Mark 14:32-52, The Garden of Gethsemane
During His visits to Jerusalem, it was Jesus’s habit to stay at Mary and Martha’s house in Bethany, which was just East of Jerusalem. He and his disciples would walk down the Mt. of Olives and enter Jerusalem from the East, then at night they would leave going East, crossing the Kidron Valley, and ascend up the Mt. of Olives. They would usually stop in a secluded place called the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus would teach and pray with his disciples. Gethsemane means “olive oil press”, and there are olive trees there today which were probably there during the time of Christ (at least our guide says so). They would be tired from the hectic schedule of teaching and ministering to the large Passover crowds at the Temple Mount, and this gave them a time of rest and reflection alone with Jesus. He purposely stopped there on the night He was arrested because Judas expected Him to be there when he led the soldiers to arrest Jesus. Christ knew He had an appointment to be arrested there, so He went there on purpose. Earlier at the Last Supper in the “upper room”, Jesus had sent Judas out to do his treachery. Peter had boasted he would stand up for Jesus and never deny Him. James and John had promised they could “drink from His cup” of the wrath of God, and they all said they would never fall away. Now in the garden they have the chance to back it up. The problem was they expected His glory, but not His agony. Yet Jesus’s suffering and death are as important as His glory and exaltation.
Deeply Distressed and Troubled
Being omniscient, Jesus knows that He will be arrested, tried, beaten severely, and then suffer the agony of crucifixion. He also knows He will suffer the burden of bearing the sins of the world. Therefore, as they arrive at the garden He was deeply distressed and troubled. How bad was it? In Mark 14:34, we read He had “sorrow to the point of death”. How will He bear up under the pressure? By prayer and faith in God’s will, Jesus will persevere. In Mark 14:35-36, Jesus “fell to the ground” weeping and praying. In an emotional release He prayed, “Father…remove this cup from me, yet not what I will, but what thou will”. Was this a change of heart or insubordination? No, it just reflected His human emotions, and He was pouring His heart out to God. Nevertheless, He knew He had to die on the cross to save mankind, so He also relented to God’s will. Maybe Jesus was asking if there was some other way, or a plan B, but this scene makes it clear that there is only one way for God’s righteous justice and Gods love to be accomplished. Jesus must be obedient but His humanness doesn’t relish the pain and humiliation.
The Gethsemane of the Disciples
In contrast to Jesus’s suffering and emotion, the disciples are clueless. Even though He had clearly taught and warned them about the coming events, they just were not with the program yet. They expected and desired the Kingdom of God without the passion of Christ. They had to learn after the fact that the Kingdom could not be filled with sinners like them, but their sins had to be atoned for by the blood of Christ so the Kingdom would be filled with redeemed people. Therefore the disciples were disinterested and drowsy, and they slept through Christ’s agony and prayers at Gethsemane. I imagine Jesus was full of adrenaline but they were sleeping, so He woke them up, but again they fell asleep. Does prayer make a difference? Jesus told them in v.38 they needed to pray in order to be prepared for the coming temptation. Then Jesus explained why with the profound statement “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”. It was a time of preparation, but they would not be prepared. In Luke’s account of this event we read that Jesus was so distressed that “His sweat became like drops of blood”. An angel from heaven came from God and comforted Him and strengthened Him. Finally on His third trip to the disciples, Jesus said, “Why are you sleeping? Arise and pray, the time has come, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners”. The disciples would be unprepared and fold like a nickel knife. Just then a mob of soldiers that Judas was leading invaded the peace of Gethsemane. Judas was leading them and greeted his friend Jesus with a kiss. Why did Judas do it? We find out in John 12:6 that Judas was a thief and a bad guy, and he saw that Jesus was losing so he switched sides because he was greedy. I think one reason people overlook is that he was disappointed in Jesus. I mean that Jesus had made it clear that He had to be crucified, but Judas wanted Him to set up the kingdom so he could be rich and powerful, but now Jesus was a suffering servant.
Spiritually, What was the Garden of Gethsemane?
First it was a place of prayer and preparation. After a long day of ministry Jesus usually sought out a place of prayer to keep His perspective spiritual and to prepare Himself for the next activity. Even Jesus knew He needed time alone with the Lord to keep His attitude and thoughts according to the will of God. In a sense Gethsemane was a place to recharge your batteries. All through the Gospels Jesus found places like mountains or the Sea of Galilee or Gethsemane to pray. These places were places of privacy to be alone in God’s beautiful creation. Secondly, it was a place of passion and emotions, and agony. We all need to let loose our feelings and emotions from time to time, and after doing so— turn our problems over to the Lord. When you turn all your fear, frustrations, and anger over to the Lord you are submitting yourself to God’s hands. Jesus feared the suffering to come, but He completely submitted to God’s plan. Someone said there are four possible answers to prayer—Yes, no, later, and You have got to be kidding. I saw an article about the Garth Brooks song entitled “Thank You for Unanswered Prayers”. It’s about his High School sweetheart he prayed to marry, but she broke up with him. At the 20 year reunion he saw her, clearly changed by the ravages of time, and he wrote “Thank you Lord for Unanswered Prayers”. Lastly, I think Gethsemane was a place of teaching for Christ’s disciples and us today. Just think of how many times people have said “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”. All of us are spiritually naive like the disciples who at the Last Supper said we will never leave you or deny you, but a few hours later BOOM they are running for the hills. Jesus told them they had to prepare themselves, but they had to learn it the hard way. They slept, but prayer strengthened Jesus to be prepared for the coming trials. People pray to change their circumstances but usually it prepares us to persevere through them. When Jesus prayed “Remove this cup from me”, I think the angel said that God will give you the strength to endure it and save the human race.
Do you know stress, fear, pain, and suffering? So did Jesus, but He resolved it through faith and prayer. For Jesus, the disciples like Peter, John, and James—first comes suffering and then glory!