Mark: Dark Gethsemane

Sermon by Derek Thomas on February 5, 2006

Mark 14:32-42

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The Lord’s Day Evening

February 5, 2006

Mark 14:32-42

“Dark Gethsemane”

Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas

Now turn with me, if you would, in the Gospel of Mark to
chapter 14. And I need to explain, in passing over the section from verse
26-31…this is the foretelling by Jesus of Peter’s denial. The reason I’m doing
that is because I’m going to come back to it later. In chapter 14 Mark has this
tendency of sandwiching stories, and we’ll be dealing with that section later on
in the chapter when in verse 66 Peter actually denies Jesus. So we’ll go back
and look at those predictive verses at that point.

The section that is before us tonight is a very
solemn one. It’s the account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and we’re
going to read from verse 32 to verse 42. But before we do so, let’s come before
God in prayer.

O Lord our God, we tremble as we come to this
passage of Scripture when we read of the horror that overtook our blessed Lord
in the Garden and we know that it was for us, for our sins, for our
transgressions. Holy Spirit, we pray as we study this passage again this
evening, come and give us insight. Cause our minds to understand and our hearts
to respond in faith and gratitude. And we pray, O Lord, that You would be
glorified for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

This is God’s holy and inerrant word:

“They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His
disciples, ‘Sit here until I have prayed.’ And He took with Him Peter and James
and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them,
‘My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.’
And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground, and began to pray that
if it were possible, the hour might pass him by. And He was saying, ‘Abba!
Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I
will, but what You will.’ And He came and found them sleeping, and said to
Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Keep
watching and praying, that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is
willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And again He went away and prayed, saying the
same words. And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very
heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. And 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. Get
up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!’”

Amen. And may God bless to us
the reading of His holy and inerrant word.

According to Luke and John, it had been the custom
of Jesus in this final week of ministry in Jerusalem…it had been His custom
with His disciples each evening on the way out of Jerusalem and to Bethany that
He would spend some time here in this olive garden. No doubt Judas has already
taken note of that and has already made his arrangements that Jesus will be
betrayed, handed over to the Sanhedrin in the quietness of the darkness of the
garden.

“Gethsemane, can I forget,

Or there thy conflict see

Thine agony and bloody sweat,

And not remember Thee?”

Something terrible happens here in these moments. By way of
contrast to the relative calm and serenity and peace of the upper room, here a
storm breaks loose. Here in the garden Jesus suddenly becomes troubled and
distressed and falls to the ground. Every fiber of His being seems to be
wrestling with the unfolding providence of God, realizing now as perhaps never
before in His earthly ministry and consciousness the cost of what it means to be
the Servant of the Lord who takes away the sins of God’s people. This garden is
a foretaste of Calvary.

We see several things that come to the surface as
we spend a little while in the garden, and I want us to see

I. Gethsemane is a place of
prayer.

We read in verse 32, Jesus says, “Sit here until I
have prayed.”

Now let’s think about that for a second. Few things
signal our complete and utter dependence upon God than prayer. Prayer is an
expression of our inability to accomplish it by ourselves. Prayer is a
confession of our weakness, our frailty, our complete dependence upon the
sovereignty and provision of Almighty God. We’re saying that we need His
assistance, we need His strengthening, we need His enabling, we need His power,
we need His resources. We cannot so much as lift a finger without the hand of
God.

But Jesus is the second person of the Trinity.
Jesus is the Lord of glory. Jesus is the Creator of all that is: by the breath
of His mouth the universe came into being. We’ve seen Him in the pages of the
Gospels walking upon the surface of the Sea of Galilee. We’ve seen Him
transforming a few loaves and fishes to feed 12,000 people. We’ve seen Him heal
the sick. We’ve seen Him claim with absolute assurance His identity as the
second person, the Son of God, the Lord of glory. And yet there’s another side
to Jesus, isn’t there, because He is not only the Lord, but He is also the
incarnate Son. He’s taken on flesh and blood; He is found in weakness now that
here in the garden especially we see something of His frailty and His humanity
as He prays with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.

We’ve seen it before in the Gospel of Mark. In the
very opening chapter we read of Him rising up a great while before day and
departing into a solitary place, and there praying to His Father in heaven. It
is what the Servant of the Lord had committed Himself to do, of course. In the
second Psalm: “Ask of Me and I will give You the uttermost parts of the world
for Your inheritance.” Every day Jesus had come to His Father and He prayed and
He supplicated. He’d ask His Father to help Him; He’d ask His Father to
strengthen Him; He’d ask the Holy Spirit to fill Him, so that He might perform
His task as the Servant of the Lord; to resist temptation; to lead this glorious
and impeccable life; to seek first the kingdom of God; to overcome the wicked
one.

And now in the garden, in a way that for thirty
years and more He seemingly had not known to this extent — the realization of
the cost of it as the overwhelming vision now of what lay before Him in the next
24 hours, as He saw clearer than He had ever seen before what it meant to be the
Lord’s Servant.

No doubt Gethsemane had witnessed Him praying many
times before, but never like this; never with this urgency; never with this
turmoil; never with sweat — drops of blood — falling to the ground; never with
this turmoil in His psychology, in His emotions, in His very body.

Of course, I have to say it: If Jesus needed to
resort to His Father in prayer, how much more do you and I now need to do that?

Gethsemane is a place of prayer.

II. Gethsemane is a place of
isolation.

But in the second place, Gethsemane is a
place of isolation. It’s a curious thing, the way Jesus first of all separates
Himself from the eight disciples and then from the three — Peter, James, and
John — and then, going a little ways beyond them (in Luke’s Gospel, “a stone’s
throw” — 30, 40 yards away). He’s saying several things to us.

On the one hand, He feels the need for the
presence of at least some of His disciples.
He asks in particular Peter and
James and John …these three that we’ve seen before, this triumvirate

within the discipleship. We’ve seen them on the Mount of
Transfiguration…this special bond that Jesus had with them. He says to them in
particular, He opens up His soul to them: “My soul is deeply grieved to the
point of death. Remain here and watch,” He says to them. That’s an incredible
thing, isn’t it, on the surface, at least? That He would feel the need, the
social need, of the companionship of these disciples in His hour of trial.

You know, Mark tells us curiously that when He chose
the twelve disciples He chose them “in order that they might be with Him.” Just
that – that they might be with Him, that they might be His companions in the
battle, in the task that lies before Him. He’s a man; He’s a human being, and
He feels the need for human companionship. And in the next 24 hours He will
travel a road that leads to utter isolation as one by one these disciples will
forsake Him, abandon Him, fail in the meanest of tasks. Isn’t it curious that
Jesus, in the work of redemption, asks these three to pray for Him, to pray for
themselves? Because redemption is at hand! Salvation is at hand! The rescuing of
sinners from Adam’s fall is now at hand. This is the hour, and it has come.

You remember how many times Jesus had said to them,
“The hour is not yet come.” But the hour has come now; it is upon them. ‘And I
want you to pray with Me. I want you to fall down on your knees and beseech our
Father in heaven.’ And they could not. Those closest to Him, I think, would draw
the conclusion that He was letting them down; that in a way, He had betrayed
them, and they fall asleep. It’s an amazing thing that Jesus wanted the help of
these three to pray with Him in redemption’s most crucial moment and there’s no
one there to hold Him up. There’s not a one to bear His burden with Him! There’s
not a one to help Him in the battle, not a one. He has to face it alone. He
has to face it absolutely and totally alone.

And in a sense, do you see, it could only be that
way.
He alone could bear the sins of men; He alone could meet
that dreadful wrath. He alone could face that unmitigated anger of God against
sin. He alone could endure the pangs of hell. He alone can atone for guilt,
because “there is no other good enough to pay the price of sin. He only can
unlock the gates of heaven, and let us in.”

III. Gethsemane is a place of
battle.

But thirdly, not only is this a place of
prayer and a place of isolation, but thirdly, it is a place of battle. There is
a battle going on here, a spiritual battle, a battle of the flesh against the
spirit. It’s the battle of the world against the kingdom of heaven. It is the
battle of Satan against God. It is the grandest, greatest, fiercest battle that
ever was fought, and it takes place here in this garden.

We’re already seen how Satan has entered into the
heart of Judas, and Jesus’ urgent command, “Watch and pray, so that you will not
fall into temptation” It’s the hour of darkness. It’s Satan’s hour. What Satan
had perhaps seen in mists down through the centuries of the plan and purpose of
God, that the seed of a woman would crush his head, and he must have seen it
now. It must have dawned upon him now — the battle plan! The cunning of it! The
audacity of it! That the Son of God Himself would come to lay down His life!
And Satan comes in all his subtlety.

Let’s glance at this from a purely human point of
view. Our Lord suffered here in the garden an emotional and psychological
battle. He had a human psychology. He knew both joy and sorrow. As a perfect
human being we may say that His psychology demands our attention here at its
most basic level, and we see something of the dark side of it: a man of sorrows
and acquainted with grief. He was distressed, do you remember, by human
callousness and hardness. He wept in the face of Jerusalem’s refusal to bow to
Him. At the tomb of His friend, Lazarus, He sheds tears. I think we can say
that all of the pent up emotions in the human psychology of Jesus erupt here in
Gethsemane. Things that Jesus had alluded to in the past have now come to all of
their stark and bitter reality in the garden, and He’s sore amazed and very
heavy, and exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.

Few have plumbed the depths of this more than B. B.
Warfield, who wrote the marvelous, marvelous essay a hundred years ago on The
Emotional Life of Our Lord
. This is what he has to say:

“The primary idea of ‘troubled’ is loathing aversion, perhaps not unmixed with
despondency. While Jesus’ self-description as overwhelmed with sorrow expresses
a sorrow, or perhaps we would be better to say a mental pain, a distress which
hems Him in on every side, from which there is therefore no escape.”

Mark uses another word of his own: deeply distressed,
which has been rendered horror struck. It’s a term which more narrowly
defines the distress as consternation; if not exactly dread, yet alarmed
dismay.

It’s interesting that the word troubled
actually means to be away from home. The choir was singing this morning
the words of the Twenty-third Psalm. And do you remember how it ended? With the
idea of the child of God being at home in the presence of his heavenly Father.
This is not home! There’s a chasm that has erupted in this garden, and it’s
tearing the soul of Jesus apart!

When Moses saw God’s glory on Mount Sinai, so
terrifying was the sight that he trembled with fear. But, my friends, what
Moses saw was God in covenant. What Moses saw was the grace of God, and it
filled him with holy trembling. But what Jesus is seeing here is His Father’s
hand lifted up with a sword in it, so that Luther can say, “No one feared death
so much as this Man.” The sight of what lay before Him opened up now as never
before, so that He utters almost the unutterable: that the Servant of the Lord
Himself should say, “Father…” yes, “Father” here, but not on the cross. On
the cross, it will be “My God! My God!” as though the consciousness of His
native Sonship will then have altogether been obliterated. Now in the garden He
says, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” This cup of
wrath, this cup of God’s holy anger against sin, this cup which has within it
dregs which will drive Him to the very gates of hell, and He asks that it pass
away.

How did Satan tempt Jesus here in the garden?
What did he do? I want to suggest to you that what he does here is precisely
what he always does. It’s what he did in the original garden, of Eden. He came
to Adam and Eve and he said to them ‘If God loves you, He wouldn’t ask you to do
this.’ And that’s what he’s saying here. He’s saying to Jesus ‘If Your Father
loves You, He wouldn’t ask You to do this.’ And, my friends, that’s what Satan
always does. He always wants to rob us of the assurance of the love of God in
every providence. He wants us to see the darkness of the providence and draw the
conclusion that God doesn’t love us.

“If it be possible…” Jesus says. Do you know, at
one level that’s altogether reassuring, isn’t it, for those of us who have
discovered providences and trials that are hard, and from which we want to run
away: that even our blessed Lord found a providence from which He wanted to run
away. He would have given almost anything not to have trodden down this
pathway, and yet… and yet… “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” He yields
Himself absolutely and unreservedly in obedience to the will of His heavenly
Father and He drinks of that cup, and He will drink it to its bitter dregs —
dregs which will speak of the pains and pangs of hell.

“We may not know, we cannot tell

What pains He had to bear;

But we believe it was for us

He hung and suffered there.”

Calvin says in what is marvelous economy of words,

“It is our wisdom to have a fit sense of how
much our salvation cost the Son of God.”

But Gethsemane is also a place of resolve, of
marvelous resolve,
of uncomprehending resolve, as the sinless Lamb of God in
the revulsion of His soul as He tastes something of the wrath of His Father —
not for His sins, but for the sins of His people. He says to these disciples
who on three occasions now have failed Him – He says to them, “Rise. Let us be
going. The one who betrays Me is at hand.”

And there’s something about the way Jesus had placed
the disciples, and something now about the words of resolution and commitment
here that signals, does it not, that here is the Captain of our salvation.
Here is the One who goes out to meet His foe in battle. He is no victim, but He
gives His life.
He lays it down of His own volition in obedience to
His Father’s covenant, and it was for love. It was for love, because He loved
us, uncomprehending as that may be, astonishing as that is to the chords of our
own hearts that He loved us. He loved us so much that He was prepared to bear
the sword of His Father that would plunge Him into the very depth of hell for
our sin; for the guilt of our sins; for that which you and I deserve. Here is
the last Adam in triumph, in glory, going out to meet His betrayer and His
captors and His enemy.

“I stand all amazed in the
presence

Of Jesus the Nazarene,

And wonder how He could love me,

A sinner condemned, unclean.

Oh, how marvelous!

Oh, how wonderful!

And my song shall ever be

Oh, how marvelous!

Oh, how wonderful

Is my Savior’s love to me.”

Let’s pray together.

Father, this is holy ground, and we feel unclean
even as we approach it. We’re overwhelmed, Lord Jesus, by Your love for us.
Teach us what it meaneth, the cross uplifted high, and One, the Man of Sorrows,
condemned to bleed and die. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Please stand. Receive the Lord’s benediction.

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and
the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

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