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Mark 14:32-52: Lessons from Gethsemane Print E-mail
Sunday, 02 December 2007

The setting of our text this morning is the garden of Gethsemane.  Commentators debate about exactly where and what the term ĎGethsemaneí refers to (since the term could be translated Ďoil pressí) 1.   Yet, most seem to agree that it was located on the Mount of Olives, just across the Kidron valley from Jerusalem.  When I went to Israel a few years ago, we were able to visit the traditional site of Gethsemane.  Of course, the amazing thing about all this is not the garden itself, but what takes place there.  It is there that Jesus spends His final moments with the disciples (before they leave Him).  It is there that Jesus wrestles with what lies ahead.  It is there that Judas, one of the twelve, betrays the Savior with a kiss.  Thus, for a few brief moments, God, God the Son, is in Gethsemane.  He will willingly submit to the Fatherís will, watch all those close to Him abandon Him, and give Himself over to the Jewish leaders.

As we consider together Godís time spent in Gethsemane, I want to focus our attention on two sets of lessons.  First, I want to look at what we can learn about Jesus (and the cross) from Gethsemane.  What do the events here teach us about our Savior and His death at Calvary?  Second, I want to look at what we can learn about following Jesus in Gethsemane.  As those who are trying to follow Christ in 2007, what do the events here teach us about following Him?  As we have said before, Mark is telling us in his Gospel about Jesus and what it means to follow Him.  This morning I want to examine what he is telling us about these topics in Gethsemane.

Lessons about Jesus (and the cross) from Gethsemane

First, Jesus chose to submit to the Fatherís will in spite of the difficulties.  Look at verses 32-35.  We see in these verses the true humanity of Jesus.  When we say that Jesus was human, we do not mean that He was just partly human.  No, He was really, truly human.  He got hungry and tired.  His feet got sore from walking.  He was happy and sad.  In these verses, we are told that he was greatly distressed and troubled.  He tells the disciples: My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.  Mark tells us that He prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass.  What does all this tell us about Jesus?  Is He weak?  Is He doubting the Fatherís plan?  Why is He so troubled?  I think we are seeing the true humanity of Jesus and the true cost of our redemption. 

Do not make the mistake of seeing Jesusí humanity swallowed up by His divinity.  No, He was completely both.  His deity did not make the cross easier.  It did not make the nails in His hands and feet hurt any less.  No, the suffering was real.  It was physical and awful.  Not only this, but being the Son of God, He knew the plan.  He knew that our redemption did not simply require physical suffering, as bad as that would be.  No, it would involve Him bearing the very wrath of His Father for our sins.  It would involve Him being forsaken by the Father (15:34).  He would face all of this as truly human and truly divine.  If you want to know how difficult the suffering would be, just look at Jesus in the garden and His struggle there.

Yet, for all of the difficulties that were involved, Jesus knew it was the only way to fulfill the plan of the Father.  He submits Himself fully to that plan in verse 36.  Look at that verse with me.  Jesus knew just how awful the next day would be, but He was willing to submit to the Fatherís plan and drink down the cup of His wrath.  Do not miss the implications of this verse.  Our sin was so great and so heinous that there was no other way for a Holy God to save us other than to crush His only Son under the weight of the wrath that we deserved.  This was the only way that God the Father might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (see Romans 3:26).  We often make two errors in our application and understanding of these truths. 

First, as we have already mentioned, we fail to see just how wicked sin is by making the cross easy for Jesus.  This, of course, will lead us to rush headlong into more rebellion and disobedience.  Second, we make the seemingly opposite mistake of thinking that our sin is so great that even Jesusí death on the cross could not cover it.  The problem with that is that it makes the cross futile and the Father a tyrant for allowing His Son to face such suffering.  Jesusí action and prayer here in Gethsemane will not allow for either of those errors.  Our sin is great and it demanded the horrific sacrifice of our Savior.  Yet, no sin of ours is greater than His sacrifice.

Second, Jesus faced the cross alone.  Look at verses 43-46.  Jesus had already told His disciples that He would be betrayed by one of them (14:18-20).  His prediction is fulfilled in these verses when Judas leads the representatives from the Jewish leaders to Jesus.  Mark continues to highlight just how wicked this act was by noting again that Judas was one of the twelve.  One of Jesusí own followers gave Him up.  Of course, the detail of the kiss also highlights just how wicked this whole situation was.  Yet, Jesus did not only predict that He would be betrayed by one of the disciples, He also said that they all would fall away (14:27).  This is fulfilled in verse 50.  After Jesus makes it clear that He will not resist arrest by resorting to violence, Mark tells us that they all left him and fled.  As if that were not enough, Mark also adds the story of the young man who was so intent on getting away that he left without his clothes.  (Some see this as Mark himself, but this cannot be stated decisively).  Thus, those who came to Gethsemane with Jesus do no leave with him.  Apart from His enemies, He leaves to face the coming suffering alone.

Lessons about following Jesus from Gethsemane

First, Jesusí followers must embrace suffering if they are to follow Him.  Jesusí prayer of submission to the will of the Father is a prayer that all of His followers must pray.  If you want to do your own thing, or the easy thing, or the popular thing, or the fun thing, more than you want to submit to the will of the Father, then you should not follow Christ.  This is what He meant when He told His disciples that they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him.  Jesus was the man of sorrows who faced terrible suffering in His life on the earth.  By His grace, we are not called to suffer under the Fatherís wrath at the cross, but this does not mean that we are not called to suffer.  Jesus has been very clear about that and the writers of the New Testament will be as well. 

Although we may not face a literal cross, we very well may face the abandonment of friends, family, and loved ones.  We may experience the bitterness of betrayal and the agony of desertion.  Yet, in this we face nothing that Christ has not already faced Himself.  He knows what it is like to be misunderstood, to be troubled, and to be alone.  We might even face the criticism of the Ďreligious elite.í  They might criticize our commitment, our loyalty, our doctrine, our practice, our results.  Yet, even so, this will not be new.  Jesus faced this and worse at the hands of the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.  When we are called to face such suffering, may we follow hard after the One who has gone before us.

Second, Jesusí followers must watch and pray against the weakness of our flesh.  Look at verses 37-42.  Jesus is agonizing in prayer and what are the disciples doing?  They are struggling to stay awake.  How could they do this at such an hour?  Jesus gives us at least one answer: the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.  Man, I have experienced the truth of these words in my life.  I want to follow, I want to be obedient, I want to be faithful, I want to stay awake.  My spirit is willing, but my flesh is so weak.  I give up, I disobey, I doubt, I fall asleep.  Jesusí words to Peter are as appropriate now as they were then.  Sometimes, the weakness of my flesh leads me to take matters into my own hands.  I get anxious and testy and decide that it is better to do something than nothing.  I get distracted about what the battle is really about and find myself waving my sword at the ears of my perceived enemy. 

How do we avoid the error of giving in to the weakness of our flesh?  We watch and pray.  We stay alert.  We remember that the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (see Ephesians 6:12).  The battle against the flesh is real, but it is not simply physical.  Jesus tells the disciples to watch and pray that they might avoid temptation.  This same warning comes to us today.  We must not grow weary in our following hard after Jesus no matter how hard it gets or how much our flesh fights against us.  Paul develops this theme even more in Romans 7.  He concludes with these words: Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (verses 24-25).  The battle is long and hard, but we are promised victory through the work of Christ. 

Jesusí actions in Gethsemane tell us much about our glorious Savior and our glorious salvation.  The truth of the matter is simple: if we are going to follow after Him, then we must be willing to find ourselves flat on our face in Gethsemane pouring out our souls to the Father.  The suffering that we are called to face will not be easy.  The path that we tread is narrow and thorny.  Yet, by His grace and mercy, may we pray with Jesus: not my will, but yours be done.  It really does come down to that.  Whose will are you going to submit to?  One may to lead you to ease and popularity and comfort on the earth, but it will end in the torment of Hell.  The other will lead to suffering and betrayal and desertion here, but it will end in the glory of Heaven.  How do we walk that way?  By throwing off all trust in ourselves, repenting of our sin and rebellion, and placing all of our faith and trust in the finished work of Christ at Calvary. 

Somebody has to drink the cup of Godís wrath for our sin and there are only two options.  Either we follow the first path and drink it ourselves in Hell, or we follow Christ and trust that He drank it for us at Calvary.  I beg you and plead with you: repent of your sins and believe in Christ today.  O Lord, grant us the grace and the faith to submit to your will as Jesus did in Gethsemane.  Amen.

1 R. T. France, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmanís Publishing Company, 2002), p. 581.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 13 December 2007 )

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