By Gregg Bing
(Continued from Jul-Aug 2012 issue)
Jesus and His disciples were weary as they approached the garden of Gethsemane. The disciples were heavy of heart because of the disturbing news Jesus had shared with them that night. Jesus’ soul was troubled knowing He would soon face the anguish of the cross. They had often come to this garden to pray, but this night Gethsemane would change their lives forever.
Upon their arrival, Jesus said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there” (Matt. 26:36). He took Peter, James, and John aside with Him, as He had done on other occasions (Mark 5:35-43; Mark 9:2-3). Jesus was deeply distressed, and He told them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me” (Matt. 26:38). Jesus was the Son of God, but when He became a Man, He experienced many of the same needs we have as human beings. During this time of deep sorrow, Jesus wanted these special friends close by, to go through this trial with Him. But, Jesus’ disciples were also distressed and weary in both body and soul. Jesus would get little support from them this night.
Jesus went a little farther away, about a stone’s throw, fell on His face, and prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). The pressure upon Jesus as He prayed was so intense (Luke 12:50) that “an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him” (Luke 22:43). Jesus was in agony (Luke 22:44), the anguish of an intense conflict, a conflict with Satan that began in another garden, the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15).
Jesus prayed more earnestly, so that “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). There are differences among Greek scholars and theologians as to the meaning of this statement. The word “like” is a translation of the Greek word “hosei,” which literally means “as if.” Some scholars believe the word implies a literal condition of the sweat, that Jesus actually sweated blood, a rare medical condition called “hematidrosis” which occurs when a person is under severe stress. This might explain why the only gospel writer to record this fact was Luke, a physician.
Other scholars believe Jesus’ sweat merely became “like” great drops of blood, meaning His sweat was as thick as clotted blood. In either case, this vivid description indicates how deeply Jesus’ expectation of the cross affected Him, not just mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, but physically as well.
What did Jesus mean when He said, “Let this cup pass from Me”? The cup Jesus referred to was His coming death (Matt. 20:22, John 18:11). Jesus knew that He must go to the cross, that it was the determined will of God (Acts 2:23). His approaching death weighed heavily upon Jesus throughout His life, as evidenced by these words which He spoke to His disciples earlier in His ministry: “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50)
Why, then, would Jesus pray, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:39)? Jesus did not hope there might be another way; He knew there wasn’t. By pouring out His heart to the Father this way, Jesus made it easier for us to understand the weight of His burden, the agony He faced in bearing the sins of the world on the cross.
Jesus continued His prayer, saying, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). He knew the only way He could take away our sins was by carrying out His Father’s will (Heb. 10:1-14). This is why the eternal Son of God entered into this world and became a Man (John 1:14), and why, as a Man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the will of His Father, “to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). Jesus was willing to lay down His life for our sins (John 10:17-18) that we might have life through Him.
When Jesus finished praying, He came back and found His disciples asleep. It must have been disappointing to Him, on a personal level, and He asked Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matt. 26:40-41). Though it hurt Him, Jesus knew that their spirits were willing; it was their flesh that was weak (Matt. 26:41).
Jesus went away and prayed again, speaking the same words as before. He returned to find the disciples asleep again, their eyes heavy because of the sorrow in their hearts. As Jesus stood looking at them, they could feel His disappointment, yet they did not know what to say to Him (Mark 14:39-40).
Jesus left them and prayed for a third time. Upon His return, He again found Peter, James, and John asleep. “Are you still sleeping and resting?” He said, “It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand” (Mark 14:41-42).
Judas’ Betrayal of Jesus
While Jesus was still speaking these words, Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, entered the garden leading a “detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees” (John 18:3). Judas had agreed to betray Jesus into the hands of the Jewish rulers “in the absence of the multitude” (Luke 22:6) “lest there be an uproar among the people” (Matt. 26:5). Judas knew the garden in Gethsemane was a remote place; he had often come here with Jesus and the other disciples (John 18:2). Judas had given the soldiers a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him” (Matt. 26:48).
As Judas led them in, he walked straight to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him (Matt. 26:49). Judas addressed Jesus as “Rabbi,” a title that means “Teacher;” Judas never referred to Jesus as “Lord.” Normally, a kiss is an expression of love or affection, often given to greet someone you care for. It must have hurt Jesus to have Judas kiss Him for such a sinister purpose. With great sadness in His voice, He asked Judas, “Friend, why have you come? Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Matt. 26:50, Luke 22:48).
“Whom Do You Seek?”
John is the only gospel writer who records the next sequence of events that took place that night in Gethsemane. In this encounter between Jesus and the multitude that had come to arrest Him, we find a powerful testimony to His deity. Jesus, “knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, ‘Whom are you seeking?'” (John 18:4). They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He!” When He said this, “they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6). What happened? What caused these powerful men to fall down?
In most translations of the expression, “I am He,” the word “He” is in italics, which means the word is not in the original Greek text. What Jesus literally said was, “I AM,” words that take our thoughts back to an encounter between God and His servant, Moses.
When God called Moses at the burning bush to go back to Egypt and deliver Israel from bondage, Moses asked Him, “When I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. … Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Exo. 3:13-14).
The expression “I AM” is a title for God that declares His eternal existence, the One “who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev. 1:8). These sinful men who came to arrest Jesus were driven to the ground by the presence and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, the great “I AM.”
Why did Jesus step forward and exert His authority as the Son of God? Did He intend to resist their attempts to arrest Him? No, He had another purpose. Jesus asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?” When they answered, “Jesus of Nazareth,” He said, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way” (John 18:7-8). Jesus did these things “that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, ‘Of those whom You have given Me I have lost none'” (John 18:9). Even in this time of great suffering, Jesus made sure His eleven apostles were protected.
Jesus is Arrested
When Jesus’ disciples saw the soldiers were about to arrest Him, they asked, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” (Luke 22:49). As soon as the soldiers laid hands on Jesus, Simon Peter quickly drew his sword and cut off the right ear of a man named Malchus, a servant of the high priest (John 18:10). Jesus turned to Peter saying, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11) “Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Matt. 26:53-54). Jesus then reached out, touched the man’s ear, and healed him (Luke 22:51).
Being the very Son of God, Jesus had the power to resist the arrest. He could have asked the Father, and He would have provided twelve legions of angels to deliver Jesus from these men, but the Scriptures prophesied that Christ would be rejected of men and then die for the sins of the world (Isa. 53). God’s eternal purpose of redemption could be accomplished no other way.
The Power of Darkness
Jesus spoke to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders gathered to take Him, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:52-53).
This multitude of troops and officers came with swords and clubs to take Jesus. Were they afraid of Jesus or of His disciples? It is possible they were wary of Jesus. They had heard of His power to do some miraculous things, things they could not explain. These soldiers also remembered numerous times the Jews had tried to seize Jesus, but no one was able to lay hands on Him (Luke 4:30; John 7:30; John 8:20). They must have thought their weapons would be enough to get the job done this time.
Why did these men come to arrest Jesus in the middle of the night when they would need lanterns and torches to light their way? Practically speaking, they wanted to keep the Jewish people from seeing their wicked deed. Symbolically, this was “their hour and the power of darkness.” These men had given themselves over to do the work of Satan who wields the power of darkness (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). They were in the presence of Jesus, the Light of the World (John 8:12), but these were men who “loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
Jesus’ Disciples Forsake Him
Just hours earlier, Jesus had foretold that His disciples would all stumble that night because of Him. Though they had denied it at the time, when Jesus was arrested and bound, “all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matt. 26:56). They were afraid that they, too, might be arrested, so they abandoned Jesus and fled to safety.
How would you have felt that night, if you were one of Jesus’ disciples? Would you have forsaken Him? Maybe you have forsaken Him. Have you ever been afraid to tell someone about your Lord and Savior? As believers, we are called to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:19). We are His representatives here on earth, charged with beseeching the unsaved to be reconciled to God by faith (2 Cor. 5:20). It is not always easy. Those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). Are you willing to take a stand for the Lord Jesus, even if it means people might make fun of you, or will you forsake Him, as His disciples did that night? Though we may, at times, stumble and forsake Him, we can rest in Jesus’ wonderful promise to us: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
The soldiers bound Jesus and led Him away to the house of the high priest to stand trial. Peter followed, at a distance, to see how things would turn out (Luke 22:54). Over the next few days, events would occur that Jesus’ disciples could never have imagined. Jesus had told His disciples, on numerous occasions, what must happen to Him in Jerusalem, but, “they understood none of these things” (Luke 18:31-34).
Next Issue: “Jesus on Trial”