This sermon is number 54 in a series of 57
Studies in Mark - Part 54: Countdown To Calvary Pt6
"The Agony Of Gethsemane"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2011 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
It's good to be back with you, and welcome to those of you who are new - there are some faces I haven't seen before over the last couple of weeks, and we really do welcome you. We trust that you enjoy our time tonight, and are challenged through the word of God, and encouraged as we seek to just gaze upon the Lord Jesus in this last week of His earthly life and ministry.
We're turning to Mark's gospel chapter 14, we've been there for a while now - last Sunday evening in particular, and this morning. Just to fill you in, those of you who are here for the first time, and to recollect for those who have been before: we're looking at 'The Final Countdown to Calvary', the last week in the life of Jesus as He makes His way towards the cross. We started a couple of weeks ago on Sunday morning looking at Palm Sunday, which was the Sunday of that final week, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the promised Messiah, the King of the Jews. Then we moved to Monday where He cursed the fig tree which represented Israel, who were taking up space but not bearing fruit for God. Then, attached to that, He then, on the same day, Monday, went into the Temple, and you know that He cleansed it, He turned the tables of the moneychangers upside down, and that was His pronouncement of judgement on the place - that it was no longer fit for purpose: it was meant to be a house of prayer, God had said, but it had now become a hiding place for thieves and robbers.
Then we moved to Tuesday, and Tuesday was the time when Jesus, in the temple courts and precincts, was questioned by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling body. Then, probably on Wednesday, He spoke of signs to come concerning His second coming, how we could know that He was going to come soon, and He was teaching His disciples about that on Wednesday. Then last Sunday evening we looked at the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany, and we saw that chronologically that actually didn't fit in there, but John tells us this happened six days before Passover, which would put it on Saturday evening just before Palm Sunday. But we know that for thematic reasons, Mark put it in here because he wanted to contrast Judas, the miserable betrayer, with Mary of Bethany, her heart which was that of an extravagant worshipper. This morning we looked at the Last Supper, which was Thursday evening of this final week; and now we're going to look at Jesus resorting to the Garden of Gethsemane - which is late Thursday evening - and we're also going to move into His betrayal in that garden, Judas bringing the guards of the Temple along to hand Him over, and betraying Him with a kiss, and that's probably the early hours of Friday morning.
So what we're looking at now is late Thursday evening and the early hours of Friday morning, and we're going to begin reading at verse 27, and we are reading right down to verse 52: "Then Jesus said to them, 'All of you will be made to stumble", fall away, "because of Me this night, for it is written: 'I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered'. But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee'. Peter said to Him, 'Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be'. Jesus said to him, 'Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times'. But he spoke more vehemently, 'If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!' And they all said likewise. Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, 'Sit here while I pray'. And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, 'My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch'. He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will'. Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, 'Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak'. Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. Then He came the third time and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? 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'. And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, 'Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely'. As soon as He had come, immediately he went up to Him and said to Him, 'Rabbi, Rabbi!' and kissed Him. Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him. And one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus answered and said to them, 'Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled'. Then they all forsook Him and fled. Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked".
Let's pray together and, as I've said before, as I come now and pray, really you ought to be praying with me. Those of you who know the Lord, and desire to know Him more, why don't you come now and say: 'Lord, I want You to really open my heart and make me receptive to the word. I want to be receptive to the word, I want to hear from You'. Are you here tonight and you've real longing in your heart to hear from God? I hope you have, and I believe if you have, and you come to Him, that He will meet you through the word. Maybe you're not even a Christian, or maybe you're a long way from God, not as close as you used to be, well why not even say to the Lord: 'Lord, I want You to draw near to me now, and I want You to reveal Yourself'. Pray that to God now as we come to Him.
Father, we use the term our Lord Jesus used to You, 'Abba'. We know that all things are possible for You. Lord, we come to You, and we really do feel that we ought to take our shoes off our feet, for we're standing on holy ground as we see the Lord Jesus in the agony of Gethsemane. We really don't know hardly what to say, or what to think, 'tis mystery all. Yet, Lord, we have been given Your word, and these things are imparted to us for our benefit, and all Scripture is profitable. We pray, Lord, that You will take these words and these deep, eternal truths and make them profitable to every mind and heart in this place tonight, irrespective of their circumstances. Lord, we need You, we need the Holy Spirit who was promised to testify of the things of Christ, to take of His things and witness them to us. Lord, there are unsaved people here tonight, young people, middle aged people, older people who need to have Christ witnessed to them - and yet the Holy Spirit has also been sent that Christ may be conformed in us. Lord, we pray that we would have that happen as we see Jesus in the Garden. Lord Jesus, we would even address You, and reverence You at this moment for what You saw in the Garden. Lord, we don't have a clue, but we pray that You will help us tonight to understand a little bit more, Lord, of what You did for us. Lord Jesus, open our minds and open our hearts to You this evening, that our love for You, and our surrender to You would be greater than ever after this evening as we listen to Your voice. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Now, after instituting the Lord's Supper - and we saw that this morning - they sang a hymn and they went out towards the Mount of Olives. I told you that the teaching that we find in John is not in any of the other synoptics, Matthew, Mark and Luke - you can read John 14 through to 17, and somewhere around here is when the Lord imparted these wonderful truths: 'Let not your heart be troubled', about going to prepare dwellingplaces for us in heaven, about being the Vine, about the Holy Spirit coming in His ministry and how it was needful that He would come, and then His great High Priestly prayer to His Father. But Mark, of course, is going at breakneck speed to get through this week, and he brings us from the Upper Room, the Last Supper, straight to Gethsemane. But before that, on the way, the Lord warns the disciples that they would all forsake Him - verse 27: 'All of you will be made to stumble', fall away, 'because of Me this night, for it is written' - and He quotes from Zechariah 13 verse 7, the Old Testament prophet - ''I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered''.
Now, it has been hard enough for them, if you were with us this morning, for them to take in that one of them who was with Him fellowshipping around the table would betray Him - but now He is imparting to them that all of them would forsake Him, and it would be a fulfilment of Zechariah 13:7. But essentially this quotation of this Old Testament prophet was not in order to condemn the disciples for forsaking Him, it was rather to demonstrate - as we have seen right throughout this whole last week of the Lord's life - Jesus was showing that He was in complete and absolute control of what was happening here. This was no accident, things were not spinning out of control, but the Lord Jesus step-by-step - and we have seen Him do it, and we will see Him do it again and again - is fulfilling hundreds-year-old prophecies with His life, and particularly this last week of His ministry. He's in control of the situation, and that's encouraging - and I know that every other situation pales into insignificance in comparison with this last week, but let me tell you tonight, wherever you are and whatever you're going through, He's in control of your situation. You might feel that you're in chaos, the world is crumbling around you and the roof falling around your ears, but He is in control - trust Him, believe that He is behind the scenes, even if you can't see Him.
The disciples found it very hard to believe, especially when He was telling them that they were going to fall away. But then in verse 28, just to show He's in control He actually talks about meeting them after the resurrection! Staggering, isn't it? Verse 28: 'After I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee'. It shows that He's already looking beyond the cross - what faith is that! In fact, we read in Hebrews chapter 12 and verse 2 that we are to look 'unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross' - that's how He got through the agony of Gethsemane and the sacrifice of Calvary: He was looking beyond it! He had an eternal perspective, the joy that was set before Him - and you were part of that joy - to have a redeemed people purchased by His own precious blood, and to have an eternal future with His church. It's marvellous, isn't it?
There's something very personal that He was also saying to the disciples when He was saying, 'Look, after I've been raised, I will go before you into Galilee'. He had just told them that they were all going to fall away and forsake Him. So effectively what He was saying was: 'Though you disown Me, I will not disown you' - is that a word from the Lord directly to someone here tonight? You've been disowning Christ. You once knew Him, and you once loved Him, but His message to you is just like these fickle disciples: 'Though you disown Me, I will not disown you, I will be there for you, I'm waiting for you'. Paul said it to Timothy: 'Though we are faithless and unbelieving, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself'. Isn't He wonderful? All of us have to confess how unfaithful we are to Him so much of the time.
Now, of course, on previous occasions the Lord Jesus spoke of His resurrection. Didn't I show you? Chapter 8 and verse 31, He tells them the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinners, be slain, and three days later rise again. He tells them in chapter 9 and verse 31, He tells them it again in chapter 10 and verse 32, He's been talking non-stop about it - and yet still they don't understand, even here when He says to them: 'I'm going to be raised, and I will go before you into Galilee'. Three days later after He said this, they were doubting reports of His resurrection! Do you see how hard their heads were? It just wouldn't go through.
Now verse 29 shows us that Peter was indignant about this suggestion and prediction that they would all fall away and stumble: 'Peter said to Him, 'Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be''. In other words, he says: 'The rest might desert You, but not me, never!'. William MacDonald, the Bible commentator, says that very quickly Jesus turned that 'never' into a 'soon'. Jesus maybe didn't let him down too gently, but faced him with the fact in verse 30: 'Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times'. Three times, Peter! Yet still, verse 31, Peter protests, he says the more vehemently: 'If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!' - and they all said likewise. Peter was saying: 'That's preposterous, I would rather die than deny You, Lord! Do You not know that?'.
We're so hard on Peter, aren't we? I think I'm going to have to apologise many many times to Peter when I get to heaven! A lot of preachers are! I believe Peter is one of the most humble and meekest of men. He had to be, for the Lord to put so much bad stuff in the Bible about him. By the way, we believe that Peter fed Mark the information about this gospel, we believe that. He was a self-effacing man, and yet he wasn't alone in his brashness of saying that 'I'll go to die for You' - look at the end of verse 31: 'They all said likewise'. Now, what does that show us? I'll tell you what it shows us: Peter and the others were not aware of their weakness, they were not aware of their Achilles heel. Peter's self-apparent strength was his courage and his boldness, but he didn't realise that his self-apparent strength was actually his greatest weakness. There is a lesson, if ever there was one, for any of us: so much so that in a few hours this man, around a campfire, would be intimidated by a mere slave girl. Bold Peter who wanted to die for Him, would deny that he even knew Him with oaths and curses.
Now Peter and the rest of them made two mistakes, and we are in great danger of making them if we're not careful. The first is: we overestimate ourselves, as he did. When we overestimate ourselves we set ourselves up for a great fall - what does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 10 and verse 12: 'Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall'. Do not overestimate yourself spiritually! Now let me diagnose whether or not you are over estimating yourself. A question: do you think you are beyond the reach of certain sins? Do you? Or do you believe the depravity, even if it be hidden secret depravity, of your heart, if the circumstances were right, you could delve down to any depth imaginatively known to men? That's what I believe. Never overestimate yourself, because if you do you're in for a big surprise!
Not only did Peter and the rest overestimate themselves, they underestimated the Lord's knowledge of them. In other words, He knew them better than they knew themselves. He was in control of the situation, He was able to predict to them what was going to happen, but they wouldn't listen to Him! 'Oh, no! No! We're not going to do that, we would never do that! We will go to our deaths after You! We will never deny, no, no! That's preposterous!' - this is the Lord talking to them. The only way that we will not overestimate ourselves or underestimate His knowledge of us is if we listen to Him, listen to what He teaches in the word about the heart, about our susceptibility to sin and temptation, and be realistic. The best of men and women are those who know their weaknesses, face their weaknesses, and know their Achilles heel, and know the chink in the armour that the devil can capitalise on, and deal with it before God.
You see the Lord, remember in verse 27 He quoted Zechariah 13 verse 7 to them: 'I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered'. Now, the reason why He quoted that was not only to show that this was a fulfilment of prophetic Scripture, but He was showing them what they ought to do when the Shepherd was struck. When the Shepherd is struck, what is meant to happen to the sheep? They will be scattered. Now, had they listened to that prophecy and heeded what the Lord Jesus was saying, had they believed it, they would have saved themselves from a great deal of anxiety - and, who knows, Peter may not have denied the Lord. Now in John chapter 18, in his account of this event in the Garden, we see that when the soldiers come to take Jesus away, Jesus said: 'Let these disciples go their way' - and that was tantamount to the Lord saying, 'Boys, run! Now is your time to scatter'.
Warren Weirsbe says on this very point: 'I have read many eloquent sermons blaming Peter for following afar off' - you've heard them as well - 'but they completely miss the point. He was not supposed to follow at all. Had he obeyed the Lord, he would not have attacked a man with his sword, or denied the Lord three times'. Now you may debate with me on that one, but nevertheless the fact remains that the sheep were to scatter, they were meant to scatter because the Lord knew their weakness! He knew Peter's weakness - but they didn't listen to the Lord. Would you listen to the Lord! If you don't want to overestimate yourself or underestimate His knowledge of you, He knows you better than you know yourself, so listen to Him!
But, you see, if you're going to listen to Him, that requires the brokenness of the will. You see, Peter had to be converted on that score - and through betraying the Lord he was broken. Are you broken here tonight? Have you finally got broken, because you realise that you're not what you thought you were? None of us are. You've overestimated yourself, and it has just set you up time after time after time again for a fall. Maybe other people have overestimated you, and you haven't really listened to what God says in His word? Well, brokenness of the will is the secret to going on with God. It's not people who think they're all that, it's people who know that they are nothing without God, and nothing without Christ - and if they go for a moment without His dependence and His fellowship, they are in big trouble.
We often quote Romans 12 verses 1 and 2, but if you read verses 1, 2 and 3 you will read this: 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God'. Listen to verse 3: 'For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith'. You can't be the sacrifice you need to be for God if you think too highly of yourself. It's a constant battle for all of us, because many of us have an inflated opinion of self, and God has to deal with that.
Now in verse 32 they have now arrived at Gethsemane. Now, if you've never been to Jerusalem, you need to know that Gethsemane is just east of the Temple Mount area in Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley. So you go out of Jerusalem, down the Kidron Valley, and up the slopes of the Mount of Olives, and just at the beginning of the slope of the Mount of Olives is this Garden filled with ancient olive trees. It's a mighty sight if you've ever been there. But 'Gethsemane' means 'oil press', it was the place where the olives were crushed for oil - and now we're going to see the Son of God being crushed here with the weight of the anticipation of Calvary before Him.
Now in verse 33, at the beginning, verse 32: 'They came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, 'Sit here while I pray'. And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed'. Now, it was perfectly human of the Lord to desire this - and you know, He was perfectly human, He was 100% man though He was 100% God. He was everything it was to be a man, except sinful. We, as human beings, desire company, especially in our most tragic hours. Here He faces His greatest challenge, and He takes the disciples - eight of them stay around the gate area, and then He takes three along with him, Peter, James and John, the intimate inner circle. Now it's very interesting, and Warren Weirsbe points this out, and I think it's beautiful: Peter, James and John were with Jesus when He went into Jairus' house to raise his only daughter. You know that story? The rest of the disciples were left outside, and Peter, James and John went in. Then He brought them up the Mount of Transfiguration, when He was transfigured and His Shekinah glory burst forth, His majestic divine majesty came out of Him there, they were there and they saw it! Witnesses of His majesty, Peter, James and John! Now here they are and they are given the privilege of being at Gethsemane.
In Philippians 3 and verse 10 we read this, Paul desired that he might know Him - those three got to know Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, who He really is. He's more than this miracle man, He is God's Son, He has the manifest glory of Divinity dwelling within Him, and it shot forth on that mountaintop. 'That I might know Him', that's the Mount of Transfiguration, 'the power of His resurrection', that's Jairus' house - He raised the little lamb, He said 'Little lamb, talithacum, little girl arise!'. They knew Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, they knew Him in the resurrection in Jairus' home - and how does the verse finish? 'That I might know Him, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings' - and now the same three go into the Garden of Gethsemane to fellowship with Him in His sufferings.
Let us read about it again, verse 33: 'He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, 'My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch'. He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will''. Now, let me give you a warning here: we are on holy ground. We must be careful what we say about Gethsemane, and we must be careful what we say in many of the respects of Calvary. Ecclesiastes 5:2 would be wise to take note of: 'Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God'.
It says here that Jesus, verse 35, went a little farther. Now picture the scene, OK? He leaves the disciples around about somewhere near the gate or the entrance to the Garden. He takes the inner intimate three, Peter, James and John, in with Him - but then it implies that He leaves even them behind to watch and pray, and He goes a little farther. Do you know what that tells me? He goes to a place that He must go alone, and when He goes there He leaves us behind - that simply means that we cannot enter in to what He endured in the agony of Gethsemane and the wonder of Calvary. Now we can understand a lot of things about it, but there is much where we are just left behind.
Yet we cannot avoid the greatest question of all here regarding Gethsemane, and it's this: if Jesus knew what the Father's will was, what was the agony for? Have you ever asked that question? He knew what the will of God was and He was resigned to it, the Bible says, from before He was born in Bethlehem - the Eternal Son came to do the will of the Father. Yet here we read, Luke testifies that He sweat, as it were, great drops of blood falling to the ground. So, if He knew what God's will was, what was the agony for? And also, why did He pray as He did pray in verses 35 and 36, that if it were possible the hour might pass and that this cup would pass from Him?
Now this is a very valid question. Listen to some scriptures that outline the fact that Jesus knew what He was heading for, and He had resigned His will to it. Luke chapter 9 and verse 51: 'It came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem'. There were no qualms about this journey to Mount Calvary. Luke chapter 9 and verse 62, Jesus Himself said: 'No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God'. Now, how could He say that if He was now looking back from the will of God? Hebrews 10 and verse 38, the writer to the Hebrews says: 'Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him' - so if Jesus was drawing back from the will of God, how could it be? Then we read in John 18, in his account of Gethsemane, after this agony, and the soldiers come and Peter draws his sword, Jesus said: 'Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?'.
Now let me just say categorically: I cannot accept, as some teach, that the Lord was having second thoughts about the will of God. I cannot accept that. The cross was the Father's will, and the cross was the reason why Jesus came into the world - but note please, you might think this is hairsplitting, but it's not on the holy ground where we are: it was not the Father's will that Jesus was wrestling with in the Garden of Gethsemane, but rather what He was wrestling with was what the Father's will would entail. Let me repeat that: it was not the Father's will per se, it was not being obedient to God that He was wrestling with, it was what the Father's will would entail. What would the will of God entail?
Well, turn with me to Galatians 3 please and verse 13 quickly. We read there: 'Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree')'. Now, that was the penalty for a rebellious son, to be hanged on a tree - in Deuteronomy we read that. To break the law of God, the holy law of God encapsulated in the Ten Commandments and the Torah, Moses' first five books of the Bible, was to be accursed of God. Jesus knew, and now He is contemplating in the hours before Calvary how He Himself, the holy, sinless, spotless Son, would be treated like a rebellious son. He had never broken a law, never sinned a sin in thought, word or deed, but He would be treated as if He was the greatest lawbreaker in the universe. That was the weight, surely, that was upon Him.
Another verse, 2 Corinthians 5 verse 21, it's important that you look at these verses - if you have a Bible, please turn to them. Second Corinthians 5 and verse 21, Paul says: 'For He', that is God, 'made Him', that is Jesus, 'who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him'. You see, Jesus, knowing what was ahead of Him - that's the very point, He knew what was ahead of Him. Now He's in the Garden, in the hours before Calvary, grappling with this: that His holy Soul would be made sin in order that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Now that doesn't mean He became sinful, but He was treated as if He was a sinner - guilty of our sins - that we might go free. Now, we can never enter into what that would have been for Him, the abhorrence of the thought to become sin, to be made sin, to be dealt with as a sinner though He knew no sin.
Harry Ironside says: 'His holy Soul shrank from the awfulness of being made sin upon the tree. It was not death that He was shrinking from' - and I add to that, it was not the Father's will that He was shrinking from - 'but it was the Divine anger against sin' - God, His Father. It was the imputation to Him of all our iniquities, your iniquities, that filled His Soul with horror. There was no conflict of wills, but you've got to understand the cataclysmic collision here of two worlds: the holy Son of God, spotless, pure, divine in human flesh, now contemplating what it would be to take upon Him our wickedness as if it were His own, and be cursed from God for it.
Are you understanding a wee bit more about what this is about? It's not that He's shrinking from doing God will, He's just starting now to contemplate, in anticipation, what this would mean. It wasn't the Father's will, but the contemplation of being the sin offering, becoming the object of God's holy wrath - and remember, He knew what God's holy wrath was, He was God. It was the contemplation of being forsaken by God. In chapter 15 of this gospel, verse 34, we read that He cried from the cross: 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' - 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'.
In Hebrews chapter 5 we get a commentary of this event, turn with me to it please, verse 7. It's speaking about how Jesus has a priesthood according to Melchizedek's - that means that it never ends, because He now lives in the power of an endless life, He has risen from the dead never to die again. In verse 7 it says: 'Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered'. Now you try and understand that: though He was the Son of God, in His humanity He learned obedience to the will of God through the things that He suffered. I believe verse 7 in particular is specifically referring to Gethsemane. He's coming as a human being who is God, but in His humanity He's grappling now with all that it means to go to Calvary, and He's surrendering His will completely to God. It's not saying here that He was saved from death, in other words that God saved Him from Calvary, or He was asking for that, but it literally means 'He was saved out of death'. In other words, after He died, was buried, God raised Him again and granted this request - now He can be a priest in the order of Melchizedek. Do you understand?
Back to Mark, He addresses God again, and He calls Him - and it's touching to hear Him address God - verse 36: 'Abba, Father'. That was a term, an Aramaic term, that was like 'Dada', then it evolved into a term more like our 'Daddy', and it became a respectful term but a very intimate term, and Jesus characteristically used it of His Father, and gave it to us in the Lord's prayer to use of our Heavenly Father. The relationship was intact, do you understand? He's going through all this agony, He's grappling with not the will of God but what the will of God would entail at Calvary, but His relationship with the Father was intact. Then in verse 36 He asks: 'All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will'.
Now what is this cup that He's asking to be taken away from Him? Well, it's not the will of God, I think we've covered that. He's not asking for the will of God to be changed, in the sense of 'He's not going to do it'. The Old Testament gives us some clues as to what this cup is, turn with me to Psalm 75. Psalm 75, please, verse 8 reads: 'For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; It is fully mixed, and He pours it out; Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down'. What is in this cup? The wrath of God that the wicked deserve. Turn with me again to Isaiah 51 to show you that this is the case, Isaiah 51 please and verse 17: 'Awake, awake! Stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of His fury; you have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, and drained it out'. The cup of God's fury, His anger towards sin. Turn with me again, just one more, to Jeremiah, just to prove this categorically to you - chapter 25 of Jeremiah and verse 15: 'For thus says the LORD God of Israel to me: 'Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it'.
What was in this cup? The wrath of God towards sin, something that was completely foreign to Christ's character and nature. He didn't know what sin was, and He certainly didn't know the anger of God toward Him because of sin - and yet this is what He's about to drink. Think of that for a moment. The hymn writer put it like this:
'Death and the curse were in the cup;
O Christ, 'twas full for thee!
But thou hast drained the last dark drop,
'Tis empty now for me;
That bitter cup, love drank it up,
Now blessings draw from Thee'.
You see, He drank a cup of wrath without mercy that we, as believers in the New Covenant, we were seeing that this morning, might drink a cup of mercy without wrath! But you're saying to me: 'But He's asking that God would take it away from Him'. Well, what He's asking, I think, is that if it was possible, seeing the horror of what Calvary would mean - for Him to be made sin, and cursed as sin, become the object of God's wrath and be forsaken of God - contemplating that, He's asking God if it's possible that He could righteously redeem and justify men any other way, that it would be done. But the heaven was silent, and He knew there was no other way. So He says: 'Not My will, but Thine be done'.
Can I tell you tonight, if you're not a Christian - and in this pluralistic, multicultural, religious fudge age - that there is salvation in none other, only Jesus Christ. God's Son said: 'If there is any other way...', and there was a silent heaven. You can't be saved through Buddha, you can't be saved through Mohammed, you can't be saved through Joseph Smith, you can't be saved through the Virgin Mary, you can't be saved through Saint Patrick, you can't be saved through King Billy, you can only be saved through Jesus Christ, God's Son, and His sacrifice on the cross - it's the only way! If it wasn't the only way, do you think God would have sent Jesus through Gethsemane and on to Calvary?
Three times Jesus prays about the matter. Twice we read He prayed the same words. Sometimes we hear it said that it's bad to say the same prayers over again - well, sometimes it is, if it's ad nauseam, particularly in the prayer meeting - but it's not wrong to keep praying the same things to the Lord, our Lord did it. In verses 37 through to 42 the disciples who, a while ago, were confessing that they would die for Jesus, couldn't even keep awake for an hour. Look at it, verse 37, 'He came and found them sleeping' - imagine how He felt. The hour of His greatest need, and His disciples are sleeping. He said to Peter, 'Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak'.
Again He went away, and He came back again and found them, verse 40, asleep again - their eyes heavy, they didn't know what to answer Him. Then in verse 41 He comes again the third time, and they're still sleeping - now what is that telling us? In His greatest hour of need, He must go alone. We know that, He said it, didn't He in Zechariah? 'The sheep will be scattered', He must face this hour alone. What a warning He gives to the disciples in verse 38: 'Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak'. Be alert! Be in prayer, disciples! Because we have an enemy, and if you don't watch and pray the likelihood is that you will be overcome by the evil one, irrespective of the best wishes that you might have!
Peter: 'I'll go and die for You'. All of them said: 'We'll go and die with You'. They go into the garden, Jesus needed them, and they fall asleep. Jesus says: 'Look, if you can't even watch and pray, your chances of overcoming the evil one are nil'. Maybe you're here, a professing Christian, maybe not walking with God too much, and you wonder why you're continually overcome by evil. Listen to the words of Jesus: 'Watch and pray' - are you watching? Are you alert about what's coming into your life? Where you're going, what you're doing? Are you alert about your lifestyle? Are you alert about your habits? Are you praying about everything, spreading everything before God? Are you drawing from God in prayer and fellowship? Because the spirit is willing - oh, you want it, don't you? You want to be right with God, you want to go on with God! You want to do your best, you want to excel and you want to be like some of those Christians you know! But the flesh is weak, the flesh is weak - and the only way the flesh can be dealt with is by watching and praying.
Verses 41 and 42, at that moment Judas and the Temple guards arrived to arrest Jesus. In verses 43 to 46 we read it: 'Immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, 'Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely'. As soon as He had come, immediately he went up to Him', imagine it, 'and said to Him, 'Rabbi, Rabbi!' and kissed Him' - and I'm led to believe that's emphatic, which means, perhaps, that he kept on kissing Him - 'Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him'.
In verse 47 here we have Peter again, we know this from the other gospels: 'One of those who stood by drew his sword' - what should he have done when the Shepherd was taken? Fled! But he took his sword, and he struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Now we know from John 18 and verse 10 that Jesus healed this man - it's just as well He did, or there might have been four crosses on Calvary, one of them Peter's! Peter's reaction was natural, wasn't it? Many of us would have reacted in the same way, but it was not spiritual. What Peter was trying to do was use carnal weapons in a spiritual battle, and that's what a lot of Christians are trying to do today, that's what a lot of churches are trying to do today: using fleshly weapons to battle spiritual fights. Someone says he used the wrong weapon at the wrong time for the wrong purpose on the wrong motive.
Finally we read in verse 48 to the end: 'Then Jesus answered and said to them, 'Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me?'' - this proves that it was His time, He was in control. They could have taken Him at any time: 'I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled', that's why it's happening now, Jesus is saying! Here it is, verse 50: 'Then they all forsook Him and fled'. Finally the disciples forsook Him and fled, and so did this young man in verse 51 in a linen cloth, many believe it to be Mark himself - only Mark's Gospel contains that record. But this is the point, the word of verse 27 is fulfilled: the Shepherd has been struck, and the sheep have been scattered.
We have been to a very holy place tonight, haven't we? We have gazed upon a Saviour prostrate. He went a little farther and fell on His face on the ground. Gethsemane, the place of the olive press, the Son of God being crushed by the burden of the anticipation of our sin, and the judgement thereof. Does that mean anything to you? He hasn't even gone to Calvary, He hasn't done anything yet to take away our sins in the truest sense - but does it even mean anything to you that He was near the point of physically expiring, exceeding sorrowful even unto death? Unsaved one, does it not mean anything to you that the Son of God loved you in such a manner, and gave Himself for you in such a manner as this? Believer, maybe like these disciples you've forsaken Him? Well, you've been given a fresh glimpse of Him tonight, is it nothing to you that He went alone? Believer who is sleeping, would it not waken you up?
I read a beautiful poem about Gethsemane with which I will finish tonight, and it makes it very personal. Listen to it:
'Wake my soul, the hour is late,
Hour of darkness and of fate;
Jesus to the Garden goes,
There to taste sin's bitter woes;
Wake my soul, for 'tis for thee
Jesus seeks Gethsemane.
See the Saviour prostrate now,
Sweat of blood upon His brow!
Hear my soul the piercing cry,
Cleaving thrice the silent sky!
Sorer anguish cannot be
Than thy pains, Gethsemane.
Gaze, my soul, with wonder gaze,
'Tis thy Saviour weeps and prays!
Treads the winepress all alone,
Makes us sharers of His throne,
Boundless love, and all for me,
None may tell, for none may know
Why the Saviour suffered so;
Depth of agony and pain
None can measure or explain;
But I know they were for me,
Sorrows of Gethsemane!
Lo the fight is fought and won!
'Not My will, but Thine be done',
And the angels swift of wing
To the garden sweep and sing.
Sing my soul, for 'tis for thee,
Dread, but dear Gethsemane!'
Let us pray. As all heads are bowed, I am conscious of not rushing at this point while the presence of God is so real. Let us ponder and just savour His presence with us. I believe the risen Lord Jesus, believe it with all my heart, because of the preciousness of this moment to Him in the garden, I believe He has drawn strangely near, and He is meeting with us. He is speaking to you, you know He is. There is something for you to do - what is that? What He did, say: 'Not my will, but Thine be done'. Now you will be saying it in a different sense than He, because He had no sin, He had no falling away. He was just in His final hours, coming to that place in time of complete and utter surrender to what was ahead of Him. But, my friend, Jesus asks you - and this is the dilution of the gospel that is now preached - Jesus asks you to follow Him. There's an old hymn that says: 'Though He leads me, I will follow', and one of the verses says 'Though He leads me through the Garden, I will follow, follow Him'.
Are there ones here tonight that need to pray - yes, in a different manner than He - need to pray: 'Not my will, but Thine be done'? A soul that needs saved? A backslider that needs restored? A Christian that needs revived and filled with the Holy Spirit? A person that needs a fresh start? A decision that you have been grappling with and struggling with against the will of God, and tonight you need to surrender? Deal with God in the quiet moments now, deal with Him now. While He is near, call upon Him, seek Him while He may be found. I'm just going to close in prayer, but I would ask you - and I know you want to chat and fellowship, and that's fine - but I would ask you please to just be aware, all of you, that folk are dealing with God. God is at work in this place, and just be conscious not to do anything that might quench or grieve the Spirit.
Abba Father, if ever we knew that there was no other way, we know it tonight, when Your Holy Son - willing to do whatever was in Your will for Him - His holy Soul contemplating being the sin offering and bearing Your wrath, Lord, when you caused Him in complete fellowship to know Your will, and He resigned to it, that it was the only way. Lord, may everyone here tonight know it, and may those who know it appreciate it - may I appreciate it. Yet we see that He has still to go to Calvary. Lord, I can't say much more, just deal with everyone here and my own heart - that all of us would be completely surrendered to Your will, whatever that might mean. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered in Ards Evangelical Church, Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifty-fourth recording in his 'Studies In Mark' series, entitled "The Agony Of Gethsemane" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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