Grappling in Gethsemane — Prepared Heart or Sleeping Souls — Mark 14:32-42

Our passage for this morning gives us profound insight into the humanity of the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ.  We see the depths of His emotions as He grapples with the imminent reality of the Cross; of the sinless, spotless Passover Lamb being made sin for us and bearing our sin on the cross to accomplish our redemption.  Holiness that hates sin is now going to be made sin and suffer the punishment of God for undeserving sinners.  The hour foreordained by the Father is now at hand.  He is preparing Himself to fully drink the cup of His Father’s wrath, to be baptized with the baptism of suffering and death on our behalf.  His ministry on earth has concluded.  He has reached the culmination of His ultimate purpose in leaving His Father’s heavenly home and taking on humanity in the Incarnation and coming to earth on a mission – to give His life as a ransom for many.

In His darkest hour of preparation for what lies ahead, He turns to His Heavenly Father in heartfelt prayer in the isolation of the Garden of Gethsemane.  He only asks that His band of disciples (minus the traitor Judas who has departed to betray Him) offer Him companionship and support in this time of preparation.  He charges them to watch and to wait as He goes off to pray alone to His Heavenly Father.  These disciples who have made such presumptuous claims of their unwavering loyalty and support; these disciples who have pledged to follow Him even to death, prove to be an utter disappointment as Jesus must grapple alone with His Father over embracing God’s will for what lies ahead.

Hendriksen: It is with profound reverence that one approaches the Gethsemane narrative.  Also with due appreciation of the unique character of the event here described.  This uniqueness deserves emphasis, for again and again one will hear a person who has passed through a fiery trial refer to this experience as “my Gethsemane.”  Better surely is the following poem:

“Joy is a partnership,

Grief weeps alone,

Many guests had Cana,

Gethsemane but One.”

L. Knowles, Grief and Joy

We may see applications to us in terms of need for fervent prayer and to spend time in preparation with our Heavenly Father … but save those applications for another day; that would be trampling on holy ground in a passage where the focus must remain on the unique suffering and agony of our amazing Savior

THE PASSOVER LAMB PREPARES FOR HIS MISSION OF REDEMPTION BY GRAPPLING IN PRAYER WITH HIS HEAVENLY FATHER AMIDST OVERWHELMING ANGUISH AND SLEEPING DISCIPLES

I.  (:32-34) PREPARATION INVOLVES GRAPPLING WITH OVERWHELMING EMOTIONS –

WE SEE JESUS ENLISTING THE SUPPORT OF HIS DISCIPLES AS ANGUISH THREATENS TO OVERWHELM HIM

A.  (:32) Charging His Outer Circle of Disciples to Watch and Wait – Allow Him Time for Heart Preparation

And they came to a place named Gethsemane;

         and He said to His disciples, ‘Sit here until I have prayed.’

Historical present tense used 9 times in this paragraph – inserts the readers into the narrative

Maybe a little before midnight – He will be hanging on the cross in about 12 hours

MacArthur: The name means “oil press,” and referred to a garden filled with olive trees on a slope of the Mt. of Olives.  Jesus frequented this spot with the disciples when He wanted to get away from the crowds to pray (cf. Jn 18:1, 2).

Olive orchard enclosed with a stone wall and having an oil press – quiet and secluded spot; perfect for communion with God in prayer

Don’t just rush life and charge forward without adequate times of private preparation alone with the Heavenly Father

Disciples were very action-oriented; needed to be slowed down by Jesus

Jesus understood His dependence upon His Heavenly Father;

Prayer was the most important and valuable activity He could pursue at such a time as this

B.  (:33-34) Charging His Inner Circle of Disciples to Watch and Wait — Support Him in Time of Anguish

  1. (:33)  Intimate Insight Into Anguish Experienced by Jesus

And He took with Him Peter and James and John,

                and began to be very distressed and troubled.

an intimacy in his close association with these three strong leaders among the disciples

Inner 3 saw things that the others had not been privileged to see; Mark 5:37 – raising of Jairus’ daughter; Mark 9 – Transfiguration account

Robert Rayburn: Interestingly all three of them had boasted of their mettle, of their fortitude in crisis, and of their willingness to share in the Lord’s suffering

Hiebert: Greatly amazed (cf. 9:15) suggests a feeling of terrified surprise.  Jesus had long foreseen His coming death, but now that the shadow of the actual cross fell upon Him, He felt the shuddering horror of the terrible ordeal.  It came with stunning effect.  Sore troubled denotes His resultant feeling of extreme anxiety, leaving Him confused and restless.

MacArthur: The word troubled means to be anguished, to a level of really incomprehensibility. So He is amazed and astonished at the level of anguish that He’s feeling over this. This is something new to Him.

Parunak:Sore amazed“: verb only 3x in Bible, all in Mark

a> 9:15, the people, probably caused by seeing the lingering glory of the transfiguration on the Lord’s face.

b> 16:5,6, the women at the empty grave.

 c> qambew by itself is “terrified, amazed” also only Mark; ek- addition of ek- might have sense of “scared out of one’s wits”???

         1> 1:27, the people at his authority over unclean spirits

2> 10:24, impossibility of entering kingdom of heaven through riches

3> 10:32, their attitude at his steadfast approach to Jerusalem

  1. (:34)  Intensive Plea for Support in Time of Overwhelming Anguish

And He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.’

MacArthur: perilupos, literally surrounded by sorrow, surrounded by grief. Peri, perimeter, periphery, He’s engulfed in this grief to the point of death

Parunak: “Exceeding sorrowful” seems to reflect the deep discomfort we feel when faced with a choice that pits right against comfort. Compare its other non-passion uses:

a> Mark 6:26, Herod’s sorrow at having to choose between losing face and killing John the Baptist. A deciding moment: he had been fascinated with John’s teaching, v.20. Will he follow the truth, or abandon it? This is his moment of decision, and he fails.

b> Luke 18:23, 24, the rich young ruler’s sorrow at having to choose between his riches and following the Lord. Again, a moment of critical decision; again, a failure.

c> So we may see in our Lord’s use of the word a summary of the quandry he is in, torn to the point of pain between the agony of Calvary and the misery of leaving his people in their sin.

II.  (:35-36) PREPARATION INVOLVES GRAPPLING WITH GOD’S WILL –

WE SEE JESUS EXPRESSING HIS HEART TO HIS HEAVENLY FATHER

A.  (:35-36a) His Desire to Be Spared Such Suffering, Sin Bearing and Death

  1. Wrestling Alone

And He went a little beyond them,

Thompson: There are some things in life you will have to face alone. No one else can walk with you through some of your valleys. In those moments we need to pray because we need God. He is the One who can take us safely through dark valleys.

  1. Wrestling in Prayer

and fell to the ground, and began to pray

Imperfect tense – repeated prayer

  1. Wrestling in Dread

that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.

the hour – the predestined moment, season, or time for something to happen that God had foreordained

Sproul: Council of Chalcedon declared that Christ was vere homo, vere Deus, that is, “truly man and truly God,” having two natures in one person. . . his two natures are perfectly united in such a way that they are not confused or mixed, divided, or separated . . . each nature retaining its own attributes.  . .  the communication of knowledge from the divine nature to the human nature is one thing.  It is something else to say God communicates a divine attribute.  If Jesus knew tomorrow because the attribute of omniscience was communicated to His human nature, we would expect His human nature to know everything.  But He Himself indicated there were limits to what He knew.  So if we understand that the divine nature communicates information without communicating omniscience, we will not stumble over these passages. . .

They basically admitted that they did not understand how the divine nature and the human nature are co-joined, but they knew how they are not.  There is no confusion, mixture, division, or separation.  They knew that no matter how the divine nature and the human nature are united, each nature retains its own attributes in that perfect union.  The divine nature does not stop being divine.  The human nature does not stop being human.

  1. Wrestling in the Realm of Love and Power and Sovereignty

And He was saying, ‘Abba! Father! All things are possible for Thee;’

term of intimacy and trust

Hiebert: bilingual form of address – Abba is Aramaic, while Father is the Greek equivalent.  Abba was an everyday Jewish family term, used in the intimacy of the family.  Among the Jews, it was seldom used with reference to God and then always with modifiers which denoted the distance between man and God.

  1. Wrestling with Personal Desires

remove this cup from Me;

What is this cup? 

Ps. 75:8; cup of judgment; Is. 51:17; Jer. 25:15-29; Rev. 14:10 cup of holy vengeance

Edwards: Jesus’ prayer is not the result of calm absorption into an all-encompassing divine presence, but an intense struggle with the frightful reality of God’s will and what it means fully to submit to it. . .  The plea of Jesus suggests that he is genuinely tempted to forsake the role of the suffering servant.  Nevertheless, his will to obey the Father is stronger than his desire to serve himself.  Throughout his ministry he has disavowed every exit ramp from the pathway of suffering servanthood, including the temptation to remain with Moses and Elijah in glory (9:2-8).  His will conforms to his knowledge of God’s will, to undergo the “baptism” (10:38), to accept the ”cup” (v. 36), to meet the “hour” (v. 35).

Thompson: This must have been a very difficult thing for God the Father to hear coming from His perfect Son. Don’t you dare arrogantly think you can earn your salvation by your works or religion. Take a good look at this. Why did Jesus Christ have to die? Why did He have to suffer when He did not want to suffer? Why didn’t God the Father get Him out of this? Because this is the only way God can save sinners. There is only one way for you to be saved and it is through the finished work of Jesus Christ.

[Parunak: takes a different approach – prayer for deliverance from the cup in terms of resurrection; not that the cup would never have to be drunk; The question in his mind, as he feels our sin pressing down on him, is whether God in his justice could ever let him rise up again from the dead.]

B.  (:36b) His Acceptance of the Father’s Will

yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt.

Stedman: Hebrews tells us, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning,” (Hebrews 4:15 RSV). If he had never felt that divergence of will, that unwillingness to do what he ought to do because the Father wanted it, he could never have sympathized with me, because in my weakness I am frequently unwilling — and so are you. Jesus did not want to do what the Father wanted him to do. He had to compel himself to go on. And he did it by casting himself anew upon his Father’s enabling strength. That is what his prayers in Gethsemane mean. There is much of mystery here. I can go no further into it than that. But yet I see tremendous help here for those of us who struggle with the will of God.

III.  (:37-41)  UNPREPARED HEARTS SUCCUMB TO THE WEAKNESS OF THE FLESH –

WE SEE JESUS ENDURING THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF WEAKNESS AND LACK OF SUPPORT FROM HIS DISCIPLES

Repeating Series of 3 Parallel Disappointments

A.  (:37-38) Disappointment #1

  1. (:37)  Disappointing Failure

And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter,

               ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?’

Singles out Peter to address him … even though all three were in the came condition; just as Peter typically speaks up as the spokesperson for the disciples;

Again, Mark received most of his material for writing the gospel directly from Peter

Thompson: He calls Peter “Simon,” which is a subtle rebuke because that was his pre-conversion name (1:16, 29, 36; 3:16). He was not acting like a solid rock (Petros), but like his old self.

  1. (:38)  Renewed Charge

Keep watching and praying, that you may not come into temptation;

              the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Edwards: a necessary reminder that trusting and obeying God are not default responses of disciples of Jesus, but ongoing struggles against temptation and weakness.

Hendriksen:spirit” indicates man’s invisible entity viewed in its relation to God . . . “Flesh” is the human nature considered from the aspect of its frailty and needs, both physical and psychical.  This use of “flesh” must not be confused with . . . the human nature regarded as the seat of sinful desire.

Doesn’t say the flesh in inherently sinful here … but prone to temptation to sin

Illustration: Finding strength through prayer:

Stedman: at the great cathedral at Worms, Germany, along the Rhine River. . .  all the powers of Europe were assembled in that place: the Roman emperor, in all his robes and dignity; the papal delegates, the bishops and archbishops of all the Catholic realms of Europe. It was the most imposing array of power possible on the face of the earth of that day, all gathered in that great cathedral against one lone man, Dr. Martin Luther, on trial for his life. The account tells us that the night before, someone overheard Martin Luther praying and wrote down the words of his prayer. It was a long, rambling, disconnected prayer of a soul in deep distress and fear, crying out to God for help, casting himself anew, again and again, upon the strength of God and reminding himself that there is no source of hope or help except God. All his reliance upon the princes of the German state disappeared. Martin Luther cast himself in naked helplessness upon the grace and sustaining strength of God. I am sure that is why, at that very moment, he received strength to stand and say, “Unless someone can show me from these books and from Holy Scripture the error in my thinking, I will not and cannot recant. Here I stand. I can do no other, God help me!” And though he was condemned as an heretic, it was then that the torts of the Reformation began to spread throughout all of Europe. Nothing could stop the shining forth of the light.

B.  (:39-40) Disappointment #2

  1. (:39)  Renewed Prayer

And again He went away and prayed, saying the same words.

  1. (:40)  Repeated Failure

And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.

Hiebert: they could find no appropriate excuse for their failure to watch and pray as commanded. 

Luke explains that their eyes were heavy because of sorrow (Luke 22:45).

C.  (:41) Disappointment #3

  1. Persistent Failure to Watch and Wait

And He came the third time, and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?

  1. Time for Preparation has Expired

It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.’

(:42)  TRANSITION:  PREPARATION IN PRAYER CULMINATED IN A HOLY RESOLVE ON THE PART OF JESUS TO FULLY EMBRACE THE FATHER’S PLAN OF REDEMPTION

Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!

Not fleeing, but advancing towards those coming to meet him; towards Judas who was coming to betray him

Thompson: Judas was obviously sneaking up on Christ with the thugs who would arrest Jesus. Jesus is God; you cannot sneak up on Him.

Life moves on – your level of preparation or lack thereof notwithstanding;

Importance of availing yourself of opportunities for prayer and vigilance since you do not know what lies around the corner

Jesus entered into this next confrontation fully prepared, having spent time alone with His Heavenly Father; the disciples were not adequately prepared and would fail miserably as Jesus had predicted they would

MacArthur: What did He mean by that? They were up on the slope of the Mount of Olives, there was an entourage coming, made up of the leaders, the Sanhedrin of Israel, and assorted other dignitaries and followers of Judaistic religion, there were the temple police who were the ones who policed the crowds in the temple on behalf of the temple operation and then there was a cohort of Romans which could be as many as 600 soldiers. There could have been a thousand people coming up the hill with torches. He sees it. “Look, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.” How do they know where we are? How would they know where we are in this private garden in the middle of the night, how would they know? The betrayer.

CONCLUSION:

Edwards: Nothing in all the Bible compares to Jesus’ agony and anguish in Gethsemane – neither the laments of the Psalms, nor the broken heart of Abraham as he prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen 22:5), nor David’s grief at the death of his son Absalom (2 Sam 18:33).  Luke 22:44 even speaks of Jesus’ “sweat falling to the ground like drops of blood” (so, too, Justin Martyr, Dial. Trypho 103.8).  The suffering of Gethsemane left an indelible imprint on the early church (Heb 5:7). . .