Summary: A sermon plumbing the depths of Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
One of my favorite scenes from the Andy Griffith show is when Barney Fife fights hard to stay awake during a sermon.
Have you ever tried to pray but went astray because you fell asleep? Have you ever had a hard time staying awake in church? I can’t imagine that ever happening here! During our Growth Group on Wednesday night, I made the point that it’s easy to fall asleep when we’re called to do spiritual battle. After all, the disciples fell asleep and missed what Jesus was going through at Gethsemane. I emphasized the importance of not falling asleep during sermons. With impeccable timing, Rick Widdel spoke up and said, “That’s more on you, then it is on us!”
I take comfort in the fact that at least one person fell asleep even when the Apostle Paul preached according to Acts 20:7-12. Some may think I’m long-winded but the Apostle Paul preached an all-nighter. During his sermon Eutychus “sank into a deep sleep,” fell out of an open third-story window and died. Amazingly, God used Paul to bring him back to life! Paul helped him get back upstairs and then continued to preach until morning. My guess is Eutychus stayed awake for the rest of the sermon.
As we continue in our verse-by-verse journey through the Gospel of Mark, we’re going to a nighttime prayer meeting with Jesus. The disciples have just celebrated their last meal with the Master and are making their way across the Kidron Creek and up the Mount of Olives. It’s dark and yet the moon is full and casting shadows as they walk (Passover always falls on the night of a full moon). Turn to Mark 14:32-42.
There are a number of different scenes in this narrative.
1. A Place of Support. Look at verse 32: “And they went to a place called Gethsemane.” Jesus wanted his disciples to be with Him so He took them to an Olive Garden (no, not the new one by South Park) called Gethsemane, which means, “oil-press.” Scholars believe that olives were crushed at this place to make oil. Luke 22:39 indicates that Jesus spent a lot of time here: “And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.”
It’s interesting that as the suffering of our Savior begins; He wants to be with his friends. We don’t think much about this but Jesus had a need for friendship and fellowship. Jesus tells eight of the disciples to “sit here while I pray.” We could call this the ministry of presence, where we don’t have to say anything but simply spend time with someone while he or she is suffering.
2. A Place of Sorrow. Mark 14:33 tells us that Jesus “took with him Peter and James and John.” Jesus brings these three guys, who made up the inner circle, deeper into the garden with Him. He desired their companionship but He was also preparing them as future leaders. Peter had just boasted that he would never bail on Jesus and James and John had brazenly claimed that they could drink the cup that Jesus would drink (10:39). Jesus now gives them a chance to back up their words.
Next we read that Jesus “began to be greatly distressed and troubled.” Let’s unpack these descriptive phrases.
• Greatly distressed. This can be translated as “extremely alarmed and appalled.” The idea is that Jesus was shuddering in distress and in terrified astonishment. He is literally beside Himself and horror-struck.
• Troubled. This refers to being, “overwhelmed, in extreme anguish, heavy-hearted and depressed.” The idea is that He was “distracted to the point of separation” from others. Hebrews 5:7 says that Jesus “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death…” The Savior is experiencing the awful intensity of Psalm 55:4-5: “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.”
In verse 34, we see one more description.
• My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. We get our word “periphery” from this word; it means, “to be surrounded by overwhelming sorrows.” His anguish threatened to extinguish His life. Psalm 88:3: “For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.” Isaiah 53:10 says: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief.” Isaiah 53:12 tells us that the Savior “poured out his soul to death.”
In the midst of this sorrow, Jesus asks the three to “remain here and watch.” This is a command in the present tense. The word “remain” means, “to abide” and “watch” has the idea of being alert to what the Lord is doing and where Satan is attacking. It literally means, “to give strict attention to something.” This may have reminded the disciples of the parable in the previous chapter when the doorkeeper is commanded to stay awake. Beth pointed out that according to Exodus 12:42, the Passover was to be “a night of watching.” In essence, they’re urged to not pull a Barney Fife during the prayer time.