31 Mar Agony in the Garden
On my last blog entry, I told you the story of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus with her tears and her perfume at the home of Simon the Pharisee. So now the story continues as Jesus begins to prepare for His final days. Easter is coming!
After Passover dinner, Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. Gethsemane is a garden located at the foot of the Mount of Olives a little over a mile from Jerusalem. It was one of Jesus’ favorite places to pray and find solitude.
So our story continues in Matthew 26:36 – Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (James and John) along with him,
So Jesus left 8 of the disciples in one area of the garden. He took Peter, James, and John with him. He asked the 8 disciples to stay there and pray. Jesus knew what was coming. He knew what God had called him to do and he asked his closest friends, the ones who had been with him all along, to stop and pray for him as he prepared his mind for what was about to come. He walked on a little further with Peter, James, and John.
–and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Why did Jesus ask God to take this cup from him? What was the cup?
The cup is a symbolic reference to the suffering and anguish that Jesus was about to endure. Jesus was in agony. He was as stressed out as a person can get. He knew the ways of the Romans. He knew how barbaric and brutal they were. He knew their common method of death was crucifixion.
Have you ever faced something so awful that you begged someone to help you or make it go away? Have you ever begged God to make something go away from you, so you didn’t have to face it? This is where we see how human Jesus really was. He was just like us. He knew what he had to do, but he was still afraid.
Jesus felt closed in on all sides. There was no escape from this. He was to take on the sins of the entire world, of his people, and it encompassed his soul. He was pure and spotless, yet he would suffer an agonizing death for us. His soul was overwhelmed, and his heart was ready to break.
Jesus had asked his three closest friends to pray for him as he was going through this time of agony. Jesus walked ahead alone and prayed for a while. He agonized alone, cried and prayed.
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Have you ever been going through something and you asked a friend or a relative to pray for you? Do you think that after a while, they just forget about it and go on with their life?
This is how Jesus felt when he came back to them and found them asleep.
He went away a second time, knelt in the garden, cried, agonized and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
This time Jesus prayed that if it’s not possible for him to be released from this agony, then he agreed that the will of the Father be done. Jesus was battling with the flesh and he knew what he was facing would be horrific and intense. Jesus was fully God and fully man and it was merely human desire to avoid pain and suffering. Jesus knew he would have to be crushed and pierced for our transgressions. Jesus continued to pray in sheer agony.
Now God sent an angel to be with Jesus as He prayed in the garden and he comforted him and strengthened him. I’m sure at this point Jesus recalled those two powerful moments in his life—his baptism and his transfiguration on the mountain—when he heard the voice of his Father: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). He was also strengthened by this comforting message from his Father: “I love you. I am with you. I will never abandon you.” Jesus felt God with him and he was encouraged.
Jesus returned to the disciples and he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed in the garden for the third time. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?
Jesus had gone alone to pray three times, each time finding the disciples asleep when he came back. In their defense, they were agonizing, too. Their beloved Jesus was in torment and told them he was to be killed. They were exhausted, too from the emotional weight of all this.
Jesus was sick and stressed beyond imagination. The bible says that Jesus was in such agony that he sweated blood. This is an actual medical condition called Hematidrosis. It is caused from extreme stress and acute fear and blood vessels actually break into your sweat glands and you sweat blood. This is how much anxiety Jesus was feeling and his own disciples couldn’t stay awake with him and pray for him.
This represents to us that Jesus had to go through this alone. No one could do it for him. No one could help him. Jesus knew he had to face this and see it all the way through, even to death.
When Jesus returned to the disciples He said, “Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”
Even here, Jesus referred to Judas as a friend. Even though he betrayed him for money. This demonstrates the unconditional love of Jesus.
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, Peter reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
Now there are 6,000 angels in one legion. So Jesus referred to 12 legions, one for each of them (Jesus and the 11 disciples, minus Judas) would equal 72,000 angels. Jesus was letting them know that if he wanted, he could call upon God to send 72,000 angels and crush this angry crowd. But he didn’t because he knew he had to go through what God had called him to for the sake of all mankind. Jesus chose to obey the will of God and become the blood sacrifice that would pay the debt for the sins of all mankind. The outcome was much bigger than any pain Jesus would face.
In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Yes, they scattered to the wind, just as Jesus told them they would earlier at dinner. The soldiers arrested Jesus.
I took you through the Garden of Gethsemane because I wanted you to understand the agony that Jesus faced before we move into His crucifixion and Easter.
Why did Jesus end up alone in the Garden praying? Because only He can take up the cross and die for the sins of the world. Jesus prayed alone in the garden. He was tortured and mocked alone. He hung alone on the cross. Jesus alone did all this so that we would never be alone in anything we face. Jesus is always there. He will never leave us nor forsake us. In the midst of his struggle, God sent an angel to help him. We have His Holy Spirit that dwells in us when we receive Jesus as our Lord and our Savior. In Christ alone my hope is found.
Why did Jesus go away three times and then come back to them? He wanted to show the disciples, and all of us, that even though He goes away from us, He will return someday. He gives us assurance here that He will come back. In the meantime, we have His Holy Spirit and we have our faith. In this lesson we learn not to fall asleep while we wait for Jesus.
As the world slips deeper and deeper into sin, we must be vigilant to stand and pray. We cannot become complacent and forget to pray. We need to pray for ourselves, for each other, for our families, our nation, our pastors and our leaders. We cannot fall asleep and just hope things turn out ok.
Jesus also wanted his disciples to understand what he was going through so that when the time came for them to face their own trials and death, they would remember what Jesus did, how he prayed, how he endured, and how God helped him.
I want you to see the process Jesus went through as he prayed three times. The first time he asked God to take the cup from him. He was afraid and didn’t want to go through it. The second time, he prayed again for God to take the cup from him if it’s possible, but then he said if it was God’s will, he would be willing to go through it. The third time he prayed, he agreed that God’s will be done, and he was fully willing to do what he was called to do.
This is why we pray and keep praying. This is why we empty our hearts out to God in honesty. God helps us in this process as we learn to turn our hearts over to the will of God. We can’t be afraid to go through the trials that life throws our way. It may be the very thing that changes your life for the better.