Garden of the King | Matthew 26:36-46
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 26:36–46
Christopher Rich – February 14, 2015
Passion of the King - The Book of Matthew Pt. 5
Wk3: Garden of the King | 26:36-46
Introduction | Parties Over
Good Morning! This week we are continuing the “Passion of the King” We are spending 10 weeks, looking to Jesus on the cross taking our defeat for us including Good Friday, His victorious resurrection on Easter, and the commission he gives his disciples to make disciples and live for him. Dinner is over Communion has been instituted, a hymn has been sung the party is over. Only a few hours stand between him and arrest.
Matthew 26:36-46 | 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.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 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.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 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. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Verse 36-38 | Garden of Grief
Jesus and his disciples have gone into a garden called Gethsemane, meaning “Oil Press” It would have had some olive trees, a grotto, and some places to sit, pray or rest. It was likely owned by a friend of Jesus and his ministry, as Jesus and his disciples have visited their regularly (Jn 18:2). Jesus is about to go through the most horrific day imaginable and before that begins he want to spend time with those closest to him in a familiar and significant place of worship. This is the last stop on Jesus ministry before he willingly to submit to the destructive desires of the High Priest and the Roman authorities. Jesus is unsettled. Jesus isn’t calm at this moment. He confided in Peter, James, and John he is in sorrowful even to death. There is an intensity to his sorrow and grief. Why strong anguish? Pick a reason, He’s been betrayed he’s going to be arrested, Sanhedrin was going to condemn him, Pilate was going to order his execution, he’s going to be beaten bloody, his closest friends are going to scatter, one of his friends is going to deny him 3 times publically, he was going to be mocked and spat upon, and finally nailed to a Roman cross to endure hours long public execution, before having a spear run through his side. Any single one of these would send us in to exceeding sorrow and despair. In fact I believe a lot less can and does send us into a tailspin of frustration, pain, or anxiety. When you come to a troubled place how do you respond?
Jesus answer for this is prayer. Jesus response to what is about to happen to him is to gather in close community for the purposes of prayer. We have to remember Jesus is fully God AND fully man. I believe we miss much of the understanding of the depth of suffering Jesus endured when we think “we’ll he’s God and he was on a mission so I am sure it wasn’t as bad for him as it is for us.” Jesus humanity is on fully display during this last day because his is fully identifying with the people he is here to save. Jesus needs his disciples and these men with him because humanity was made for community. While, Jesus entered the garden with his disciples and spent focused time with a few, we’ll see he is going to become increasingly isolated. RC Sproul described Jesus mood this way “It was grief, a tempest of pain that pierced His soul.”
Why can’t Jesus just be a stoic martyr, like Braveheart? Greeks valued one being calm in the face of death, we as a society want “death with dignity” but there is nothing calm or dignified about death. Death is not natural; it is a consequence of sin entering the world and our lives. Jesus should not be calm in the face of, death it is horrible. Yet, we know many people in our own lives through age or illness, and certainly throughout history, even many of the disciples who died martyrs deaths without the recorded anguish, who by all accounts have faced death calmly, even peacefully. Is Jesus somehow weaker than any of them? It is not just death he is going to face; it is the cup of wrath God pours out on sinners. This is a bigger deal! Jesus is going to become the embodiment of the sin of God’s people and endure all the righteous wrath they deserve and he was going to endure it alone. Jesus is going to experience being forsaken by The Father. God the Son, the second member of the trinity who has always experienced complete perfect community with Father and Holy Spirit, bearing the sin of his people will be whole rejected by God.
Verse 39 | Perfect Petition
Jesus goes a stone’s throw away and falls on his face in prayer. This is the most dramatic posture we see Jesus take in prayer to The Father in Scripture. This is also a solo prayer because Jesus mission is one he could only accomplish alone. Jesus prayer here is worth breaking down:
My Father (Mark says Abba) – Jesus has closeness with God the father that is more than familiar its familial. When Jesus prays to God the Father he doesn’t have to wonder if he is accepted or acceptable. There is an implied intimacy even more than how he instructs us to pray “Our Father” because the relationship is distinct, unique, and exclusive.
If it be possible – Is there another way? Well sure it is entirely possible God in Jesus doesn’t have to save anyone. But in this sequence of prayer we see God’s will is to save His people, we know from the rest of scripture it is because of God’s love for His people; that he provides atonement (The work Jesus did in his life and death to earn our salvation – Grudem) sin and that it required the death of Jesus in our place. God always answers prayer with yes, no, or later. The response to this prayer is clearly “It is not possible” to accomplish the work/mission Jesus was on, avoid the cross, and not have to drink the cup of God’s Wrath. If people were going to be redeemed for God, Jesus would have to die on the cross, and God’s just wrath would have to be absorbed. Are you sure this is necessary? God is omniscient meaning all knowing. This isn’t just he knows all that is, he knows every contingency. God’s never wonders “what if?” He knows. Jesus in his limited humanity asks is there another way? There is not.
Let this cup pass from me – Jesus knows his death and enduring wrath is necessary but he still dreads facing it. There is nothing gained in seeking or desiring suffering, it is perfectly acceptable to pray for difficulty and suffering to be stayed. Like his temptation in the desert to begin his ministry, Jesus again has the option to walk away unscathed but instead continues on His Spirit empowered mission of salvation. Father, I can endure the cross knowing I’ll be with you, but you spare me from the wrath of sin against your people?
Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will – I do not want to endure this but not enduring would be worse because it would be failing to do your will. This is seldom our prayer, we pray “God do my will.” Jesus is entirely and perfectly submitting to the will of God the Father in a way no other man has or will. Jesus tells his disciples in Matt 6 how to pray and clearly says our pray is to be “your will be done.”
There is great suffering Jesus is enduring in the garden. Luke says following this pray Jesus is sent an angel to comfort him and strengthen him and then Jesus praying in agony began to sweat drops of blood. Before the crown of thorns is placed on his head, before one crack of the whip break open his skin Jesus is bleeding for his people under the weight of bearing their sin. Clearly the cup of wrath is not removed, but the prayer is answered with strength to endure it, if not painlessly, faithfully to complete the will of God.
Verse 40-41| Weak Watchmen
After this first prayer, he re-engages the disciples and they’re asleep. It’s now close to 11p or midnight, we can understand these guys might be a little tired, but with what they experienced during dinner, what Jesus has said is still to come, you’d think the guys would be a little amped up. Additionally, during Passover it was actually customary to stay up until the wee hours of the morning talking about God’s redemption of His people. This was likely the earliest the guys had gone to sleep during a Passover during their adult lives. This all while Jesus has told them to “Keep awake and keep watch”, remain vigilant “with me”. Jesus has asked them to be present and participate with him. This is crisis time, not nap time! They have failed.
There is beautiful symmetry in God’s story of redemption. The Bible opens with man in the garden. The man, Adam is told to “keep watch” over the garden. The serpent, the enemy, tells man to disobey God, eating what shouldn’t be eaten, that it is good to taste and there will be no consequences, surely not death (a lie), you’ll be more alive (another lie) man’s answer is clearly “not God’s will but my will be done”, guilty, the disobedience leads to sin, death and destruction infecting every part of creation, this is the fall.
In this second garden, men again are told to “keep watch” by God and again they fail, the second Adam (Jesus) is told plainly by The Father drink an excruciating cup of wrath, it will be terrible beyond all measure, you will be alone and isolated from all you’ve ever known and experienced, while entirely innocent, in your obedience you will become sin, experience a brutal death, leading to the salvation of many and ultimately the restoration of all things. 2 Cor 5:21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We see part of the consequence of Jesus bearing the sin of God’s people through the transition from gospel community to rejected separation. Jesus isolation begins to grow. Sin separates, as Jesus “becomes sin” there is a progressive isolation. First the disciples fail to remain vigilant with him, soon they will scatter after he is arrested. Peter will deny Jesus, not once or twice but thrice. But the ultimate isolation will occur on the cross when Jesus cries out “My God My God why have you forsaken me?” Jesus is alone in our place so we don’t have to be! When we are troubled, when we are sorrowful we can pray to the father with the same access Jesus has because we’re told in (Romans 8:34) Jesus is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us! This is good news! We need good news in the faithfulness of Jesus because we cannot find it in our selves. While the disciples we helpful to God’s plan and purposes in preparing the table they were absolutely no help in Jesus ultimate work of securing salvation of His people. We’re no help when it comes to our salvation, Jesus alone does it all! We fail to be diligent; We sleep on Jesus all the time!
But Jesus never fails to watch over us. Even in our failure, Jesus is even exceedingly gracious to his people. Failure is not defeat. Jesus give a renewed call to vigilance. There is no “Oh I see how it is. You can’t last an hour on your own, following a simple instruction during an intense time of trial, you’re out of the kingdom.” NO! He reiterates the command. Reminds the purpose, there is a trail ahead I want you to be prepared for it. He then points them to the truth about the weakness of the flesh in relation to how. Romans 7 talks about the tension in our deep desires to follow Jesus; and the frailty, the inability to carry out what God has called us to do. We can desire even be willing to follow Jesus, but we are incredibly weak willed. If Jesus, fully God fully man, needed a time of prayer, communion with the Father, strength from the Holy Spirit how much more do we? Yet we attempt to labor under our own strength all the time and wonder why we fail or simply fall. Our life as disciple is not a growing individual strength leading to independence but in growing reliance and dependence on the Holy Spirit of God because of our weakness.
2 Cor 12:9 But he said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Verse 42-44 | Pray, Repeat
Jesus goes again to pray. Jesus second prayer is distinct from the first prayer. Where previously he has asked “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” here he simply says “If it cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” God’s answer to Jesus has been “the cup of wrath cannot be stayed for my people unless it is drank by their savior.” Jesus seems to understand this and his prayer has now been adjusted accordingly, to a simply recognition that God’s will must prevail even through the most unwelcome circumstances. Jesus’ prayer is one of perfect obedience and submission. There is a great and growing trust in God’s will as Jesus petitions changes from “change my circumstances to be more personally favorable” to “change my heart to be more obediently faithful to your will.” Jesus had to pray about this issue more than once. Again this should be a great encouragement that our Lord found it necessary to come to God repeatedly about the same issue, we should be seeking God’s will regularly in prayer, knowing prayer shapes the hearts of those earnestly seeking God’s will. While Jesus becomes more and more resolute thorough prayer, the disciples have become exceedingly less faithful through neglect and sloth. Yet Jesus, will go and die for them despite their faithlessness. Failures need Jesus perfect obedience in their place.
Verse 45- 46| Resistance, Resolution, Rise
Jesus understandable resistance absorbing the wrath of God is brought to The Father in prayer. By strengthening and comfort from the Holy Spirit, Jesus is victorious over the temptation to avoid personal pain at the expense of corporate gain. Jesus returns to engage with his disciples, who have overwhelmingly failed him, says “it’s time to go”. Jesus remained awake in vigilant in their place, but for the disciples a time of true rest and sleep will have to come later. The mission is now. Let us be going.
In how Jesus engages with this trial is a model for us. His sorrow leads him to not to flee or give up but to prayer. He prays and prays and as he does sorrow transitions to steadfastness. There is a resolution to Jesus in the face of a torrent of individual suffering and destruction. This is what I have been called to do, now it is time to do it. Jesus doesn’t flee, Jesus presses in and meet the situation. Jesus is humble, but he is not weak. He is resolute in fulfilling his duty for us. Because Jesus has been perfectly resolute, suffered isolation, been forsaken in our place, we by His power we can now rise, together as a Spirit empowered Gospel community and engage with the mission God has for us individual corporately resting in God’s will for us to Trust Jesus!