3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” He said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, He fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him. 36 “Abba, Father,” He said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then He returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” He said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
39 Once more He went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When He came back, He again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to Him.
41 Returning the third time, He said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Today we continue to follow Jesus on His journey toward the cross. His impending betrayal and crucifixion are drawing closer with each passing moment. Supper has ended, and along with remaining eleven disciples, Jesus makes His way from Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemane. It is now late on the Thursday evening as He approaches the garden. The struggle that Jesus faced in Gethsemane is one we all know well, but we cannot begin to imagine the difficulty of these moments. It’s one of the great mysteries that we don’t fully understand, but Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time, so His anguish and suffering was both physical and spiritual. It is here in the Garden of Gethsemane that He began to suffer in agony under the load of sin, soon to be borne on Calvary. His agony was so intense that Luke’s gospel describes His sweat becoming as great drops of blood. Luke tells us “being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” It’s interesting that Luke is the only Gospel which records this, because Luke was a doctor, and for years the sceptics have been trying to explain away this idea of sweat looking like blood, but it does happen, albeit very rarely. The phenomenon is called “hematidrosis”, and it occurs when someone is under extreme stress. The blood capillaries in the sweat glands rupture, and blood is mixed with sweat. Remember that Jesus knew exactly what lay ahead for Him. In a few hours’ time He will have been betrayed, brought before the Sanhedrin, Pilate, and Herod. He would be condemned to death, scourged mercilessly, and crucified on the cross. The struggle in Gethsemane gives us an insight into the agonies Jesus faced in His final hours before the cross.
These were very intense moments as Jesus struggled and suffered under the burden of human sin. Verses 33-34 say, “He began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.’”
These words are very expressive, describing the agony He faced, but I’ve always been struck by the word sorrow in this verse. If I was about to be executed, I can only imagine the emotions that I would be going through: probably fear, terror and anger. Sorrow though, is a human emotion we usually go through when we lose or are about to lose someone we love deeply. When our hearts are broken we are filled with sorrow, and I think the use of this word in verse 34 gives us a glimpse of what Jesus was experiencing that night. The eternal God, the God of creation was about to die for the sins of the people He created in love. And it filled Him with sorrow. It broke His heart that we had fallen so far from what He created us to be.
Of course, the physical suffering alone that was to come was enough to cause Him to be filled with anguish that night. We can’t begin to imagine what Jesus felt in His humanity as He began to look towards Calvary and the suffering He would endure. The physical torment is beyond comprehension, but the greater agony was of the holy, sinless Saviour bearing the sins of the world. All that He was about to face was contrary to His very nature and deity.
The KJV says that Jesus “began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy.” This is a phrase that also is very expressive. It means to be extremely troubled and distressed. A closer look at the original root word reveals another key aspect. It has the idea of being away from home and out of one’s usual surroundings. Jesus had never known a time when He was separated from God the Father. The Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit had existed for eternity in perfect union. There had never been a time when that precious, holy fellowship had been broken. There had never been a time when the sinless Son had felt the effect of sin. But on this night, things were very different. Jesus was now facing the certainty that He would soon (because of the awful weight of human sin), be separated from the Father. He had never experienced that before as He began to feel the weight of sin and the separation it brings. It was a glimpse of the eternal damnation that hell will be for those who reject salvation through Jesus. Hell is a place where God is not…
There can be no doubt that His deity – His “Godness” was repulsed by what He felt. Jesus experienced and endured that heavy affliction for sinners like you and me.
Verse 35 says, “Going a little farther, He fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him.”
There was a separation from the disciples. He brought the eleven to the Garden, taking Peter, James, and John a little deeper, but even the closest of the “inner circle” could only go so far. This was a burden that Jesus had to bear alone. He was the only One who was worthy to bear the cup of suffering. He was the only One who could atone for human sin. Jesus had to bear the agonies of His suffering alone.
We all know how it feels to face a trial or burden. We’ve all been there, and some of us are there right now. We have all had times in life when it seemed as if our world was falling apart. It is in those times that we need the comfort, encouragement and companionship of those that we love. But not Jesus on this occasion. He endured it alone.
Matthew records that He went a little further. When disciples had gone as far as they could go, Jesus kept going. In fact, Jesus went all the way. He went a little further for you and me, willingly bearing the burden of our sin Himself. There was no-one to help Him carry the load. Had He not gone “a little further”, in fact all the way, we would have no hope.
And then we come to part of His prayer which has created so much confusion. “He fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him. ‘Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Firstly, He addresses God as Abba, Father. Abba is the Aramaic word for ‘papa’ or ‘daddy.’ This was what a small child called his father. It expressed a child’s love, trust and total dependency. This is exactly the kind of relationship that Jesus in His humanity had with the Father, and it is because of this relationship that Jesus knew He could call on God for strength in this time of need. Jesus knew the Father was in complete control and that all things were possible with Him. We can find tremendous comfort in these words of Jesus. We have been adopted into the family of God. We can call upon God, our Abba Father, as a child who needs His mighty hand of provision. With God all things are possible. We may not understand why certain things are happening or not happening, but we can take strength and comfort in the truth that God is sovereign, and that He remains in control.
The Gospel singer Matt Redman captures this truth brilliantly in the words of one of his songs: “Blessed be Your name when the sun’s shining down on me, when the world’s ‘all as it should be’, blessed be Your name. And blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering, though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name. You give and take away, still my heart will choose to say Lord, blessed be Your name.”
And then we come to the request of Jesus which has caused so much controversy. “Take this cup from me.” We must never view this as a sign of disobedience or unwillingness on the part of Jesus. We must consider the agony He endured. Jesus knew that He must die on the cross. He had already confirmed that to the disciples. He knew He had come for this very purpose. However, in His humanity Jesus was not looking forward to the shame and suffering of the cross. Remember though, Jesus, in His deity, was repulsed by what He was experiencing and what He would soon face. His deity cried out because of the sin and separation; His humanity cried out because of the suffering. The suffering which we mistakenly regard as what He was trying to “avoid” was not a painful death. He was horrified at the thought of being separated from the Father. That was an infinitely greater suffering, but He was prepared to do it in order that we wouldn’t be separated from the Father. And I think that if we ever really understood all that Jesus endured for us, we would not be the complacent, apathetic Christians that we so often are.
“Yet not what I will, but what you will.” That prayer of Jesus is recorded in the Bible for our benefit. God wants us to see just what our sin has done. Our sin is so evil and so depraved, that the only way it could be redeemed was to destroy the perfect, eternal harmony of the Holy Trinity. This is what broke the heart of Jesus, but He did it anyway, because there is no other means of salvation for us.
Jesus didn’t want to be separated from the Father, but He wanted the will of God to be completed more than He wanted to avoid the cross. Jesus willingly submitted Himself to the suffering and shame of the cross in order to fulfill the will of God and redeem sinful men. In His deepest agony, Jesus never wavered in His love and devotion for the Father’s will or His commitment to provide the means for our salvation. Hebrews 5:8-9 says, “Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”
The obedience of Jesus was necessary for Him to stand as the sacrificial Lamb for the sins of the world.
J Vernon McGee writes in his commentary, “This cup evidently represents His cross, and the contents are the sins of the whole world. More than the death itself and the terrible suffering of crucifixion is something else that we do not seem to realise. It is this: Jesus, holy, harmless, and separate from sinners, was made sin for us. There on the cross the sin of humanity was put on Him - not in some forensic or academic manner, but in reality. We cannot even imagine the horror He felt when that sin was placed upon Him. It was a horrendous experience for this One who was holy. Notice that He was not asking to escape the cross, but He was praying that God’s will be done. It is impossible for you and me to enter into the full significance of Gethsemane, but I think it was there that He won the victory of Calvary. Undoubtedly, He was tempted by satan in Gethsemane as truly as He was in the wilderness. Notice verse 42: “He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.” He was accepting it. To say that our Lord was trying to avoid going to the cross is not true. In His humanity He felt a repugnance and the awful horror of having the sins of the world placed upon Himself, and He recoiled for a moment from it. But He committed Himself to the Father. He came to do the Father’s will.”
And then we come to the disciples. In His time of suffering Jesus gave a simple command: “Stay here and keep watch. Watch and pray.”
He didn’t ask them to accomplish some great or difficult task, other than to just stay and watch. He wanted them to remain with Him and be diligent for Him. Jesus knew He must bear the cup of suffering alone, but He wanted His closest friends to watch and pray for Him in His difficult moment. They couldn’t bear the burden with Him, but they could offer their prayers and support.
There is so much we can learn from this simple command. We often get so wrapped up in the things we feel are important, that we fail to do the simple things that are really important. We must be diligent to accomplish what God has called us as the Church to do: pray, study, witness, love, and serve Him.
Verse 37: “He returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Simon,’ He said to Peter, ‘are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?’”
As Jesus returned from His first prayer, He found the disciples asleep, rather than doing what He had instructed them to do. We can assume by His addressing Peter, that Jesus regarded him as a leader among the disciples. There is no doubt that Jesus was disappointed in the three. He had asked a simple thing of them, something that each of them could have done, and He fully expected them to have done what He asked. We have no excuse for abandoning the work we’ve been called to do. Jesus fully expects us to remain faithful to the task. James 4:17 puts it like this: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” Are we doing all that God expects of us? If not, we are willfully disobeying the Lord and sinning in the process.
Jesus then said something very interesting to them. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Jesus had not asked them to watch and pray just to give them something to do. He was in His hour of need, and if He ever needed the support of the disciples, it was now. But Jesus had a greater reason for asking them to pray. He knew what they would all soon face. Their faith was about to be put to the test and they needed to be prepared.
Prayer and seeking God’s help was the only way they would find the strength they
needed. In themselves they were doomed to fail, and so are we. We need to understand that it is for our benefit to pray and seek God. We’ll never make it without Him.
Jesus would soon be betrayed, and the disciples would be scattered and fearful. Their opportunity for preparation was squandered as they slept. Had they been praying instead of sleeping, they may not have abandoned Jesus as quickly as they did in the following hours.
When Jesus returned and found them sleeping a second time, we’re told that they did not know what to say.
They were at a loss for words. As Jesus rebuked them for their failures they didn’t
know what to say. They had failed Him and there was no excuse. He had asked them to support Him and pray for themselves and they had not done it. There was nothing to say. There was no way they could justify their lack of commitment.
When God calls us to do something and we fail, we have no excuse. Remember that He will equip us for whatever task He calls us to. So, when things go wrong, the fault lies with us – not with God.
How many opportunities to make a real difference in the lives of those who don’t know Jesus are lost because instead of watching and praying, we have dozed off and fallen asleep at our posts?
The last moments for the disciples to pray had been spent sleeping. Rather than finding strength and help for their hour of need, the disciples were weak and unsure. When Jesus was arrested soon after that, they all fled in fear. Their complacency and lack of commitment hindered their walk with God. Had they spent time in prayer as Jesus commanded, their reaction to His arrest may have been far different.
It is important that we spend time with the Lord and seek His strength and guidance. In the good times we must be preparing for the storm, because the storm is coming. It will hit soon enough and the time for preparation will be gone. If we fail to gain strength and wisdom on the mountain, the valley will be much more difficult than it needs to be. Don’t allow an attitude of complacency to weaken your faith in God.
God will give us all we need for the tasks He calls us to, but we need to be faithful and obedient in our response to Him.
As Paul said to Timothy in our first reading today, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Jesus provided the means of our salvation through His immeasurable sacrifice on the cross. Do you know Him as your Saviour? If you do, Jesus is calling us to watch and pray, just as He did with His disciples that night.
How will you respond to His call to watch and pray?
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Mark 14:32-42
See Jesus’ prayer in verse 36.
This has created much debate and confusion over the years, but why is it a mistake to say that Jesus, in a moment of weakness, was trying to avoid going to the Cross of Calvary?
What is the “cup” He prays about?
Three times Jesus left His disciples, asking them to watch and pray, but each time He returned, He found them sleeping.
How does this picture relate to the Church today?
In which areas where we need to be diligent and praying, is the Church “dozing off and sleeping on duty?”
What can we learn from Paul’s encouragement to the young Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6-10?
What changes do you think are necessary for the Church to make a real difference in our world today?
Next week: Barabbas