There are two important gardens in Scripture where God has walked with man, but both are marked by man forsaking God. In Gethsemane Jesus was all alone . . . a sign of things to come.
Gethsemane Part II
John 18:1, Matt. 26:37-46
I would invite you to take your Bible and open to the Book of Hebrews, chapter 5.
In our last discussion, we opened a series we're calling A Tribute to the Lamb. We entered the garden just as Judas was hurrying up the hillside toward Gethsemane with 600 armed Roman soldiers, the temple police and a mob of others who had come in the night to arrest the Lord.
We find the Lord ready and waiting for them - composed, submissive, even helpful to His would be captors . . how could He, though God, yet 100% man be so compsed in the garden? We studied last Lord's day the answer - His composure was a result of His perspective . . . the cup that He would drink had come from the hand of His Father.
I want to ask another question? How did He gain such perspective? And, since He is to be our example, what resource did He rely upon in the garden to handle the lonliest, most difficult moments in His life.
The hours where, as Doughty wrote in his volumne "Union With Christ", Christ's human nature and His human will struggled with Divine will.
Hebrews 5:7 says it all, "In the days of His flesh, he offered up both prayers and suplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and he was heard becuase of His piety. Although he was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered."
I do not believe you can appreciate this story unless you understand that we are going to view Jesus, the Man, struggling in the garden as you would have struggled and as you struggle in your Gethsemane's.
Through the lens of scripture we see the Son of Man, tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin - we look and learn and then worship, and marvel at this tribute to the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world.
I have read that in the Iran/Iraq war, on the Thursday before the battle began, the Iraqi soldiers dug 40,000 graves in the lonely desert sands. They did not dig these graves for the enemies they hoped to kill, but for themselves. Those graves were testimonials to their willingness to die.
So I want to return to the lonely garden - and show you what John did not record - the hours just prior to the arrival of Judas. Shocking hours that are difficult for us to even comprehend. Hours where, Jesus Christ, in effect, dug His grave, signifying His willingness to die.
You'll find the amplified account of those lonely hours in Gethsemane Matthews Gospel account, chapter 26.
Let's begin at verse 36. Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray."
Now you need to get a picture in your mind - in Jerusalem itself there were no gardens. The city was too crowded, and there was also a law that the city's sacred soil should not be polluted with manure for the gardens. I'm sure people in general, becuase of the cramped, crowded conditions, probably appreciated this anti-manure law.
However, some of the richest residents owned private gardens out on the Mount of Olives. They built beautiful stone walls around their private acres where they would rest and relax. Evidently Jesus had a wealthy friend who had evidently offered Him a place to rest and pray.
37. And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed.
Now why did He take these three and station them nearby? Why have Peter James and John follow Him into the recesses of the garden?
1) To protect His privacy? He knew no one would disturb Him.
2) To provide companionship? They didn't provide it - in fact, notice verse 43. And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavey.
44. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.
45. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?"
3) I frankly believe the reason He took them with Him was not for protection or companionship, but for instruction. Before nodding off to sleep they would see and hear what, I am sure, would come back to remind them later.
This is how you handle Gethsemane's! This is how you prepare for wooden crosses. This is what you do when you're surrounded by sorrow . . . when you're overwhelmed by distress! And more than likely, you're closest friends will not be able to understand your deepest feelings and they also may sleep soundly through the night while you agonize with sorrow.
Let me show you two key words that reveal the emotion of the Man, Christ Jesus . . .
Two key words
The first word is is verse 37 - he began to be grieved (KJV & NIV - sorrowful) is a word that could be rendered "troubled". It implied a shrinking from some trouble or thought of trouble which nevertheless cannot be escaped.
Don't ever forget, Jesus Christ is not an actor trying to feel the part . . . trying to feel what a human being would feel at this moment . . . while He is 100% divine, He is human - 100%.
2) The word distressed (KJV - heavy; NIV - troubled) literally means to be overwhelmed with distress. It can be translated, "surrounded by sorrow"
WHY SUCH AGONY?! Look at verse 38. Then He said to them "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.
--Could it be becuase of betrayal - quite frankly, you and I would have been offended to know we had been sold for the price of a crippled slave?
--Could it be the coming desertion of the 11
--The denial of Peter, the man in whom He'd invested so much time and energy
--Could it be the rejection by the nation Israel over whom He'd wept bitter tears and yet heard them cry, "We have no King but Ceasar - crucify Him."
--Or perhaps the injustice of it all - He the creator of justice, now the recipient of terrible injustice
--Could it be the coming loss of fellowship and intimacy with the Father as He will cry, "Why have you forsaken me?" Literally, "Why have you abandoned Me?"
--Could it be the horror of the cross
--Was it the fact that He would become sin for us who knew no sin?
Yes, it was all of these and a million times more that overwhelmed his humanity just as it would have crushed ours!
Turn over to Mark's Gospel, chapter 14:34. And He sadi to them, "My soul is deeply grieved tot hepoint 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."
The words "he fell to the ground and prayed" are in the imperfect tense
which denotes action in progress.
Now I know the famous painting of Jesus praying in the garden has him kneeling at a stone, with His hands folded, in prayer. If you have that picture hanging on the wall - that's okay - He might have prayed that way at some other time. But here in the garden we read 35. "He went a little beyond them and fell to the ground and began to pray" - imperfect tense - He fell to the ground and prayed; got up went a little further and fell down and prayed; picked Himself back up staggered a few more steps and fell again and prayed, Hebrews says with loud cries and tears. . .look at the GodMan in the garden - staggering, falling, crying, staggering, falling, crying. Can you imagine?!
Luke records in 22:44. "And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground."
The medical community calls this hematidriosis - the bursting of the cappilaries underneath the surface of the skin - and the clotting bloods mixes with the sweat of the person under duress and emerges on the skin - blood red.
When you think about it - Jesus shed some blood in the garden too.
Now . . . . . . . . . . . . . just what did Jesus pray?!
All the Gospel accounts record the same prayer. Let's go back to Matthew 26
. . . this is how you handle Gesthemanes'
1) I want you to notice Christ's opening statement:
Matthew 26:39 (get ready to underline a key phrase) And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face adn prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt. skip to verse 42. .He went away again a second time and prayed, saying,"My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done."
Now in the Aramaic, "My Father is literally, "Abba, Father"- through all of this lonely experience, Christ, the man never lost the sense of utter dependance upon the Father.
Abba is an aramic term of possesive endearment. Now some have tried to translate it "Daddy" which I find far short of it's meaning. Daddy is an American expression for the young. In France, I noticed it was Pappa.
Daddy is not necessarily an intimate term - in fact, my kids call me Daddy not necessarily becuase they are close to me but becuase they are young. When they get older they will call me Dad, not becuase they love me less, but becuase it's more fitting.
So, to refer to God the Father as Daddy is not necessarily intimacy, in fact it would trivialize Him.
The aramaic expression is precious simply becuase it is possessive. Literally translated it is "MY FATHER!"
What is so potent for us to learn from this is the simple fact that Christ's moments in the garden did not drive Him to ask, "Where are you anyway?" 'You must not love me anymore!"
Our Gesthemane's tend to bring us to the wrong conclusion that God is gone! Pain must mean God is absent!
The mark of Christlike maturity is, during a Gethsemane experience, being able to still pray, "My Father"! I know you're mine! I still trust you as Father . . . I know you haven't left me alone!"
2) Notice as well, Christ's honest struggle
v. 39. My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me..." v. 42. "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done."
Remember, the cup was the categorical term for Christ's sufferings - his betrayal, crucifixion, death. . .abandonment - that is, God the Father would turn away from God the Son in such a way that intimacy would be severed. No, the trinity would not become for some split second reduced to duality.
But fellowship would be lost while God the Son became filthy sin.
Do you know what it means - "to become sin - to bear the penalty of the sins of humanity?"
I don't . . . but a writer by the name of Mark Mosley astonished me by capturing a small drop from the ocean of truth that related to Christ becoming sin.
Is it any wonder that Christ staggered and fell and prayed, "My Father.."
3) Then notice Chrsist's total submission
(v. 42) last part of the verse - "Thy will be done. . .".
When you pray in your garden, when you're surrounded by sorrow - you're more likely to try and conform God's will to yours. Jesus, the model Man, surrenders His agonized will to the will of the Father.
Based upon what Christ has shown us. . .what are we to learn about
Experiencing Personal Gethsemane's:
1) REALIZE! Gethsemane's are the inevitable experience of those who follow Jesus Christ.
Paul said, "That I might know Him, the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings." Hebrews told us already that Christ learned obedience through the things He suffered.
I believe that Gethsemane's would not be so devastating if we were able to understand and accept they are chisel's in the hand of the Father to sculptor us into the image of the Lamb.
2) REMEMBER! Intimacy with God does not erase the potential of pain.
Fellowship with the Father does not help us avoid the garden, but it helps us walk through them.
In fact, it is intimacy that transforms the garden into a classroom where some of the greatest learning takes place.
Ron Hamilton, a man who lost an eye to cancer, a man who has become known around the country as the muscial Patch the Pirate wrote, shortly after his ordeal:
Now I can see, testing comes from above
God strengthens His children and purges in love;
My Father knows best, and I trust in His care,
Through purging more fruit I will bear.
Oh rejoice in the Lord, He makes no mistake,
He knoweth the end of each path that I take;
For when I am tried and purified,
I shall come forth as gold
So REALIZE . . . REMEMBER! Finally. . .
.3) RECOGNIZE When in the garden, close friends can be reassuring, but they cannot be replacements for the Father.
Take another look at Christ's associates - His closest friends on earth v. 40. And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?" 41. Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." skip to 43. And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavey.
44. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45. Then He came to the disciples, and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46. Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!"
As I read this passage over and over, different facets of Gethsemane stood out to me. . .It wasn't until late in my studies that this struck me. Jesus specifically asked his closest three friends to pray with Him. . .and certainly for Him!
Two times He siad, "Men would you pray too?!"
Peter, James and John slept!
One of the ways you'll know you're experienceing a Gethsemane is the fact that no one - husband, wife, father, mother, friend, associate - no one will understand. And those you specifically ask to bear your burden will not be able to enter into your depth of emotion and struggle.
EXCEPT ONE! Jesus knows what that's like - and His message to you is, I understand and so does My Father.
And so in the Garden, Jesus looked into his grave with and saw all the agony of His cup - and he said, "Oh My Father, thy will be done."
And like a lamb led to it's death, it utters not a sound, so Christ, from this moment forward with no sound of recoil or hesitation walks forward . . . all the way to the cross.
And in the journey, this Lamb has shown us how to walk through Gethsemane.
Pray: Oh Lamb of God, we marvel and worship at your sacrifice. . .
Sing: O Come Let us adore Him. . .We'll thank you Lord forever
. . .Christ` the Lord!