Introduction: Jesus and the eleven disciples finished their time in the Upper Room. Judas Iscariot had left them so he could betray Jesus to the chief priests and others. He missed out on the truths which our Lord shared with the others in John 14-16, and the Lord’s beautiful beyond words in John 17. Now Jesus and the others were heading for a place they had apparently visited often when they were in Judea (John 18:1-2).
But now, the Lord definitely felt the urge for prayer. He asked Peter, James, and John to go with Him to Gethsemane, across the valley of the Kidron (John 18:1) and outside of Jerusalem. If anyone can read the four accounts of what happened there in the “garden” of Gethsemane, and not be moved, I don’t know what else to say. Our Lord did all this for us so that we might have salvation by grace through faith!
1 Accompanied by the disciples
Text, Mark 14:32-34, KJV: 32 And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. 33 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; 34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.
Mark states here that “they”, the Eleven Disciples, walked with Jesus to Gethsemane. Because, as John said, they crossed the Kidron (Cedron, KJV), Gethsemane was outside Jerusalem, near the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39). As nobody knows for certain which house the Lord and disciples used, it’s not certain how far they walked in order to reach Gethsemane. Interestingly, the word or name “Gethsemane” means “oil press” or “olive press” and some pressing things indeed were about to happen to our Lord.
How long it may have taken them to get to Gethsemane from the “upper room” is never stated. It’s likely this was a journey few if any of them wanted to take but knowing what they knew, that the Lord was going to leave them, they may not have wanted this journey to end, either. The Lord, after all, had spoken many things to them (John 14-16) on the way to this place, and He had even paused to offer His “high priestly prayer” recorded in John 17.
But here they were. And sure enough, things began to happen.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him and left the other eight men where they were. He told them to stay put while He went to pray. May we never forget how often our Lord spent time praying to His Father. It wouldn’t hurt us to spend more time with our Heavenly Father, as well.
Leaving the others where they were (implied), Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him and apparently went a distance away from the others. Mark adds these alarming words:, “He began to be sore amazed and to be very heavy.” Bible teachers and preachers have wondered just what really was going on; one radio preacher compared this account with Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts and came to the conclusion that the Devil was trying to kill Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane before He would be crucified. It may have been even worse than anything you or I could even imagine. I don’t remember reading anywhere else in the Gospels that Jesus was in such turmoil as this. He even said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death!”
Who could endure pain or stress like that for very long? And the Lord had brought along three of His disciples, asking them to stay and keep watch (be on the alert).
Even though He had brought the disciples, and asked three of them to go with Him where He prayed, He was still very much alone, except for the Father.
2 Alone while He prayed
Text, Mark 14:35-42, KJV: 35 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. 37 And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? 38 Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. 39 And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. 40 And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him. 41 And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.
Jesus had asked Peter, James, and John to walk with Him after He left the other disciples at an unspecified location in Gethsemane. Now in verse 35, Mark states Jesus went “forward a little” (“about a stone’s cast”, Luke 22:41) and “fell on the ground.” This probably means He didn’t trip over a branch or tree root or anything, rather, that He deliberately knelt down (see Matthew 26:39 and Luke 22:41) and prayed. Understandably, Jesus prayed for the Father to “take away the cup”—whatever that cup was, and whatever that cup contained—but in some of the greatest submission to the Father’s will, He said, “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”
How long the Lord was in prayer is never recorded. He may have prayed for a literal hour or an indefinite time. The Lord did awaken Peter, it seems: He found Simon asleep and asked him, “Are you still asleep? Couldn’t you stay awake for one hour?” Then the Lord left Peter with these classic words of warning, “Watch and pray so that you don’t enter into temptation.”
We would also do well to heed these words of warning.
After this, the Lord left Peter (and most likely the other two as well) and went back to pray again, using the same words. No “vain repetition” here, as the Lord had spoken against in the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:7—this was serious business. Jesus had seen or felt or even experienced something that brought Him close to death (verses 33-34) and prayed for something we may never comprehend. Our Lord took the cup of whatever it was, in complete submission to the Father’s will.
Again the Lord returned and again Peter and the others were asleep. Jesus went back the third time to pray, and then to speak with the three men. This time, they didn’t know what to say when the Lord basically awakened them from a possible very deep sleep!
So even though the disciples were close by, the Lord Jesus was still very much alone. In this hour of severe trial, He had no human helpers and no one to pray with Him when He needed them the most. But He was never completely alone: the Father was always with Him, even then (see John 8:16 and, something they had all just heard a few hours ago, at the most, John 16:32).
But even worse, He was soon going to see a large number of people. And they weren’t friendly.
3 Arrested by Judas and the soldiers
Text, Mark 14:43-50, KJV: 43 And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely. 45 And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him. 46 And they laid their hands on him, and took him. 47 And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? 49 I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled. 50 And they all forsook him, and fled.
Verses 41-42 has the Lord’s warning to the disciples, that Judas, the one who was betraying Him, was “at hand” or close and getting closer. Mark even said that Judas came to, or approached, Jesus while He was still speaking.
What Judas did after this was even more despicable. He had already gone to the chief priests and received his pay (thirty pieces of silver or one month’s wages) for the deed. The sign (“token”, verse 44) would be the person Judas kissed. This was a custom of those days, the kiss of peace on the cheek, a symbol of friendship. Judas was about to turn that signal upside down, using that gesture to clearly identify “Here He is!”
And Judas wasn’t subtle about it. Even in the darkness (the soldiers brought “lanterns and torches and weapons”, John 18:3), Judas went directly to Jesus and kissed Him on the cheek. Sure enough, the soldiers “laid hands on Him, and took Him” into custody.
Mark adds a note that speaks to Peter’s impulsiveness. Comparing verse 47 with the other accounts in the other three Gospels, we know it was Peter (John 18:10) who took his sword (Matthew 26:51) and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, named Malchus (Luke 22:50 and John 18:10), but Jesus immediately healed Malchus (Luke 22:51). Even though Peter was misguided (what could one man do against as many as 500 to 600 or more trained soldiers?), he wasn’t going to let anybody take Jesus away from him without a fight of some kind!
But even though Peter was willing to stand and fight, this was neither the time nor the place. The Lord knew it was time for Him to face the mob in order to fulfill several prophecies, such as Isaiah 53 and parts of Psalms 16 and 22, plus any number of others. He left the garden of Gethsemane, went to Jerusalem and eventually to Calvary. True, He died on the cross there, but that isn’t the end of the story.
HE IS ALIVE! And an empty tomb proves it beyond any doubt!
Even so, there’s still more to the Easter story. Our Lord still had much to endure before He completed His course and returned to the Father. And the Lord willing, we’ll take a look at more of that very thing in the next message or two in this series.
Conclusion: after the Passover meal, Jesus and the disciples walked to the Garden of Gethsemane, near the Mount of Olives. The disciples came along with Him, maybe not knowing much about what was going to happen, but they stayed true to Jesus at this time. Sometime after they got there, Jesus asked three of them (Peter, James and John) to go a little farther away to He could pray. They went to sleep, so Jesus was alone—so alone—during one of the most difficult periods of His earthly life. When He was done praying, He went back to where the three were sleeping; He woke them up and warned them that Judas, the betrayer, was coming. Once Judas identified Jesus, the soldiers who came with Judas arrested Jesus and took Him away.
Our Lord loved each one of us enough to do all of that for all of us. O that we might share this incredible, unspeakable Love of His with as many as we can while we can.
Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)