Summary: Jesus submitted to the agony of the Garden for love of you.
The Agony of Love; Mark 14:32-42; 4th Lent; 4 of 7 in “Al for You” series; 3-26-06; The Promise; Darryl Bell
The Bible says, During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard be-cause of his reverent submission (Hebrews 5:7).We look today at the supreme example of that. Jesus prayed in agony to be delivered. And God delivered him, not from death, but through death. The amazing aspect of this experience of Jesus is his willing surrender. He submitted himself to his Father’s perfect will, becoming an example of submission for us as well.
This is the fourth in our series of messages, “All for You,” focused on all Jesus did for you in the last few days of his earthly life. It comes from the last three chapters of the gospel of Mark.
They went to a place called Gethsemane. It was on the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem. Here is a picture of it seen from the Temple area. On the lower slopes of this big hill were thousands of olive trees. “Gethsemane” means “olive press,” the place where oil was squeezed from the olives. There was a garden there, a place familiar to the disciples be-cause Jesus often went there. The Romans cut down most of the trees when they invaded Palestine in AD 70 and put Jerusa-lem under siege. Today there are olive trees there again, some as old as 1,200 to 1,400 years.
Jesus asked most of the disciples to sit down while he went and prayed. Then he took three of them, Peter, James and John, along with him a little farther. These three were the inner circle of the disciples. They were present when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from death. They were there when Jesus was transfigured. And now they’re with him again at a key moment in his life.
Interestingly, each of them had pledged special loyalty to Jesus. You’ll remember Peter had boasted, just minutes before, that even if all the others deserted Jesus, he never would. Even if I have to die with you, I’ll never disown you (Mark 14:31). And back in chapter 10 James and John had come to Jesus and asked to have the seats of honor beside Jesus in glory. Jesus answered, You don’t know what you are asking… Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with? (10:38). He was referring to his suffering and death. And they boldly claimed, We can. Now, in a sense, Jesus gives them a chance to back up their hollow claims, and of course, they fail.
As I studied for this message I was really moved by what Jesus went through that night. This was really the beginning of his suffering for us. The English words in verse 33 don’t begin to convey the depth and strength of the Greek. It says He began to be deeply distressed and troubled. This refers to the greatest possible degree of horror and suffering. It was psychological anguish. Jesus’ emotional and spiritual suffering began before the physical. David McKenna says, “sheer terror strikes his soul as he faces the reality of unchecked evil.” (The Communicator’s Commentary: Mark) Up to now Jesus had accepted theoretically the responsibility for bearing the sins of the whole world, but it was “out there.” Now as he confronts it face to face, he sees what it really means to carry the sin of the world. William Lane says, “Jesus came to be with the Father for an interlude before his betrayal, but found hell rather than heaven opened before him, and he staggered” (Commentary on the Gospel of Mark, Eerd-mans, p. 516)
Verse 34: My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, he said. “This is more than I can bear.” We might even translate it, “This is killing me.” We use that phrase so flip-pantly. “This sliver in my finger is killing me.” “It just killed me to be the butt of that joke.” But for Jesus here there’s no exaggera-tion. People have died from grief, and he was close to it. He told the three disciples, Stay here and keep watch. Keep watch.
He went on just a little farther to pray. The usual posture for prayer was to stand with one’s head up and arms raised. And people prayed aloud. But in this case, Jesus fell flat on the ground and he pled with God that the hour might pass from him. That is, he didn’t want to go through with what lay ahead. He anticipated the horror of it, and he prayed an amazing and awe-some prayer. It wasn’t polished and polite and scrubbed and formal. It follows the pattern of laments in the Psalms. In a la-ment people would pour out their emotions and complaints and even recriminations to God. They didn’t hold back. This wasn’t a sign of disrespect, but of trust that God heard and cared even in their worst moments.