Matthew 26:36 – Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”
The account of Jesus in the Garden is also recorded in Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46 and John 18:1.
The Garden of Gethsemane was on the western side of the Mount of Olives. The word ‘garden’ does not refer to a place in someone’s backyard where they grow tomatoes. It would be more like a park with trees, water (the Kidron creek/brook) and possibly places to walk. It was a place of refreshment, away from the noise and heat of the city.
The gospel of Luke indicates that Jesus frequently met with the apostles at this location (John 18:2). This is evidence that Jesus did not go there in order to hide from his enemies. The opposite was true. He purposely went to a place that Judas was familiar with, spent time in prayer and waited for his enemies to come and arrest him. No man took his life from him; he laid it down himself.
John 10:17-18 – For this reason the Father loves me; because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.
He instructed most of the apostles to wait near the entrance, while he went further on to spend time in prayer.
Here is a lesson for us. As the hour of greatest darkness loomed, Jesus spent time in prayer. Communion with God sustained him during this tribulation. We too can approach the throne room of God to find comfort in days of trial.
Did you know that the word ‘Gethsemane’ means ‘olive press’? It was place where the olives were crushed and bruised in order for the oil to flow. Many scholars see a parallel here – Jesus was crushed, bruised and pressed that atonement might flow from him. They see this as Jesus treading the winepress of the wrath of God.
Here is another interesting thought: Sin first entered our lives in a garden setting, and brought death with it. Likewise, in a garden setting Jesus submits to death so that sin must now ‘exit’ our lives. Kind of ironic, don’t you think?
Matthew 26:37 – And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
While eight of the apostles are left near the entrance, Peter, James and John went further into the garden with Jesus. These are the same men who were present on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17) and also the three who witnessed Jesus bringing Jarius’ daughter back to life (Luke 8:51). They had been witnesses of the glory and power of Jesus, now they would witness his humiliation which he suffered for our sake.
As Jesus was praying, he became sorrowful. That word (sorrowful) is a very weak and inappropriate translation. The original word means ‘to be pressed down or overwhelmed with extreme or severe anguish and horror; excruciating anxiety and torture of spirit’. The word ‘sorrow’ does not even begin to express the true meaning of what happened to Jesus.
This term has nothing to do with physical pain. It refers to great emotional and spiritual distress.
What was the cause of this suffering?
In his Whole Bible Commentary, Matthew Henry asserts that in the garden Jesus began to take upon himself the iniquities of us all. Most scholars are in agreement with him. Jesus willingly accepted all the torment that the Father laid upon him, so that God’s wrath might be satisfied and the debt for sin paid. Let us always remember that sin is never written off like a bad debt – it is paid in full by the suffering of Jesus.
So it was our sin that resulted in the excruciating sorrow and distress of Jesus.
Matthew 26:38 – Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here and watch with me.”
The unspeakable severity of the burden of sin was so great, that it nearly caused physical death in Jesus. This burden would stay upon him until his death on the cross. According to scholars, this did not happen little by little. Sorrow surrounded him or was poured upon him on every side, breaking upon him with sudden violent force. There was no escape from it.
Thus, turning to his disciples, he explains that his torture is so intense, that it almost kills him; without support from God he would sink under this burden. Therefore, he asks his disciples to watch with him, while he sought God.
The truth is that none of us can understand the agony of Jesus as he prayed in the garden that night. None of us can fathom the crushing burden of sin that was placed on his sinless soul. None of us know the extent to which Satan was allowed to tempt Jesus in this hour. God alone knows and understands the extent of the suffering endured by Jesus for our sake.
- What we can do, is reverently and humbly bow before Jesus and thank him for being our scapegoat, our sacrificial lamb, and our Savior.
- What we can do is honor and love him by obeying his commands.
- What we can do is to share the gospel message with those who are still lost and dying; the price for their salvation has already been paid.
Matthew 26:39 – And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Jesus wished for his chosen disciples to be near him in his woe, and yet, as it advanced, he felt the need to be alone with his Father, and so he left them to be alone.
In times of grief and sorrow, the body of Christ should comfort and sustain its fellow members. It is our pleasure and our duty to do so. We can comfort one another using calls, texts, hugs, food, cards, prayer, kind words, tears, and many other methods.
But sometimes our burdens are so intense or our trials so difficult, that we instinctively turn to God alone. There are times when human comfort cannot console us. It is good to know that during these times, we can find comfort and strength in the presence of our Almighty heavenly Father.
Here Jesus speaks of drinking the cup that his Father had prepared for him. The cup represents the pain and suffering of sin (the burden he was now bearing) and his imminent death on the cross.
He begs God that if possible, this cup would pass, or in other words Jesus is asking if he might avoid the sufferings now at hand, or if the sufferings might be shortened in some manner. This shows us that Jesus was really and truly human, because people are always adverse to pain and suffering. This is a natural law of self preservation that is inherent in us when we are born.
But despite the bitter pain and agony of his suffering, Jesus freely chooses to submit his will to the Father. If drinking the cup is the only way to glorify God, defeat Satan and provide salvation for mankind, then Jesus will drink it.
Galatians 1:4 – Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God our Father:
Jesus immediately puts his own will in line with the will of his heavenly Father. This had been his practice since he came to earth.
John 5:30 – I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
Hebrews 10:9 – Then said he [Jesus], Lo, I come to do you will, O God.
By submitting himself and his will to the will of God, Jesus obtained the strength and power to endure Calvary.
This is a lesson for every Christian. We need to submit or line up our wills with the will of God. He alone can see the future and only he knows what is best for us. To go against his will can only result in heartache and lost blessings for us.
Matthew 26:40-41 – And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
While this rebuke was given in the hearing of Peter, James and John, we cannot help but notice that Jesus addresses the comment specifically to Peter.
If Peter could not stay away and watch with his Savior for even an hour, how would he be able to remain faithful in all the trials that were coming upon him? The rash zeal and self confidence he displayed earlier were going to be put to the test very shortly – and they were going to fail him.
Jesus admonishes all of them to watch and pray. This had nothing to do with security reasons. Jesus was going to be arrested and put to death and he knew it. Rather, he is calling the disciples to spiritual watching. He is telling them to seek aid from God because they had need of power to overcome temptations.
Jesus tells them that their spirits/minds are ready and willing to bear the trials of life, but the flesh is not. Our flesh is weak and fearful of danger, pain or discomfort. It will lead you astray when trials come. Therefore, we should pray that God will strengthen us to stand firm against temptation.
Jesus is contrasting the fleshly self confidence of Peter with the true way to overcome temptation – to abide in God. Thankfully, in the age of grace, we have access to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He will aid us and strengthen us in resisting temptation.
Matthew 26:42-44 – Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cup cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.
Here again, we find the scriptures bearing witness to two great truths:
First, Jesus endured horrible, unspeakable suffering in his flesh and soul, as a man. Had he not done so, the claim could be made that he never truly suffered and consequently made no atonement for sin.
Secondly, we find that Jesus freely surrenders his life to the will of God. Had God constrained him to give it, it would have ceased to be a free will offering and would therefore have been of no use in purchasing the salvation of mankind.
What are we to make of the disciples sleepiness? Some feel that their lethargy was simply because they had been up nearly 24 hours at that point. Others feel that they had great sorrow over the sufferings of their Master, and this sorrow brought about great drowsiness. Still others feel they were influenced by the powers of darkness. While we don’t know the exact cause, we do see that they were no real help or comfort to Jesus. He was utterly alone in his trial.
Matthew 26:45 – Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”
Most interpreters suppose that this statement should have been translated as a question, rather than a command. They suggest such things as this: ‘Do you still sleep? Will no warnings avail? Will no danger excite you to watchfulness and prayer?’ This is consistent with the account in the gospel of Luke, where he records the words of Jesus as a question, not a statement (Luke 22:46).
The phrase ‘hands of sinners’ refers to Gentiles. Specifically, it applies to the soldiers that Judas brought with him in order to apprehend Jesus.
Matthew 26:46 – “Rise, let us be going; see my betrayer is at hand.”
There are two ways of answering a prayer for the removal of a burden. In one, the burden is taken away and we remain unchanged. In the other, we are strengthened so that the burden is bearable.
In this case, God did not take away the burden of sin from Jesus. Instead, through his many prayers and supplications, Jesus received the strength from heaven that his flesh needed to finish the task he had willingly undertaken.
This is proved by the words of Jesus in verse 46. He is no longer prostrate on the ground. He is done crying out to God. He has full control of himself. He calmly tells the disciples to wake up and get ready; he is going out to meet his betrayer and submit himself to death.
Now, let’s give some consideration to our own spiritual lives. Can you remember a time when you were carrying around a heavy burden? Did you ask God to remove it? I am sure you did, because this is the natural thing for a Christian to do.
Did God remove it? If not, were you angry at God for not doing as you asked? Did you feel like he was punishing you unjustly? Did you whine and cry about the unfairness of it? Did you demand to know what you did to deserve it? Did you allow this to become a wall or a stumbling block in your relationship with God?
I have known people to react in just such a manner. This type of response shows spiritual immaturity.
The mature child of God knows and understands that every trial is an opportunity to sharpen our spiritual strength. Trials give us opportunities to trust in God, which allows us to stretch and grow our faith. This prepares us for bigger challenges.
Prolonged trials teach us to dig into the word and stand on the promises of God. They give us opportunities to practice fasting and waiting on the Lord. They deepen the relationship between us and our Heavenly Father. As we wait on God, we will receive strength and eventually, the burden becomes lighter and lighter, and we are able to manage it well, because we become stronger.
The eternal benefits of accepting and working through a burden are immense. So, can we stop acting like spiritual 3-year-olds? Can we believe that God is allowing a burden or a trial for our own good and the good of His kingdom? Can we work with God, instead of against Him as he matures us? The choice is yours.
Psalms 138:3 – In the day when I cried you answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul.
2 Corinthians 12:9 – And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…
It’s okay to ask God to remove a burden or deliver you from a trial. But remember, God sees your big picture. He knows what tomorrow holds. He knows your limits. So if you don’t find deliverance, then accept that God knows what he is doing, and that He is working all things out for your good.
Matthew 26:47 – While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.
John gives us a more specific description of this crowd:
John 18:3 – Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.
So, obviously we have the traitor Judas, who is the leader. He has ‘a band’ of men with him. The literal translation is actually ‘the band’ and it refers to a specific cohort of soldiers.
Because of the great multitude of people who flocked into Jerusalem for the Passover, Pilate automatically assigned a group of Roman soldiers to keep watch/stand guard by the temple. They were under the authority of the high priest. If any disorder or riot broke out, they were there to restore peace. This accounts for the men with swords.
There were also ‘officers from the chief priests and Pharisees’. These were Levites who were the normal temple guards and they were most likely armed with clubs.
This group came with torches and lanterns, probably because it was still before dawn and it would have been dark as they left the city.
Now, put yourself in the shoes of the disciples for a moment. There are 11 of you, plus Jesus. You have no military experience. You are unarmed, except for two small swords used for protection against robbers (Luke 22:38). You are physically and mentally exhausted. Jesus has just told you to get up, because he is now going to turn himself over to be crucified. And the next thing you see is this imposing group of armed, trained soldiers. What would be your first reaction? I think mine would be fear!
Matthew 26:48-49 – Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him. And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.
It was dark and the Roman soldiers were not familiar with Jesus. So Judas worked out a signal with them – he would identify Jesus with a kiss, and a greeting of Rabbi.
It was customary among the Jews, that when friend meets friend, they salute one another with a kiss. It would seem that when Judas kissed Jesus, he did that which all the apostles were accustomed to do, when they met their Master after an absence.
Matthew 26:50 – Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.
It seems strange that Jesus would call his betrayer a friend. If you go back to the original Greek, the word is more properly translated ‘companion’ or ‘comrade’, which makes more sense.
Obviously, Jesus is not fooled by this pretence of affection by Judas. He admonishes the traitor to get to the point; to do what he came to do.
Matthew 26:51 – And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.
Who was the swordsman who cut off this man’s ear? What was the injured man’s name?
According to the gospel of John, Peter was the swordsman. The injured man’s name was Malchus (John 18:10).
According to the gospel of Luke, Jesus took the time to stop and heal the man’s ear (Luke 22:50-51). In order to do so, he either had to pick up the ear and put it back on the guy’s head, or he had to create a new ear. Either way, it was a miracle that could only be produced by the unlimited power of God.
So the final earthly miracle that Jesus performs was unexpected and unsolicited by the recipient. In fact, it was performed upon an enemy actually engaged in hostility against Jesus. What a striking demonstration of mercy and forgiveness!
Matthew 26:52 – Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
Jesus rebukes Peter for his rash action. Starting a fight with 11 men and 2 swords against a crowd of armed and trained soldiers is a really bad idea. In fact, had it not been for the providence and care of Jesus, the entire group of apostles may well have been immediately cut in pieces.
If Jesus had instructed Peter to do so, that would have been a completely different scenario. God can and will do the miraculous, but we need to follow his lead in that regard. In this case, Peter was acting against the will of God.
Matthew 26:53 – “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?”
What good was Peter’s sword anyway? If Jesus chose to, he could have requested and received a limitless supply of help from heaven. Jesus did not need Peter or his sword to rescue him. In fact, Peter’s actions showed distrust in the providence and power of God, and ignorance of the scriptures.
The battle that was being fought that day was not a physical one. It was a spiritual battle that manifested itself in the natural realm. So Peter’s misguided efforts were of no avail.
Matthew 26:54 – “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”
It is obvious to us that the scriptures foretold the death/sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world. Having finished the work that the Father gave him to do, it was now time for Jesus to give up his life. So any attempt on the part of the disciples to stop the process was futile.
However, the disciples did not have the benefit of hindsight like we do. I am sure they were still adjusting to the situation. The words of Jesus are just one more reminder that everything was progressing exactly as God had planned it from the very beginning of time.
You know, God also knows about your life. Psalms 139 tells us that God knew every one of the days of your life, before you were ever born. It tells us that God knows when you sit down, when you get up and every word that is on your lips before it is spoken.
It also says that he has hedged you in, going before and after you to protect you.
Psalm 139:5 – You have hedged me behind and before, and laid your hand upon me.
So no matter what trials you are experiencing right now, God is right there. No matter what uncertainties we face (changes in government leadership, the virus, raging fires, intense storms, unemployment, etc), God is right here. None of this is a surprise to him. Therefore, He can guide you through what seems to be difficult times. Seek him in prayer as Jesus did. He will give you strength and wisdom to bear your burdens and be victorious!
Matthew 26:55 – At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me.”
At this time there were robbers who frequently hid in caves along the highways and preyed upon travelers. They were notoriously violent and wicked. The government sent armed soldiers out to hunt down and capture these criminals.
And now, they are treating Jesus in much the same manner even though he is neither wicked nor violent. He sat peaceably in the temple on many occasions. At other times, he was out in public ministering. Jesus was never armed, nor did he hide from the Romans or the Jews. They could have taken him at any time. The large armed force sent to ‘capture’ him was an unnecessary insult.
Matthew 26:56 – “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Jesus makes sure to give witness that the events which were taking place at that moment were not controlled by mankind. They were the result of the will and plans of God himself. They had been predicted hundreds of years before, and could easily be verified by looking at the Old Testament scriptures.
As we have already discussed, one of these scriptures foretold that when the shepherd was struck, the sheep would be scattered. Thus, the disciples left Jesus and fled.
Let me offer you some encouragement:
We looked at the suffering of Jesus in the garden. We saw that God did not remove his burden, but strengthened him that he could bear it.
If you are facing a heavy burden today, let me encourage you to do the same thing that Jesus did – spend time in prayer. Pour your heart out before God. Ask him to strengthen you so that you too can bear whatever burden you have. By seeking him, you will find strength, rest and a deepening of the relationship between you and the Lord.
Burdens and trials are not pleasant, but they do much for our eternal growth and our relationship with God.
Let me offer you some relief:
What can we say about the actions of the disciples during this time? They appear to be scared and weak. But the good news is that they did not end up that way! Once they were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they became bold witnesses for Christ. They were no longer afraid of what man could do to them.
Are you weak or fearful of what could happen to you for your faith? Jesus is still baptizing people with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is still providing the strength and boldness you need to live an amazing, powerful life for Christ. Why not pray and ask Jesus about your relationship with the Holy Spirit?
Let me offer you some strength:
Despite what things look like around you, God is in control of the world. He continues to hold it in place as it spins around the sun. He is bigger and more powerful than the affairs of men. Nothing happens without his consent. Things that do happen, happen on God’s time schedule.
In the midst of all of that, God is still acutely aware of each individual person. He is still seeking the lost. He is still breathing new life into babies. He is still calling saints home to be with him. And He, the Almighty God and Everlasting Father, still desires to have a close, intimate relationship with YOU. He desires to find you in his throne room, asking for his help. He desires to impart his strength into your body, soul and spirit. Won’t you spend some time with him today?