Mark 14:32-42 32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
On the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He led His disciples to the olive garden at Gethsemane where they would often go at night. This was the place where Jesus would be betrayed for Judas Iscariot had already left to gather a group of men to arrest Jesus. But before this would happen Jesus had to pass one final test- a proof of the full devotion of the Son of God to the Father. He had to settle things once and for all as the Christ who was to die for you and for me. God cannot die but when the Son of God entered into creation and became the God-man, He could die as He was now fully God and fully man. Why did Jesus have to die? Because as it is stated in Romans 6:23: the wages of sin is death. Upon the cross, Jesus was about to become sin and yet He had never known sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). As our sins were to be placed upon His body as He died upon the cross, Jesus Christ would suffer death as the penalty for our sin. And in turn, through the Covenant of Grace entered into by faith, we can receive His righteousness:
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
In Gethsemane, on the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He had to come to terms with becoming sin and dying which meant being separated from His Father. He had never known sin. We sin daily and by nature love to sin. It is only as we are born again by the Spirit of God that we really fight against sin. But not so with Jesus Christ. He entered into creation in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3) but without sin. He was perfectly obedient to His Father for over 33 years as He walked upon this earth. And now, as He would go to the cross He would taste the sins of all of mankind throughout all of human history. Only God in the flesh could do such a thing. Can you imagine? To go from living a perfect life to knowing and becoming sin? To taste every single wicked thought and action that you and I have done but not just for us but all of mankind throughout all of history and the sins of mankind yet to come? It is unfathomable the shock this must have been to His soul and His spirit. The magnitude of what Jesus was facing here in Gethsemane is beyond our comprehension! It is no wonder that Jesus’ sweat became drops of blood as He wrestled with the magnitude of what He was about to do (Luke 22:44). As Jesus prayed He was not trying to escape the cross but to fully submit to it. Everything in His earthly life and ministry was to lead Him to the cross and He did not run from it but ran towards it. But because becoming sin was so repulsive to Jesus and as a result of Him becoming the sin bearer He would have to suffer the wrath of His Father and be separated from His Father for the first time in all of eternity as He died upon the cross, Jesus wrestling here in Gethsemane with what He was about to do only further demonstrates His absolute perfection. He loved the Father so much that He did not want to be separated from Him. He hated sin so much that He did not want to become sin. And yet for you and for me He did it. How amazing is the love of Jesus Christ for you and for me! How could He show such great love for such wretched sinners like you and like me? And yet how could anyone reject Him for what He has done? Truly those who reject Jesus Christ deserve to be punished eternally for rejecting such amazing love!
But what were the disciples going through at this point? Jesus brings Peter, James, and John near Him as He faces this final test before He is arrested. He asks them to watch and pray. Why? So that they will not enter into temptation (verse 38). And yet they fall asleep. Three times! Jesus was facing the greatest struggle that He had ever faced and the disciples slept and yet they had thought that they were ready to rule in His Kingdom! They demonstrated their weakness and their lack of understanding. Why did they fall asleep? We find the answer in Luke’s account of these events:
Luke 22:45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow.
Sorrow and grief cause unexpected behavior. And the disciples had much to be sorrowful about at this point. Being asked to pray in the darkness of Gethsemane on the verge of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion is not where the disciples had expected to be at this point. They had expected to soon rule in Jesus’ Kingdom after He had conquered all of His enemies. But their ideas of what the Christ would do were far from the truth. They had followed Jesus to this place of darkness of which they too tasted personally. They had just been told at the Last Supper that one of them would betray Jesus. They had just come to the realization that Jesus would indeed die which they had continually denied when He told them before. The weight of sorrow and confusion that they felt must have been overwhelming. Their minds must have been spinning and what would they pray for in such a state of mind? They did not understand what Jesus was going through. They did not understand how even one of them could betray Jesus. They did not understand why Jesus would die. They did not understand what would happen to them when Jesus died. Would they too be killed? How could this be the end result of following the Savior not only of Israel but all of mankind? They had no hope at this point. The only stability they had was that Jesus was still with them telling them what to do. And so they found rest in the only escape they knew of in that moment- sleep. The weight of what they felt did not lead them to prayer but to sleep. What a contrast with Jesus who in His prayers found victory in His desire to submit in every way to what was required of Him as the Christ and the Saviour of mankind. All hope was not lost for the disciples. God would preserve them and yet restore them. And there is hope for you and for me in Jesus Christ! Do you believe in Him with all your heart? Do you understand?
Pastor Murray Hack
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