trusting in God. What made you hang on to your faith? What would you tell someone else whose faith is being tested?