2019-11-24 Jesus in the Garden

Jesus In the Garden
Mark 14:32-42
November 24, 2019

Our passage this morning is Mark 14:32-42. You might have noticed we’ve skipped over the section on the Last Supper. Don’t worry we’ll come back to that in January. This morning we’re going to skip ahead to Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Prayer for Illumination:

O Lord, you are truth and light; in you there is no darkness. Send your Holy Spirit to lead us in the light and truth of your word. Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts so that we might have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand. Grant us understanding so that we might be conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”[1]

This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

This past summer, I had the honor to represent Murphy Presbyterian Church and the Presbytery of the Southeast at our General Assembly. If you don’t know, the General Assembly of the EPC meets every year to discuss business, worship together, and mutually encourage one another. The last night of General Assembly is something special. It is the night that we commission our missionaries.

This past Assembly, we were in the sanctuary at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Denver. Andrew Brunson had just finished preaching. And after praying, our Moderator Case Thorp invited all of the missionaries that were would be sending out in next 12 months to come forward. Once all of those whom we were sending out were gathered, Case began to administer to them their vows. Their vows are rather similar to the vows I took and the ones our ruling elders take, except their last vow. Their last vow is about the very real danger for many of them. Their last vow has to do with facing serious trials and still submitting to God.

In this passage, Jesus faces the hardest trial of his ministry. Here in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus begins to feel the wrath of God that will be poured out in full the next afternoon. And as he faces that trial, he submits to the will of the Father and prays. As we study this passage, the two headings will be submission to the will God and prayer in times of distress.

Submission to the Will of God

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Jesus and the disciples have left the Upper Room where they had their dinner and made their way to the Garden of Gethsemane, which is on the Mt. of Olives. Here in the garden, Jesus begins to feel the weight of his mission. His mission is to be a ransom for many. That’s what he said back in Mark 10:45. That is why he has come.

Now his mission is reaching its culmination; his mission is reaching its end. And as his mission reaches its culmination, he begins to feel anxious. He is “deeply distressed and troubled”. The Greek word for “deeply distressed” means to be amazed or shocked. Jesus is amazed. Up until this moment he has been unflappable. Now he is amazed; now he is shocked. The word for “troubled” means to be overcome with horror.

Why is Jesus deeply distressed and troubled? Why is he shocked and overcome with terror? Is it his mission? Has his mission overcome him with horror? No that’s not it. Jesus says in John 12:27, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Jesus has specifically come for this reason; he has specifically come for this hour.

Then what is causing him to be deeply distressed and troubled? His distress and trouble are over the alienation he will soon experience. On the cross Jesus has will be alienated from the Father. From eternity past, Jesus has been in communion with God the Father. John begins his gospel by saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1, 2). God the Son has been with God the Father since before creation. From before time, God the Son has been communing with God the Father and God the Spirit. There has never been a time with they have not been in communion.

Since the incarnation, Jesus has lived wholly and completely for God the Father. Everything he has done has been for God. He has only ever done the will of the Father. Never once has he considered not living for the Father. Never once has he considered not seeking to obey God. He has lived wholly and completely for God the Father.

And on the cross, Jesus will be alienated from God the Father. In just a few hours, Jesus will no longer be in communion with the one he has been in communion with since eternity past. That is why he is deeply distressed and troubled.

Imagine knowing someone for your whole life. This someone you have always gotten along with. You have never been in a fight; never said something cross or something curt. For your whole life, you and this person have gotten along. And in addition to getting along with that person, you have enjoyed their company. You always want to spend time with them and just be with them.

And then suddenly one day you are cut off from that person; you alienated from them. You can no longer commune with that person. Would that not cause you to feel deeply distressed and troubled? Would that not shock and cause you to be overcome with horror?

Many of you can remember a time before cell phones, social media, and Skype; a time before you could get a hold of someone at a moment’s notice. Maybe you can remember a time when you were traveling away from someone you loved. For a short time you were going to be cut off from that person; for a few days you were going to be alienated from your beloved. Did that not cause sorrow? Did that not cause you to be distressed and troubled? If that caused you to be distressed and troubled then Jesus being alienated from God would cause even more distressing and troubling.

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Jesus prays to God, acknowledging his sovereignty over all things, and asks that he remove this cup from before him. In the Bible, the cup was a symbol of judgment and God’s wrath. Isaiah 51:17 says, “Awake, awake! Rise up, Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes people stagger.” The prophet is using the cup as a symbol for God’s judgment on Jerusalem for her sin. The same is true in Psalm 60:3 and Revelation 14:10. Scripture uses cup as a symbol of God’s judgment and wrath against sin.

Jesus knows that. Jesus knows that in a few hours he will drink the cup of God’s judgment and wrath for the sins of his Church. On the cross, God the Father will pour out all his wrath and judgment for sin that each and every believer has committed on Jesus. That’s exactly what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” On the cross, Jesus will drink the cup of God’s judgment and wrath.

That is why Jesus will be alienated from God the Father. On the cross, Jesus will feel the displeasure of God the Father. That is why Jesus cries out “Eloi! Eloi! Lama sabachthani? My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” On the cross, God the Son feels alienated and abandoned by God the Father. There for a brief moment, God the Father breaks off communion with God the Son because he is bearing the sins of his Church.

Even knowing all of this, Jesus submits to God the Father. In the plan of redemption, God the Son willingly submits to God the Father. Even though he is facing this incredible trial, he submits because he knows that it is for the good. He knows that it is through this trial that his people will be redeemed. Jesus knows that it is for good of his Church that he faces this trial and suffering so he submits.

Often in our trials and suffering, we wonder why. We wonder why God allows us to go through trials. Sadly some preachers and pastors teach that if you are facing trials and experiencing suffering it is because we have offended God in some way. They teach that if we are experiencing trials then it is because we have sinned and God is punishing us.

That is not true. God in his wisdom knows what is for our good. He knows exactly what we need and how we need to receive it.  And sometimes it is for our good to endure trials and suffering. That’s what Paul says in his letter to the Romans. He says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. The trials and sufferings we face are ultimately for our good. God in his wisdom knows that those trials and sufferings will refine us and make us more like his Son and our Lord. Just as Jesus’ trial and suffering was for the good of the Church our trials are for our good.

W may not understand why we face certain trials. We may not know why we face certain sufferings. And in the moment, that will be hard for us. As we face our trials, we may not know why we are facing that particular trial at that particular moment. And that might add to the trial and suffering.

But ultimately, the trials we face and when we face them are for our good. They are for our refining. And they will ultimately bring God glory. When we see the full picture, we will praise God saying “Lord, those trials were hard and they caused many sleepless nights, but it is far better this way. It was all for my good.” The trials and sufferings we face are ultimately for our good.

And as we face our trials and our sufferings, we can take comfort knowing that God does not abandon us. In our trials and sufferings, we are not alienated from God. We might be tempted to think that in our trials and sufferings that God has cut off communion with us. He hasn’t. He never will. Those who are his will forever be his. Those whom he has called to himself will never be forsaken or abandoned. Believers, no matter what trials and sufferings we experience, do not alienate us from the presence of God. He is always with his Church. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We will never be alienated from God the Father because God the Son was alienated for us. Believers will never lose their communion with God because on the cross Jesus was cut off so we wouldn’t be. Let that comfort you. No matter what trials we go through, no matter what sufferings we experience, God will be with us. No trial, no suffering will alienate us from God.

Knowing that the trials we face are ultimately for our good and that we are not alienated from God in trials, we can submit to God’s will. We can submit to the divine will knowing that all things that are for our good and our refining. We can submit to God’s will because no matter what trials we face, he will not abandon or forsake us; we will not be alienated from him in our moments of suffering.

Prayer in Times of Distress

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Jesus commands that his disciples are to pray during trials so that we do not enter into temptation. That is what he is commanding Peter at this very moment. Peter is hours away from giving into various temptations. As they entered the Mt. of Olives, Peter proudly declares “Even if all fall away, I will not.” He declares that he will never forsake Jesus or abandon him even if everyone else does. And yet, before the night is over Peter will give into temptation to deny his Lord’s teachings and allegiance. Just a few minutes after Jesus commands him to pray, Peter gives into temptation and cuts off Malchus’ ear. He gives into temptation and denies his Lord’s teachings.

Later on in the night and the early morning, he gives into the temptation of self-preservation. Three times he is asked if he is a disciple of Jesus and three times he gives into temptation and denies his allegiance to Jesus. He gives into the temptation of self-preservation.

During trials, we are more likely to give into temptation and sin. Trials are times of stress. And in times of stress, we are often tempted to give into our besetting sin. Each of us has a besetting sin. We each have a sin we’re naturally inclined toward. Maybe your besetting sin is gossip. Maybe your besetting sin is pornography and masturbation. Maybe your besetting sin is speaking harshly and cutting into others. Maybe it is laziness. Whatever it is, we each have a besetting sin.

In trials, we are tempted to give in to our besetting sin. Those are the times we are most likely to give in. Examine yourself. Examine your patterns. Aren’t times of trial and suffering the times you are most likely to give into temptation? Aren’t those the times that you most likely to give into your besetting sin?

In times of trial and suffering, do not lean on your own strength. During trials and sufferings, if you lean on your own strength you will more than likely give into your besetting sin. If you lean on your own strength in the face of trials, you will give into temptation. It may not be the first round in the trial that you give into your besetting sin, but you will give into temptation. If you lean on your own strength during trials, you will give into gossip or masturbation or harsh words. You will give into temptation hoping that it will bring relief and ease the suffering. But in reality it will only make it worse.

After Peter gave into temptation, the suffering was not eased or the trial reduced. In fact the next time he saw Jesus, he felt shame over having given into his temptation. Peter, seeing Jesus’ eyes as they beat him, begins to cry as he recognizes that he has given into his temptation. He feels shame. The trial he was facing was not eased by giving into temptation.

The same is true of us. Giving into temptation during our trials and sufferings will not ease them. It will not bring relief to our souls in the times of suffering. Giving into our temptation in times of trials will cause us to feel shame over denying our Lord and Savior.

So how do we not give into temptation during times of trial? Let us pray in times of trial. Let us pray that we do not enter into temptation. Scripture commands us to pray without ceasing. Prayer is a discipline. It is something that we must practice each and every day. It is something that we must do when we feel like it and when we don’t feel like it. We are to pray each and every day.

It is even more important for us to pray during trials and sufferings. It is important for us to pray in times of trial and suffering that God would strengthen us so that we do not give into temptation. Let us pray that in the morning and the evening. Let us pray that we do not give into the temptation of our besetting sin as our trials and sufferings take place. Trials and sufferings are the times we need to pray more and pray more keenly for God’s grace in strengthening us so that we do not give into the temptation of our besetting sin.

When you are going through trials pray the psalms. The book of Psalms is filled with prayers from the godly as they endure trials and suffering. Many of those prayers are for God’s strength and grace so that the petitioner will not give into temptation.

One of the greatest hymns of the 19th century is “It is Well with My Soul”. Horatio Spafford wrote the hymn during a time of great trial. Spafford lost a son in infancy, lost his fortune in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and then lost his four daughters as they sailed to Europe. If there ever was a trial, Spafford endured it. And during that trial, he reminded him of the great truth that God does not abandon his people and that trials are somehow for our good. Reminding himself of that truth allowed him to submit to God’s will and say it is well with me soul. It was his pray that he would endure and not give into temptation as Satan buffets.

May we know that truth. May we know that even in trials we are not alienated from God; we are not abandoned by God in our sufferings. May we know that God in his wisdom uses those same trials and sufferings for our good and refining. May that allow us to submit to his will and say it is well with my soul. And as we endure trials, may we pray that God would strengthen us so we do not give into temptation.

[1] The New International Version. (2011). (Mk 14:32–42). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.