Summary: I’ve never had major surgery, but I’ve been told many times by patients that the worst part of major surgery was waiting for it. It’s the dread that is often worse than the experience itself. Just imagine the dread Jesus experienced that night.
Easter is four weeks away. During this time, I’m tracing the last 94 hours before the disciples discovered the empty tomb. The countdown started with the Last Supper when Jesus gathered with His disciples for the Passover meal. After spending about four hours at this meal, Jesus and His disciples walked about a half a mile to the Garden of Gethsemane which was on the bottom slope of the Mount of Olives. He spent about four hours there. Then He was arrested after midnight and the next five hours was before the Jewish Sanhedrin. The next morning, He was taken to Pilate where He was tortured, and then nailed to the cross for six hours until He died. It took them about an hour to remove His body and place it in the tomb. Jesus said He would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights, so that’s where the final 72 hours are allotted. Then on Easter Sunday morning, the disciples make the greatest discovery in all of history: He was alive, and He is alive forevermore!
In this message I want to trace the steps of Jesus from the upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane. To get there, Jesus would have crossed the Kidron brook, which flowed in the valley between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. It was just a narrow creek that one could easily step over. The name Kidron means “dark and gloomy.”
A thousand years earlier, King David crossed the Kidron brook after being betrayed by his son Absalom. David, the shepherd who became a king, crossed the Kidron with a heavy heart because of betrayal. On this night, Jesus, the King who is also a Shepherd, crossed it with a heavy heart because He was being betrayed as well.
The Jews never drank the water from the Kidron brook because it carried the sewage from the upper city. In addition, a trench had been dug from the Temple Mount so the excess blood from the animal sacrifices could flow into this stream. Josephus wrote that the brook Kidron, often ran red with the blood of sacrifices. We know there was a full moon that night, because Passover is always marked by a full moon. By now it was completely dark. I can imagine as Jesus stepped over this river of blood, He saw the moon reflected on its dark surface. I wonder if He paused to consider that in less than 12 hours, His blood would be running down the slopes of Moriah toward this brook? These four hours in the Garden were some of the most stress-filled moments in the earthly life of Jesus.
Mark 14:32-42. “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’ Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’ Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Simon,’ he said to Peter, ‘Are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’ Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’”
We know precisely where the Garden of Gethsemane is located today. The Mount of Olives hasn’t moved. Olive trees don’t grow taller; they grow wider. They grow new roots and shoots and spread out. Massive ancient olive trees grow in this garden today that were there the night Jesus prayed. The Church of All Nations has been built over the very spot where it is believed that Jesus prayed. There’s a rough rock ledge about ten feet by ten feet that is called the Rock of Agony. I have knelt and prayed there many times, touching the rock. A few weeks ago I knelt there with my arm around Pastor Emmy from Uganda, and we both wept as we thought about the pain our Lord endured that night.
I invite you to join me in that garden on the night Jesus prayed. Let’s consider three different emotions Jesus faced, because these are the same emotions we face.