Many great Bible commentators have expounded upon the account of what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane, but they have admitted that events are too deep to fully explain. In this study we will limit ourselves to looking at the basic truths of the text.
“And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy” (Mark 14:32-33).
We see here how the Lord Jesus Christ was burdened with the weight of the sin of the whole world. We remember that John the Baptist spoke of Him as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). There is no other explanation for His heaviness of spirit; for it is certain that He did not fear physical suffering and pain. He knew that His Father must turn away from Him the moment the sin of mankind was laid upon Him. The ultimate punishment for sin is separation from God. “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). No wonder that, as Luke informs us, Jesus “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
There are no words that can fully express how the Lord felt when humanity’s sin and transgression was laid upon Him. Scripture reveals that He was “made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13) and that He bare “our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4) and was made “sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). His holy nature felt the full force of the hideous burden laid upon Him. “And the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
We as Christians live such careless lives at times. This proves that we do not fully appreciate the sinfulness of sin or the price the Saviour had to pay to redeem us from its consequences. If we ignore the seriousness of sin, we will never understand the sacrifice of the Saviour. If we, like the fool “make a mock at sin” (Proverbs 14:9), we will end up mocking the reason for the sacrifice on the cross.
“And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him” (Mark 14:34-35).
Jesus prayed in times of torment and suffering. In prayer He found the remedy for His distress and agony of soul. Though the “cup” of suffering could not be removed, He did receive strength from Heaven to endure. “And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43).
There is much for us to learn from this. Who do we turn to when difficulties and problems arise? Can we say with David, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee” (Psalm 56:3)? We might not get relief from our affliction straight away, but this ought not hinder us from coming to God and pouring out our hearts to Him. “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray” (James 5:13).
“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” (Mark 14:36).
God can do anything, but He will never violate His will. Even the Son of God had to submit to His Father’s will. Here we see the perfection of our Saviour. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9). The Lord’s conduct in the garden is a perfect pattern of what faithfulness and trust is all about. Are we willing to suffer hardships for the cause of Christ rather than running away? Those who have the mind of Christ (see Philippians 2:5) will endure whatever God in His sovereign will permits to come our way.
“And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him. 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. Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand” (Mark 14:37-42).
Peter, James and John slept while they ought to have been watching and praying. They are an illustration of what most believers do today. A few hours before their faith would fail, we find them indifferent to the Lord’s suffering and careless about their own souls. The devil loves to see sleeping saints in church or at prayer.
We must remind ourselves that our greatest enemy is not the devil but our own flesh. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17). We too must not forget to watch and pray, because we do not know our own weaknesses well enough. Those who watch and pray will not fall in the hour of temptation or tribulation.
Are we willing to endure anything for the cause of Christ? “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). Are we willing to watch and pray instead of living careless lives? Only then can we begin to follow Jesus’ example. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).