We are about to enter the garden with Jesus and the disciples on the night Judas Iscariot betrayed Him, thanks to Mark and the other gospel writers who take us there through their written accounts of this event. If you somehow missed seeing the humanity of Christ throughout this book so far, you won’t be able to do so in the garden.
In the garden of Gethsemane, we see the humanity of Jesus Christ displayed in jaw-dropping transparency. Jesus is shown to be anything but above temptation. “Far from sailing serenely through His trials like some superior being unconcerned with this world, He is almost dead with distress” (Moule gospel of Mark, pg. 117).
It appears illogical to assume that the early church would have generated a story like this one and then included it in the “written Word” if not for the fact that it is true. Just as the rest of scripture is given to us with “astonishing fidelity,” so is this account of what happened in the garden. How can we possibly fathom what that means, much less what it looks like, without such deliberate honesty from the gospel writers?
Did I grab your interest yet? Let’s dig in!
32 They *came to a place named [a]Gethsemane; and He *said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He *took with Him Peter, [b]James, and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and [c]keep watch.” 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began praying that if it were possible, the hour might [d]pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! [e]Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”
FOCUS ONE: Jesus and the disciples in Gethsemane 32-42
Gethsemane “*was a garden located somewhere on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives, in which there were olive trees and olive presses. It was one of Jesus’ favorite spots (Luke 22:39; John 18:2).” It was here where He faced one of His most crucial tests. He enters the garden with the remaining eleven disciples (remember Judas Iscariot left them to betray Jesus to the Chief priest). At some point and some distance into the garden, He tells eight of them to sit at the spot they are at, and He takes Peter, James, and John with Him.
I cannot say with absolute certainty why He took these men with Him further into the garden, as He is facing sorrow so gripping to His soul. Most people would try to be alone during a grievous time like this, but not our Lord. Perhaps, as MacArthur opines, “Jesus likely had them accompany Him into the garden because they were the leaders of the twelve and had to learn an important lesson to pass on to the others.” Or, as one commentator puts it, “He must have felt the need for their presence in this time of crisis.” Whatever the reasoning, He takes these three men with Him a little farther into the garden.
As they walk, Jesus expresses His feelings to them. Men take note of this. It is not weak, unmanly, or abnormal to share our “feelings” with those we trust. Jesus tells them. “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death.” Was He exaggerating for effect? Doubtful. In these very expressive words, Jesus described an extremely acute emotion. A mix of Fear, uncertainty, and anxiety “that is nowhere else portrayed in such vivid terms as here.”
What He is going through at this time is directly related to what He is about to experience for the world’s redemption. In other words, His sorrow was so severe that it threatened to cause His death as He spoke to them! Don’t just read over that and move on without some pause.
After expressing His feelings, He tells these three men to remain there, and He goes a little further on His own into the garden (v. 35). He tells them to “remain here and keep watch.” A little later, He tells them to “keep watching and praying.” His words were not suggestions; instead, they were imperatives (commands) in the original language (Both verbs in the aorist tense, imperative mood, and active voice). Perhaps He wanted them to stay awake and keep watch for those He knew would be coming to seize Him. At this point in the account from Mark, we get an intimate view of the sorrow of Jesus as well as a “fly on the wall” hearing of His prayers to the Father!
His prayer begins with Him asking His Father if it were possible to let the cup pass from Him (v. 36). Jesus knew that it was within the Father’s power and omniscience to fulfill His redemptive will in any other way, an “alternate plan of redemption.” And, He also knew that whether such an alternate plan was according to His will, He would be obedient, even to death, on a cruel cross.
Again we find much practical application for us in these verses. Jesus knew what the Father’s will was and was deeply burdened by it. So much so that He asks if there could be any other way to fulfill it. He took His burdens over God’s revealed will to Him before His Father in prayer. It is ok for us to bring our burdens before our Heavenly Father. He wants to hear from us (1 Peter 5:7). But just like Jesus (the other side of the coin, if you will), we must be willing to move forward in obedience to His revealed will when it is clear that His divine will has not changed! His will MUST always supersede our own (v.36).
37 “And He *came and *found them sleeping, and *said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not [a]keep watch for one hour? 38 [b]Keep watching and praying, so that you will not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again He went away and prayed, saying the same [c]words. 40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to say in reply to Him. 41 And He *came the third time, and *said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? That is enough. The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being [d]betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let’s go; behold, the one who is betraying Me is near!”
FOCUS TWO: The importance of prayer
“Keep watching and praying” are words that are meant for the reader. How easy it this for you and I to become complacent, apathetic, and indifferent in our Christian walk. Yes, they were tired; they had a busy couple of days before they entered the garden with Jesus, but as we read in this portion of scripture, Jesus still commanded them to “keep watch” and to “pray.” Constancy and vigilance were required at this time as prophecy was about to be fulfilled when the betrayer would soon be upon them.
We witness a contrast in Mark’s count between Jesus and Peter, James, and John.
Jesus: Peter, James, and John
Tired but prayed. Tired and slept
Deeply grieved over coming events Indifferent to coming events
Discerning Lacked discernment
Relied on the Father Self-confident
Sought strength from His Father. Spiritually unprepared
Willing to do the Father’s will Spirit willing, but the flesh was weak
We are so much like these men that we would do well in withholding judgment against them. They did not understand that spiritual victory only comes to those alert in prayer, depending on God, and confident in His omnipotence and omniscience in all things. We would do well to learn this lesson.
Jesus was “deeply grieved to the point of death” (v. 34). He was about to endure “the fury of God over sin.” Not for His sins, He had none, but for the sins of the world (John 3:16). But even though He carried this heavy burden, such sorrow beyond our comprehension, His resolve to be obedient to His Father and do His will was absolute! “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (v. 36).
But, as seen above in the comparison I listed, those three men couldn’t stay awake and keep watch for Judas Iscariot and the crowd that was coming for Jesus. “Are you stillsleeping and resting? It is enough” (v. 41).
The hour has come. What does He mean by that? You might remember that at other times Jesus stated that “my hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Jesus was working on a divine timeline, not a human one. Before the foundations of the world were laid, the triune godhead made the plan for the redemption of fallen mankind. So many things would have to be fulfilled over a vast amount of time before the “lamb which takes away the sins of the world” would be handed over to evil men and be crucified. That time has arrived. Judas Iscariot was on the way with an unruly crowd behind Him (Psalm 41:9).
43 “And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, *came up, [a]accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who were from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44 Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; arrest Him and lead Him away [b]under guard.” 45 And after coming, Judas immediately went to Him and *said, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 46 And they laid hands on Him and arrested Him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and [c]cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a man inciting a revolt? 49 Every day I was with you within the temple grounds teaching, and you did not arrest Me; but this has taken place so that the Scriptures will be fulfilled.” 50 And [d]His disciples all left Him and fled.
51 A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they *seized him.”
FOCUS THREE: Betrayed with a kiss (43-51)
Judas comes with an armed crowd into the garden, where he knows from experience that Jesus would be there. He is not alone. A mob of people wielding swords and clubs is with him. Unlike many “unruly” crowds that gather today and wreak havoc in our cities, this mob was a carefully selected group of people brought together to arrest Jesus so He could be put to death.
This was no small crowd. It consisted of people from among the chief priests, scribes, and elders, as well as a full Roman cohort (could have been as many as 600 soldiers) that sought to arrest Jesus and take Him to Annas first (John 18:12). But how would Judas Iscariot be able to “point out” Jesus? How would this crowd know who to take prisoner? Judas had thought of this and so gave them a signal so that they would recognize Jesus. The signal? “Whomever I kiss” (v. 44).
It seems odd to me that a signal of any type would be needed. After all, Jesus spent a lot of time teaching in the temple, a very public place. They should have known what He looked like! They would have seen Him often.
Notice how Jesus was treated. They come out for Him with violent, hate-filled fury. A man that has only done good for everyone that came around Him. A man, the messiah, filled with love, healing the sick and offering forgiveness of their sins! And none of that matters; they only want one thing-to silence Him for good!
Things have not changed much, have they? When a person speaks out about their faith in Christ today when they stand for biblical virtue in defiance of the current culture and its morality. When they say no to evil and share the only hope of forgiveness-Jesus Christ, they too are hated with much fury, and the “crowd” seeks to silence (cancel) them.
Judas approaches Jesus and embraces Him. He betrays Christ with a kiss, an act of respect and affection. He chose an action that showed “1the closest love and affection, normally reserved for one with whom a person had a close, intimate relationship.” This scene always grieves my heart. It grieves me because such a signal was grossly evil and highly hypocritical. Think about it. Even today, what Judas Iscariot has done is used in a derogatory way when someone betrays us: “you Judas.” The rock band Nazareth released a song entitled “please don’t Judas me” in 1975.
Jesus is seized. Simon Peter draws his sword and cuts off the ear of a slave of the high priest (John 18:10). Mark leaves out various details such as this in his short account. Jesus expresses a “Righteous resentment” against their seizure of Him, especially how they had one it (vv. 48-49). And then we read these heartbreaking words: “And they all left Him and fled” (v. 52). It is so disheartening to read of the failure of His disciples that day, but even more grievous to my soul knowing that I would have been one of them as well if I were there that day. So would you.
We believe that the young man who fled with nothing but a linen sheet over his body was the writer of this gospel, John Mark! But even the linen sheet was left behind (v. 52)! Fear triumphed over faith at that moment, and they all fled the area, not wanting to be taken with Him.
There is much speculation regarding why Mark was in the garden “wearing nothing but a linen sheet,” That would be an excellent topic for further study on your own.
Lastly, but not unimportant by any means, is the fact that what is happening at this time in the garden is the fulfillment of scripture (Isaiah 53:7-9,12)! The Bible reveals myriads of prophecies about the messiah being fulfilled in Christ (for example, Genesis 3:15-Galatians 4:4; Micah 5:2-Luke 2:4,5,7)!
“do not try to make the Bible relevant. It’s relevance is axiomatic. . .Do not defend God’s Word but testify to it. . .It is a ship loaded to the very limits of her capacity” (Bonhoeffer).
*Expositors Bible Commentary