Matthew 26:36-46 In the Garden (Pastor Joey Rountree)
It is easier to preach ten sermons than to live one. It is easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk. Our credibility is bound up in how we follow-up on our professions. But too often, when the rubber hits the road, what is revealed is much less than we professed. Peter assured Jesus he would never leave Him, and yet…
But what about Jesus? What about His ability to follow through with His promises? In the moment of His greatest temptation, how would He respond? When anguish and distress would reveal His humanity in full measure, Jesus, recoiling from the wrath He was about to endure, resolved to be obedient and fulfill His Father’s will. He would go to the shame and suffering of the cross.
Jesus and the eleven come to Gethsemane. Eight are told to remain as Jesus, Peter, James, and John go further into the garden. There Jesus says, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
At this point, the disciples have no idea what is going on. They don’t know the arrangements that have been made between the religious leaders and Judas. They do not have a clue that Jesus will soon be arrested.
Jesus looks to His friends and confesses He is crushed with anguish. Luke would describe this with the words, “sweat like drops of blood.” The author of Hebrews described it, “who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear.” Hebrews 5:7
What did Jesus know that would bring this reaction of terror to the Son of God? The physical torment of the Romans? The crucifixion? While these were more than most of us could imagine, there is something much worse. It is something humanity has no means of describing this side of eternity. The spiritual agony of Jesus was caused by His knowledge that He would become the object of God’s full wrath and judgement. Imagine the one who had never lied; had never even exaggerated the truth; now would pay the full penalty for the sins of the world. He said, “I feel like my body is going to quit, I feel like I am going to die, I am crushed with anguish.”
Consider our usual reaction to stress and anguish (anger, confusion, etc..). Jesus however, echoes the pattern of prayer He taught to His disciples. He petitions the Father. “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” This is the apex of His humanity. The cup He speaks of is the full measure of God’s wrath. Even worse, Jesus sees the separation from the perfect fellowship He and His Father enjoy. We cannot understand this anymore than we can understand the full measure of His wrath. The world has never experienced this manner of wrath, and we have never experienced this degree of separation.
But there was no other way. The only path of reconciliation for God and man, “not My will, but Thine.” What Jesus knew in theory, He now embraces with reality.
The disciples are sleeping. Jesus wakes them with the words, “Could you not pray one hour?”
***Jesus makes it sound as if a one hour prayer is very little (ouch). Each time Jesus prayed in the garden, it was at least one hour.
Also patterned from the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says to them, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” We often assume Jesus is asking them to pray for Him, but He tells them this for their benefit. He is saying, “You need to pray! You don’t know how bad you need to pray.” Thought: When I am in need, my physical posture changes before a Holy God.
Jesus embraces that there is no alternative; He resolves to be obedient to the Father’s will. Despite His recoil from the cross, He is willing. When the heat is on, the disciples will run, but Jesus will faithfully suffer and die as our propitiation.
1. The Gospel is not plan B or an afterthought.
2. Jesus was not a victim. He knew and was willing.
3. In His humanity, Jesus recoiled at the cross.
4. Jesus was determined to obey the Father. (He chose to, even though we surely are not worth it)
5. Prayer strengthened Jesus. The lack of prayer led to the disciples’ demise.