Summary: Jesus in the garden demonstrates his love for us and his example to us.
Back in the 1990s, CBS carried a TV series called “Early Edition.” The series was about an unassuming Chicago stock broker named Gary Hobson who one day started receiving a copy of the Chicago-Sun Times a day early. None of the events described in Gary’s early edition have happened yet, and he has 24 hours to use that knowledge of the future for good. For instance, say Gary reads about a fire on the south side of Chicago and reads that an elderly woman died in the fire because the firefighters didn’t know she was in the building. Gary can show up and prevent the fire from starting. Or he can tell the firefighters about the woman, so they can rescue her. In that way, Gary Hobson can change the future. That made for an interesting plot, at least for four seasons.
But imagine the plot of “Early Edition” with a different twist. Imagine that Gary Hobson received his early edition of the Chicago-Sun Times, knew what was going to happen the next twenty-four hours, but that was powerless to do anything to change it. Imagine he shows up at the building fire, and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t change the fact that an elderly woman dies. What would the story be like then? It would be a dark, despairing story, because knowledge of the future when you can’t change the future would be a curse, not a blessing.
In many ways, the last hours of Jesus’ life were like that. Although the Bible presents Jesus as the master of his own destiny, the Bible also presents Jesus as knowing what’s going to happen, but not being able to do anything to stop it. At least not being able to stop it without acting contrary to God’s will, which Jesus simply isn’t willing to do.
We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of Mark called FOLLOWING JESUS IN THE REAL WORLD. Right now we’re looking at the events of what’s called “holy week” or “passion week,” the last week of Jesus’ life on earth.
It started on Palm Sunday when Jesus entered into Jerusalem amid shouts of praise. Then on Monday Jesus cursed the barren fig tree and declared God’s judgment on the barrenness of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Tuesday was filled with debates with the religious leaders and teachings to his followers.
Two weeks ago we looked at Wednesday’s events, when a woman anointed Jesus was an alabaster jar of expensive perfume and Judas makes the decision to betray Jesus. Last week Pastor Bruce shared with you about the Last Supper, as Jesus celebrated the very first communion service on what Christians now call Maundy Thursday. Today we’re going to continue looking at Thursday’s events as we look at Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane.
First we’ll look at the text from Mark and then we’re going to find two different layers of meaning for us. In Jesus’ garden experience we’ll first focus on the love of Jesus, and then secondly on the example of Jesus.
Let’s first look at the text together in vv. 27 to 42. Presumably Jesus and his twelve closest followers are walking from the place they celebrated the Last Supper to the Garden in Gethsemane. As they walk together, Jesus predicts that all of them—each and every one—will fall away. The word “fall away” is the Greek word skandalizo, which is where we get our English word “scandalize” from. It means to “stumble” or to “trip.” It’s a word that describes failure, when you’re running on the track of life, you stumble and fall on your face.
All of Jesus’ closest apostles will be scandalized; each one will trip and fall. Jesus sees this fall as an absolute certainty, because its predicted by the ancient prophet Zechariah. Jesus is the shepherd, and his closest followers are his sheep. Once Jesus is struck down, the sheep will scatter, just as Zechariah predicted. But Jesus also sees the coming resurrection, and in v. 28 he tells them ahead of time to meet him in Galilee after Easter morning.
Peter, full of self-confidence and bravado, protests that he’ll never fall away. Peter’s words in v. 29 are a subtle slap in the face of the other apostles, as if he’s saying, “of course these guys might stumble and fall, but I never will.” “You and I both know these other eleven guys are flaky and weak, but not me Jesus, not me.” Peter sees himself as a rock of faithfulness; after all, his name is Peter, the Rock.
But Jesus insists that before the dawn breaks—before the rooster crows twice—Peter will have disowned Jesus three times. To disown someone is to deny that you know them, to distance yourself from a person because you’re afraid of how people will react to your relationship with that person. Peter protests that he’s ready to die with Jesus, that no amount of intimidation or danger could cause him to waver in his faith. All the other apostles chime in with Peter, that they’ll never fall either.