Matthew 26:36-46; Mark
14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1
The death of Jesus Christ
was at the center of the perfect will of God, and
clearly nothing has been done to Jesus outside of
God's eternal purpose.
Charles H. Spurgeon said,
"Here we come to the Holy of Holies of our Lord's
life on earth. This is a mystery like that which
Moses saw when the bush burned with fire, and was
not consumed." We come to this section with hushed
worship on our knees.
THE SUFFERING OF JESUS
It is evident from the
Gospels that Jesus often went to the garden called
Gethsemane on the slopes of Mount Olives when He was
in Jerusalem. It was private property and the owner
was probably a friend or follower of Jesus. Since
Jesus and the disciples frequented the location it
was easy therefore for Judas to lead the enemy to
the location to capture Jesus. Luke tells us Jesus
"proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives;
and the disciples also followed Him" (Luke 22:39).
Probably during the past three years Gethsemane had
provided a quiet place for Jesus to pray, teach,
rest and sleep. He also told them, "Pray that you
may not enter into temptation" (v. 40).
Jesus and His disciples
left the upper room and entered the eastern gate,
located north of the Temple, and then proceeded
along the road that cross the winter-torrent or
"ravine of the Kedron" (John 18:1). The stream of
water flows only during the heavy winter rainy
The importance of this
prayer to the Father is given in an hour of intense
suffering. Matthew writes, "Then Jesus came with
them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His
disciples, 'Sit here while I go over there and
pray'" (Matthew 26:36).
Jesus was in deep
anguish (vv. 37-38).
At or near the entrance
to the olive grove Jesus left the eight disciples
and took with Him Peter, James and John and went
further into the garden. Hendriksen observes, "Is it
not remarkable that on two occasions Jesus bestowed
this honor not only on James and John but also on
Peter when this very disciple had just sinned
grievously against the Master by sharply
contradicting him? See 16:22; cf. 17:1; and 26:33,
35; cf. 26:37. This is one more indication of the
tenderness and forgiving love of the Savior"
(Matthew, p. 916).
"And He took with Him
Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be
grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, 'My
soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death;
remain here and keep watch with Me'" (Matthew
26:37-38). Mark says, Jesus "began to be very
distressed and troubled. . . My soul is deeply
grieved to the point of death . . ." (Mark
All of a sudden the cold
flood on grief broke over Him. "Increasingly, with
every step forward, he became 'sorrowful,' full of
sorrow, 'sore amazed,' and 'desolate'" (Eldersheim).
Jesus was "grieved" and in "great distressed."
Phillips paraphrases it "to be in terrible distress
and misery." Williams translates Jesus "began to
give way to his grief and distress of heart."
Cranfield notes the Jesus
is in a state of "being in the grip of a shuddering
horror in the face of the dreadful prospect before
Him." He was "sorely troubled, to be in anguish"
(Taylor). Hendriksen translates "sorrow and
anguish." He was surrounded with sorrow. Cassirer
translates, "a feeling of great distress and
desolation began to fill his mind."
Jesus was very sorrowful
to the point of death. The pain is something that
goes very deeply into the soul. Lupeo according to
J. B. Lightfoot "describes the confused, restless,
half-distracted state, which is produced by physical
derangement, or by mental distress, as grief, shame,
disappointment, etc." It signifies great distress of
spirit. Here we see the humanity of Jesus. "My heart
is heavy to the point of death." "It is anguish that
threatens life itself," says Hill.
"Feelings of great
distress and desolation began to fill His mind." The
word ademoneo means to be in anxiety,
distressed, troubled. Jesus was "pressed down and
overwhelmed with great anguish," says Albert Barnes.
Lenski says, He was "filled with uneasiness and
dread." It implies "bewilderment" (Plummer).
Lightfoot says, the word
"distressed" "describes the confused, restless,
half-distracted state produced by physical
derangement, or by mental distress, as grief, shame,
disappointment, etc." Jesus was filled with anxiety,
distress, troubled. The word in the papyri meant
"excessively concerned, bewilderment."
Jesus had raw, open
feelings just like any human being going through
incredible emotional pain. "My soul" is the center
of the inner life of a person in the various aspects
of feelings, emotions, volitions, thoughts. In
modern English we call it the "heart." "My soul is
deeply grieved, to the point of death . . ." (v.
38). Albert Barnes expressed it this way: "My
sorrows are so great that I am ready to die." Or you
could say, "I am almost at the point of dying from
sorrow" (Interpreters' Bible). It denotes
extreme sorrow and agony.
What was this "sorrow and
anguish" of heart?
Many suggestions have
been made by Bible scholars.
Was it the knowledge that
Judas would betray Him in a short time?
Was it the fact that Peter and the disciples would
flee His presence when He needed them most?
Was it the Jewish religious leaders would condemn
Him to death?
Was it the coming appearance before the Roman
Was it the coming ridicule of the Roman soldiers at
Was it the crucifixion by the Roman soldiers
Was it the overwhelming sense of being forsaken by
God the Father?
Was it the fact that Jesus was the innocent sufferer
bearing the punishment of guilt and shame of every
sinner down through history?
Was it the fact that Jesus is the propitiation, the
atoning sacrifice God provided to turn away the
wrath of God from the believing sinner?
The issue at hand is the
kind of death Jesus would die. We are ushered into a
substitutionary death—One dying for another. It is
the sinless dying for the guilty sinner. "It was the
kind of death that He would die that brought the
anguish," declares Morris.
Jesus is our propitiation
in the full sense of the word. What Jesus was
dreading was the full furry of the wrath of a holy
and righteous God against Him! Jesus would bear the
full wrath of God against the sinner and in doing so
turn away the wrath of God from the believer. Jesus
bore the consequences of our sins. He stood under
the wrath of God in our stead on our behalf. God
turned the wrath of God that was intended for us
because we are guilty sinners and placed it all
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah
foretold of this coming event. "But the Lord was
pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He
would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will
see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the
good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see
it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous
One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will
bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:10-11).
No one can understand the
enormity of the weight that Jesus bore in His soul.
Matthew's emphasis is more than just coming to grips
with death. This grief and distress, being troubled
to the point of death, along with Jesus' desire for
His disciples to be with Him, must be connected with
the fact that He will die the death of a sinner. It
was the kind of death Jesus would die that made this
experience so horrible. "The wages of sin is death"
(Rom. 6:23a) and Jesus was dying that death for the
sinner. "The soul that sins will surely die"
(Ezek.18:4), and Jesus was dying in the place of the
Alfred Eldersheim writes,
"It was the Unfallen man dying; it was He, Who had
no experience of it, tasting Death, and that not for
Himself but for every man, emptying the cup to its
bitter dregs. It was the Christ undergoing Death by
man and for man; the Incarnate God, the God-Man,
submitting Himself vicariously to the deepest
humiliation, and paying the utmost penalty:
Death—all Death. . . . His going into Death was His
final conflict with Satan for man, and on his
behalf. By submitting to it He took away the power
of Death; He disarmed Death by burying his shaft in
His own heart. And beyond this lies the deep,
unutterable mystery of Christ bearing the penalty
due to our sin, bearing our death, bearing the
penalty of the broken Law, the accumulate guilt of
humanity, and the holy wrath of the Righteous Judge
upon them" (The Life and Times of Jesus the
Messiah, vol. 2, p. 539).
Jesus would be
forsaken of God
The apostle Paul tells us
in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "Him [Jesus Christ] who knew
no sin He [God the Father] made sin for us." Jesus
would experience the death that is due sinners.
Matthew tells us, "About the ninth hour Jesus cried
out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama
abachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why have You
forsaken Me?'" (Matthew 27:46).
Presence (v. 39).
The overwhelming agony of
sorrow until death intensifies continually moment by
moment. He cast Himself face down to the ground. He
has an intimate, warm relationship with "My Father."
Jesus "went a little beyond them, and fell on His
face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it is
possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I
will, but as You will.' And He came to the disciples
and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, 'So, you
men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep
watching and praying that you may not enter into
temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is
weak.' He went away again a second time and prayed,
saying, 'My Father, if this cannot pass away unless
I drink it, Your will be done.' Again He came and
found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And
He left them again, and went away and prayed a third
time, saying the same thing once more." (Matthew
Mark 14:36 uses, "Abba
Father" with the emphasis on intimacy of a child and
his father. It is like the way your child speaks
when he calls you daddy. Trust is a childlike trust
in God the Father. No one in Jewish history dared
speak to God the Father with these words. However,
Jesus spoke to His Father in a childlike, trustful,
intimate loving way as a child to his father.
THE PETITION OF JESUS
"If possible" does not
mean Jesus is pressing for anything outside of the
Father's will. The eternal truth is it was
impossible because our eternal redemption depended
upon Christ going to the cross and dying the death
of the sinner. It was for this very hour that Jesus
was born. Jesus was born to die so we might be born
to live eternally.
This is the worst
temptation Jesus had ever faced. Will He do what the
Father wants Him to do the Father's way, and not His
own way? His way of bringing redemption must be the
This is also our dilemma.
We must do God's will the way God would have us to
"Let this cup pass
The "cup" (poterion)
is Old Testament symbolism of the wrath of God (Psa.
11:6; Isa. 51:17; Eze. 23:33). It is figurative of
undergoing a violent death. Sacrifices in the Old
Testament were violent deaths. The wages of sin is
death. It is a violent death.
Luke gives more
information as Jesus prayed, "Father, if You art
willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will,
but Your be done." "Now an angel from heaven
appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in
agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat
became like drops of blood, falling down upon the
ground" (Luke 22:42-44). In Jesus' extreme agony of
soul almost unto death an angel appeared as in the
temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of His
ministry to strengthen and support Him (Matt. 4:11).
Sweat mingled with blood
fell in great drops on the ground. The great drops
of blood (thrombos) were thick clots. The
word is used in medical language for a clot of
coagulated blood. Such was the sorrow, grief and
agony of Jesus.
Christ was made sin and a
curse for us. The weight of the sin of the world is
in that cup. Our guilt imputed to Jesus. Like the
hands of the priest being laid on the scrape goat.
Jesus death was a
horrible death because the wrath of God was upon
Him. It is not human fate, but God's holy judgment
upon sin. Jesus was going to the cross to pay the
penalty of our sin debt. Multiply that times every
human being who has ever lived upon the earth.
C. E. B. Cranfield notes,
"The metaphorical use of cup refers predominantly to
God's punishment of human sin. The cup Jesus shrinks
from is the cup of God's wrath against sin." It is
the horror of one who lives by God as being cast
from Him at the judgment which delivers the Holy One
to the power of sin.
Jesus came to save His
people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). "For while we
were still helpless, at the right time Christ died
for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates His own
love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
Not only was Jesus dying
a physical death, but He was also dying a spiritual
death which is separation of the soul from God. The
very One who had enjoyed perfect intimacy through
eternity past was in a few hours enduring the agony
of a broken intimate fellowship in the Trinity. The
physical death that Christ endured was the result of
J. Dwight Pentecost
writes: "When Adam transgressed the command of God,
he instantly died spiritually. He was separated from
God. Adam began to die physically even though a long
period of time passed before death actually took him
away. Adam's penalty for sin was death. This
included both physical and spiritual death. Men are
born into the world spiritually dead and therefore
are subject to physical death. If Christ was to
provide salvation for sinners, He had to partake of
death on their behalf (Heb. 2:9). When He went to
the cross, He vicariously bore both aspects of death
for sinners. He endured spiritual death on the
cross, that is, the separation of His soul from the
Father. The evidence that He bore spiritual death is
seen in His cry, 'My God, My god, why have you
forsaken me?' (Matt. 27:45). Christ also experienced
physical death (Matt. 27:50; John 19:33). Thus we
see that Christ died both spiritually and physically
because He died as the sinner's substitute. The
penalty that God had intended for sinners fell on
God's own Son. The penalty for sin is eternal
separation from God. This eternal separation is
called 'the second death' (Rev. 20:14). God would
have been just if He had demanded that Christ, who
tasted death for every man, be eternally separated
from Himself. Christ prayed that God might accept
His death as a full payment of the sin of sinners
and bring Him out of death and restore Him to life
again. Thus the prayer should be understood to be a
prayer for restoration to physical life by
resurrection, and a restoration to full fellowship
with His Father out of the spiritual death into
which he would enter. The evidence that God answered
Christ's prayer is seen, first, in the fact that
Christ was raised from the dead on the third day and
given a glorified body. Second, it is seen in the
fact that on the fortieth day He ascended to the
Father to be seated at His right hand in glory" (The
Words and Works of Jesus Christ, Grand Rapids:
Zondervan, 1981, pp. 455-56).
The will of the
Father is Jesus' chief concern.
The will of the Father
was always Jesus' chief concern throughout His life.
The "cup" was not taken away, but Jesus was given
strength to take it and drink it until it was empty.
"My Father, if it is
possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I
will, but as You will" (v. 39). "Not as I will, but
as You will."
Finding His disciples
sleeping he warns them "Keep watching and praying,
that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit
is willing, but the flesh is weak" (v. 41). And then
He goes back and prays a second time "Thy will be
done" (v. 42). "Thy will be done."
Matthew tells us Jesus
finds them sleeping again and leaves them alone and
prayed a third time, "You will be done" (v. 44).
Now in His death He wants
the Father's perfect will. Jesus chose total
submission to the Father's will. "Being found in
appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming
obedient to the point of death, even death on a
cross" (Philippians 2:8). "No one has taken it [my
life] away from Me, but I lay it down on My own
initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I
have authority to take it up again. This commandment
I received from My Father" (John 10:18).
Is this the motto of your
life as a believer? "Not my will, but as You will."
Not my will, but Your will be done in every aspect
of my life.
Look at the reproach in
the contrast in verse 44. Jesus is pleading in
prayer that the Father's will be done, and Jesus
finds them sleeping. The question "Are you still
sleeping" is haunting.
THE PERSONAL PAIN OF
"This night seems to have
been 'the power of darkness,' when left to God,
Christ had to meet by Himself the whole assault of
hell, and to conquer in His own strength as Man's
substitute and Representative. . . . In the night
the fierce wind of hell was allowed to sweep
unbroken over the Savior, and even to expend it's
furry upon those that stood behind in His Shelter. .
. . In that night of Christ's Agony and loneliness,
of the utmost conflict between Christ and Satan,
this seems almost a necessary element" (vol. 2, p.
Jesus suffered for
our sin debt.
The highest intelligence
of man is incapable of understanding what Jesus
meant by the "cup." We are incapable of
understanding the meaning of His suffering. Jesus
said the Son of Man came "to serve and to give His
life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). He paid the
price for a slave who is then set free by the one
who bought him. Jesus gave His own life as the price
of freedom for the slaves of sin. The holy demands
of a righteous God have been fully met in the
suffering of Christ, and based upon that sacrifice
He sets the believing sinner free. All of God's
righteous demands are satisfied by His suffering.
God can now be both just and the justifier of the
"Jesus submitted Himself
entirely to the will of His Father. . . . To the
intense suffering, experienced in Christ's human
nature, was given infinite value by means of the
union of this human to the divine nature, within the
second person of the Trinity. Therefore His
suffering, from first to last, was all-sufficient,
that is, sufficient for the sin of the whole world"
(Hendriksen, Matthew, p. 918).
The betrayal of
"Then He came to the
disciples and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping
and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son
of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays
Me is at hand!'" (Matthew 26:45-46). John Broadus
suggests that Judas probably had gone to the house
where the supper was eater, and did not find Jesus
there, but knew that Jesus frequented the Garden.
While Jesus was yet speaking Judas, one of the
twelve, came up and betrayed Him with a kiss. A. T.
Robertson says, "The kiss was a common mode of
greeting and Judas chose that sign and actually
kissed him fervently" (Word Pictures in the New
Testament, vol. 1, p. 215). It is a strong word
meaning "to kiss fervently." The normal word for a
kiss is philein. However, the word used here
is kataphilein which means to kiss repeatedly
and fervently (William Barclay, Matthew, vol.
2, p. 335). The use of the stronger word can hardly
be missed without the significance. W. E. Vine says
this kiss was "more demonstrative than the simple
kiss of salutation." "The compound indicates a
prolonged kissing designed to give the crowd a
chance to see the one to be seized," notes
Therefore, they laid
hands on Him in a hostile sense. "The chief priests
and Pharisees had furnished Judas a band of soldiers
from the garrison in Antonia (John 18:3) and the
temple police (Luke 22:52) with swords (knives) and
staves (clubs) with a hired rabble who had lanterns
also (John 18:3) in spite of the full moon. Judas
was taking no chances of failure for he well knew
the strange power of Jesus" (Robertson, pp. 214-15).
They seized Jesus and led Him away. The elaborate
kiss emphasizes the hypocrisy of Judas. As Barclay
observes this is the "the most terrible kiss in
Barclay also notes
another curious thing in that "from the moment of
the kiss Judas vanishes from the scene in the
garden, not to reappear until he is bent on suicide.
He does not even appear as a witness at the trial of
The weakness of the
The true humanity of
Jesus comes out in this passage. Jesus was left
alone. He was not suicidal. He wanted and needed
their encouragement and support. But He did not
receive any help from men, even the three He
selected to be in the inner group. Jesus wanted
human sympathy and support from those He loved.
Jesus had invested three years in their lives
teaching them. Jesus fought the battle all alone
only because the Body did not fully function. After
praying the first time Jesus "found them sleeping"
(v. 40), and then in verse 43 "He came back and
found them sleeping" and finally v. 45, "Are you
still sleeping and taking your rest?" Let's be
watchful that He does not find us sleeping as well.
"Arise, let us be going" (v. 46) is an imperative (egeiro).
"Get up! Let us be going."
Jesus "learned obedience
from the things He suffered" (Heb. 55:8). It was
submission to the Father's will. Salvation of the
world was at risk in the garden. Neither do we
understand the human nor the divine temptations.
God's eternal purpose was fulfilled in Jesus'
obedience to the will of God.
"So they all forsook Him
and fled," writes Eldersheim. "But there was one
there who joined not in the flight, but remained, a
deeply interested onlooker. When the soldiers had
come to seek Jesus in the Upper Chamber of his home,
Mark, roused from sleep, had hastily cast about him
the loose lien garment or wrapper that lay by his
bedside, and followed the armed band to see what
would come of it. He now lingered in the rear, and
followed as they led away Jesus, never imagining
that they would attempt to lay hold on him, since he
had not been with the disciples nor yet in the
Garden. But they, perhaps the Jewish servants of the
High Priest, had noticed him. They attempted to lay
hold on him, when, disengaging himself from their
grasp, he left his upper garment in their hands, and
fled" (vol. 2, pp. 544-545).
AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
1. Even for
true disciples there is great weakness and they must
watch and pray. They were sleeping when they should
have been praying. Martin Luther was, "When our Lord
and Master, Jesus Christ, said 'repent,' He meant
that the entire life of believers should be one of
repentance." In our daily life how many times in our
attitudes, actions, and thoughts do we deny Him? "A
willing spirit is not enough; it must be
supplemented by prevailing prayer" (Morris).
2. Every person has
his private Gethsemane where he learns to say, "Thy
will be done." "Not my will, Your will be done." You
have to keep coming back to the desire of the heart
and willingly say, "Your will only, Lord Jesus."
3. Jesus Christ is our
propitiation. He bore the wrath of God to set us
free to live His life. Jesus drank the "cup" until
it was empty so we would never have to drink it. The
atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ turned the wrath
of God away from us and upon Himself. He died in our
place on the cross. Now He lives His life in and
through us to His glory.
4. Like the disciples we
reveal human weaknesses under stress in contrast
with Christ's divine strength. The self-sufficient
disciples fled. The all-sufficient Savior remained
steadfast because He abided in His Father. If we are
to be faithful to Him we must receive from Him
strength that comes from abiding in Him.
26:36-46 Jesus Prayer Thy Will Be Done
Series: Life of