The Garden of Grief (Mark 14:32–42)

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Doug Van Meter - 28 Jun 2020

The Garden of Grief (Mark 14:32–42)

In the text before us, we enter the Garden with Jesus, Peter, James, and John. Without being unduly critical, let us learn to pay better attention than they did. Whether we are prepared for what lies ahead depends on it. We must watch and we must pray—as our Saviour did.

Scripture References: Mark 14:32-42

From Series: "Mark Exposition"

An exposition of the Gospel of Mark by Doug Van Meter.

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The scene before us in this study is impossible to fully appreciate. How do we even begin to understand the trauma our Lord and Saviour experienced in this garden? Having pronounced that he would be betrayed by a disciple and that the eleven would deny him, and having put up with the (well-intended) unbelieving belligerence of Peter and the disciples, Jesus was mere hours away from experiencing the most horrific death ever to occur in history.

Many had been tortured with crucifixion before him and many would suffer the same fate after him, but no sinless person had ever experienced the wrath of God. It was this knowledge that he would be abandoned by his heavenly Father and cut off from the holy one that weighed so heavy on him. As the hour for which he came—his death—drew nearer, the burden grew. And, in Gethsemane, we are provided with a glimpse of his great grief at the prospect of giving his life as a ransom for the many.

In this text, we enter the garden with Jesus, Peter, James, and John. Without being unduly critical, we need to pay better attention than they did. Whether we are prepared for what lies ahead depends on it. We must watch and pray. As Lane notes, “Spiritual wakefulness and prayer in full dependence upon divine help provide the only adequate preparation for crisis.” This is what our Saviour did. And this is how he faithfully persevered through the garden of grief. And though you and I will never experience such a crisis, we will enter other gardens of grief. So, let’s look, listen, and learn.

A Place of Pressure

Gethsemane was a place of pressure.

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them,  “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.”

(Mark 14:32–34)

In Gethsemane, “according to Mark, the decision to submit to the Father’s will causes Jesus greater internal suffering than the physical crucifixion on Golgotha” (Edwards). This scene reveals this pressure.

Having partaken of the first Lord’s Supper in history, and having moved out to the Mount of Olives where Jesus pronounced to the disciples their imminent fall, the group moved to the Kidron Valley, east of the Mount of Olives, to what was probably a private, walled-in garden. From Luke and John’s accounts, we gather that this was a favoured place of Jesus for prayer. That is what he would do here. I suppose it was with this in mind that the songwriter penned, “I come to the garden alone.” Anyway, Gethsemane was in an olive grove and the name means “an oil press.” Today it is a well-maintained piece of ground with olive trees among other foliage.

From the name we can assume that it contained a press in which olives from the groves on the Mount of Olives were crushed to bring forth the much sought-after oil. It was here that Jesus would experience intense pressure as he contemplated already having been betrayed, his subsequent arrest, mistreatment, and crucifixion as a criminal. But the most crushing pressure, as indicated, would come from taking the sins of the world upon his shoulders: the crushing pressure of being sinless and yet becoming sin for sinners. But, like the oil press, out of this crushing would flow the oil of saving grace anointing sinners, transforming them into saints—including the eleven, who could not even stay awake, and including equally slothful souls like you and me.

Jesus led the eleven to the garden and instructed eight of them to “sit here while I pray.” Perhaps he did so for their own safety (John 18:1–19). The good shepherd was watching over his sheep till the very end.

Having settled the eight, Jesus summoned Peter, James, and John to accompany him further into the garden. The words “took with him” imply to receive near to himself. Earlier, Jesus had include these three men when he raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead (5:37) and again when he ascended the Mount of Transfiguration (9:2). According to 13:3, it seems that the Olivet Discourse was particularly revealed to these three disciples. In other places Jesus interacted with Peter and in 10:35–41 we have the infamous record of James and John asking for the best spots in the kingdom. These three were a part of an inner circle, an interesting observation in light of the perennial challenge of cliques in a church.

Jesus singled them out to be witnesses to his deep grief in Gethsemane. At some point, he began to bare his soul to this trio. Mark tells us that he “began to be greatly distressed and troubled.” Let’s unpack this.

“Greatly distressed” translates a word meaning to astonish utterly, to alarm thoroughly, or to terrify. It can be paraphrased “to be struck with terror.” The word is only used by Mark (9:15; 16:5–6). It pictures to be seized with fear. What a picture.

Jesus was suddenly struck with the horror of what he was about to experience. The disciples no doubt saw his facial expression change and would never forget it. Hence this record. Peter perhaps wept as he told Mark about it.

The word translated “troubled” is of equal crushing weight. It means to be in distress of mind or to be full of heaviness. We are told by scholars that, of the three Greek words in the New Testament to express depression, this is the strongest. Think about that.

Jesus further unveiled his heart when he said, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” The incarnation was no mere make believe. Moule comments, “So far from sailing serenely through his trials like some superior being unconcerned with this world, he is almost dead with distress.” “Jesus is so sad he could simply die of a broken heart,” writes Witherington. Not unrelated to this sorrow, no doubt, was the knowledge that those he loved, and who claimed to love him, would soon forsake him. Betrayed by a fraud, forsaken by his friends, and abandoned by his Father. All of this would take place in a matter of minutes and hours. It is no surprise that his soul was on the verge of death. As Maclaren puts it, “a dark orb of distress encompassed him.”

For some strange and ultimately unhelpful reason, the idea is popular in Christendom that it is wrong, if not sinful, for Christians to feel depressed. This account should dispel such a notion. Feelings of depression are not sinful. The issue is, how do we respond to these feelings? Psalms 42–43 help us in that regard. These two psalms characterise the condition of our Lord in Gethsemane. Like the author of these psalms, we see Jesus deeply troubled and yet, through prayer, able to speak truth to himself thus bring himself to a faith-filled frame of mind. There is much for us to contemplate here.

Again, it is not necessarily sinful, unspiritual, or somehow sub-Christian to be deeply troubled in one’s spirit, even to the point of feelings of depression. Life is hard and the Christian life is often even harder. We are swimming upstream against the culture of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Following Jesus puts us on a collision course with those who are enemies of grace. We deal with wrongs done against us. Truly, we have a high priest who can sympathise with us in our temptations and in our weaknesses.

Are you not moved by our Lord’s transparency, humility, and vulnerability? Jesus, the Messiah, told fallen and frail human beings, whom he knew would forsake him, that he was burdened. If you need evidence of the human nature of Jesus, look no further than Gethsemane. In this place of pressure, Jesus displayed the weakness of mankind. Ambrose notes, “For he took upon him not the appearance, but the reality, of incarnation. It was therefore necessary that he should experience grief, that he might overcome sorrow.”

The theme of fear is prevalent in Mark. So is belief. In this scene, Jesus reveals the truth that one can trust God and yet have fear at the same time—not debilitating fear, but rather burdensome fear. The question faced by Christians is not whether you and I will fear but rather what we will do with our fear. Jesus shows us what to do with it: Take it to the Lord.

Ridley famously exhorted Latimer, “Play the man for we shall light a fire today that will never be put out.” There is certainly a place for this. but there is also a place for Latimer who was fearful. As there was a place for Cranmer whom after his recantation repented. The point is that it is okay to feel the pressure that mounts as we seek to serve the Lord. Be honest about it. Better this than pride, which goes before a fall.

After unloading his heart to the trio, Jesus commanded them, “Remain here and watch” (v. 34). Some translations say, “Remain and keep awake.” Contrary to the idea that Jesus was asking them to pray with him, he was actually asking them to keep an eye out for those who were after him, for he knew that he must pray. He was saying, “I need my ‘sweet hour of prayer’ so, please, do what you can to guard it for me.” Interestingly, Passover was to be “a night of watching” (Exodus 12:42).

Watchfulness and wakefulness had been a theme of Jesus in recent days (13:34–35, 37). It was still a theme in these final hours (vv. 34, 37–38). The disciples were to be watchful for those who would try to trip them up—those, in fact, who, according to Jesus, would trip them up (vv. 26–30). They were not as strong as they thought they were. Though they might have been in the garden with Jesus, they were not on guard like Jesus. What he was about to do is what they needed to do. Sadly, they would not do it. Sadly, too often, neither do we.

A Place of Prayer

Not only was Gethsemane a place of pressure; it was also, at least for Jesus, a place of prayer:

And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said,  “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him.

(Mark 14:35–40)

Pressure and prayer go—or should go—hand in hand. When feeling pressure, Jesus prayed (see 1:29–39; 6:30–46, 53ff). In Mark, we find Jesus at prayer—alone—after and before strenuous ministry. In other words, when under pressure, he prayed. When feeling the exhaustion of ministering to needy people, he prayed. When preparing to minister to needy people, he prayed. Having faced demonic onslaught he prayed. Preparing to face demonic opposition, he prayed. Having sacrificially served others, he prayed. Preparing to sacrificially serve others, he prayed. I trust you get the point: We need to pray!

We can confidently say that never was there a more important time of prayer than right then. Jesus was praying about doing the right thing the right way: to give his life willingly, not grudgingly. Calvin insightfully comments, “In this passage, therefore, his obedience is again described to us because he could not have appeased the Father but by a voluntary death.”

Burdened with a World of Care

This verse informs us of the content of Jesus’ prayer but also his posture. After exhorting the disciples to take seriously their “watch,” he went “a little farther, … fell on ground and prayed.” This is a sobering scene. Jesus did not merely kneel on the ground; he “fell on the ground.” You can almost feel the immense burden crushing and crashing down upon him, a weight so heavy that falling to the ground is the only reasonable response.

On the ground, Jesus prayed about the possibility of escape. He had come to Jerusalem to perform an exodus (Luke 9:31), but he now asked his Father for an exodus from this exodus.

It has been noted by many that Mark wrote his Gospel focusing on Jesus bringing about a new exodus. That is, Jesus would lead the true Israel of God out of sin into the promised land of the Messianic era. Having just celebrated old covenant Israel’s exodus (Passover), followed by instituting the new Passover meal to celebrate the exodus of new covenant Israel, the cost of that exodus weighed upon him. He would be the sacrificial lamb to secure deliverance for the sons of God.

Was another way “possible”? We know the answer, and more importantly, Jesus himself did. There is a real sense in which this prayer was a rhetorical one. But it was a real one. He recognised both the power and the purpose of God. Such knowledge of God is a biblical antidote against prosperity theologies and the disillusionment they breed. If there was another way, there would have been no incarnation. Jesus knew this. Messiah must die. But he must die, as we have seen, as a willing sacrifice.

This “hour” had been on Jesus’ mind throughout his life, particularly the past three years. It was this “hour” for which he came. It was in this hour that God’s everlasting covenant would be sealed. It was this hour in which the new exodus would take place. It was this hour to which human history had been marching since Genesis chapter 3. And now that the hour has come, Jesus prayed that it might not come.

If Jesus was experiencing uncertainty, it was the uncertainty of the experience of being cut off from fellowship with the Father. He who did not know by experience any sin was, at the appointed hour, to become sin. And this, according to Mark, terrified Jesus. As Calvin noted, it was because he had before his eyes the dreadful tribunal of God, and the Judge himself armed with inconceivable vengeance, that Jesus was so distressed. It was a bitter cup, and a horrific hour, indeed.

I wonder, what troubles us the most in this world, in these unique days? The economy? The threat of disease? Huge adjustments to our normal? These are legitimate concerns. But what should be paramount to us is our relationship with God. Are you troubled about facing today and tomorrow without the Lord? Is your first concern being right with God or is your first concern something else? Listen to Jesus again as he warned, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Supplication and Submission

The prayer of v. 36—“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will”—contains some of the best-known words in Scripture. We must guard against taking them for granted and, instead, see if we can’t dig below the familiar and allow them to meaningfully affect us.

“Abba” is the most intimate form of addressing God. Mark is the only Gospel writer who records this use. When considering the context of what Jesus was facing and what he was praying, this intimate address expresses amazing filial trust. He knew the power of God, the love of God, and the purpose of God. This enabled him to trust God when circumstances pressed in on him. “What profound irony Gethsemane conceals, for when Jesus feels most excluded from God’s presence he is in fact closest to God’s will!” (Edwards). We should learn from this.

Possibilities and Probabilities

Jesus knew what was possible with God. But possibility does not always mean probability or certainty. I say this reverently, but God’s purposes trump his possibilities. God’s purposes were for Jesus to be a ransom for sinners. This made the possibility of deliverance from the “cup” an impossibility. Jesus knew this. He was not, therefore, praying in opposition to God’s will. Instead, it was the horror of the death that he would experience that fuels this request. He was praying for a willing spirit. His words exemplify that “prayer … consists not in changing God’s mind but in finding our own alignment with God’s will” (France).

By “cup,” Jesus surely meant the cup of God’s wrath (Isaiah 51:17–22; Jeremiah 25:15–28). He spoke of this in addressing the request of James and John (10:35–38) and they boastfully claimed that they would share in this cup. In the end, only Jesus would die (see 14:31).

Again, when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he referenced the cup of his blood. He would experience a violent, blood-shedding, soul-separating death. We understand something therefore of this request. This makes his submission to “Abba, Father” all the more impressive: “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Ferguson observes,

Everything in Jesus longed to escape from this terrible experience, seen in its own light; yet everything in Jesus also longed to be obedient to the Father—and in that light he bowed before him, praying ‘Not my will, but your will, be done, Father. So he took the cup. Never in the Gospels does the humanity of Jesus shine through more clearly; never in the Gospels does his holiness appear more forcibly.

Brother, sister, though we will never experience Gethsemane, there are times when we find ourselves deeply sorrowful, burdened, and even confused by what God is up to. We know his power, his person, and his promises. So why the pain? Why does God not sort out this injustice? Why does God allow friends to forsake me and enemies to betray me? Why the suffering? Certainly God can make a way to escape? It is in such times that we need to reflect on God’s greater purposes. His purpose trumps what are actually lesser possibilities.

Could God have intervened to save multitudes of martyred missionaries and Christians over the centuries? Yes, but sometimes martyrdom serves his greater purposes. The martyrdom of Jim Elliot and his colleagues resulted in great fruit among the Huaorani people. Many have been stabbed in the back by friends, which God could have prevented, only to later learn that God is all sufficient for their needs. God could prevent barrenness, chronic illness, singleness, and widowhood, but sometimes the purpose of his glory or our holiness and usefulness are better served by these experiences. So often, much of his purposes are unrevealed to us, but this is where faith enters and keeps us praying, “Abba, Father.”

The alignment of wills is God’s goal. As Lewis said somewhere, at the final judgement, if we have lived refusing “thy will be done” God may well cast us off with “your will be done.” In our crisis, in our garden of grief, let us pray for a glad surrender.

A Wake-Up Call

Verses 37–38 serve as a, quite literal, wake-up call for the disciples: “And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’”

We don’t know how long Jesus had been praying, but it was long enough for his three friends to fall asleep. While he was groaning in prayer, these men, who had recently boasted of their willingness to die for him, had yawned themselves to sleep. We see here their “powerlessness about prayerlessness” (Cole).

I know the sense of discomfort when people fall asleep while preaching, but the offence must have been deeply painful as Jesus, having poured out his heart in prayer, now found the disciples sound asleep. They should have been watching, on the lookout for those who would arrest him. But they fell asleep, literally, at the watch. They were seemingly careless, self-absorbed, and indifferent to the sufferings of their Lord. When faithless indifference sets in, the person and work of Jesus will be of little concern. His sufferings will not motivate us. As Matthew Henry put it, “Shall that sit light upon our souls, which sat so heavy upon his? Was Christ in such agony for our sins, and shall we never be in agony about them?”

Don’t be lulled to spiritual sleep. Pay attention to the reality of sin and the Saviour’s cross and realise that the world is a dangerous place

Jesus’ use of “Simon” probably stung—like when a parent uses your full name! The subsequent rebuke—“Could you not watch one hour?”—doubtless highlighted Peter’s boast that he would die for and with Jesus. “Really? You can’t even stay awake.”

Jesus was not being unkind but was aiming to equip with this rebuke. He had warned Peter that he would deny him. Peter should have been alert to this danger. Being posted at the “watch,” he should have been alert, praying about how he would respond when the betrayal took place. His “spirit [was] willing” (his frequent boasting had proved that much) but his “flesh [was] weak.” In other words, trusting and obeying God are not necessarily default responses of disciples.

Picture the scene: Peter was most likely keen to prove the Lord wrong. In other words, he did not wish to deny and forsake the Lord. He did not want to stumble and fall away when the going got rough. Perhaps while he was on watch, he zealously kept his eyes open, anticipating conflict in which he would stand. But, after thirty minutes, all was quiet and so he took a snooze, betraying his false sense of security.

On the other hand, it is also possible that Peter did not take the threat seriously at all. It seems that he did not believe what Jesus said—nor what had been written—and therefore he perhaps immediately put down his sword (v. 47) and joined the others for a nap. After all, it had been a long day, and the recent meal and wine perhaps combined to make staying awake difficult.

My point is that Peter—“Simon”—assumed that he would be an exception to the word of God and that he would not need to watch and pray as others might. If so, this is where his fall took place. If Jesus needed to pray, what made these three think they were an exception? What makes us think we are?

John MacArthur once said that, when a man falls, he does not fall far. In other words, spiritual apostasy does not occur in a vacuum. There is a process to it.  I know of many pastors who have fallen into sin, some having abandoned the faith altogether. In each case, I have no doubt they assumed they were exceptions to the rule. Yes, they had been told over and over that they needed to guard their prayer and devotional life. But they assumed that they were okay; that they were an exception.

They had been warned time and again of the dangers of professionalising their ministry. And yet they continued to study their Bibles for sermons and, in many cases, to seek the applause of earth rather than the applause of heaven. They were therefore not prepared when temptation came.

Tragically, many pastors eschewed the cautions concerning compromising counselling sessions with women in the church, which has resulted in marriages and ministries being destroyed. Yes, the spirit was willing but the flesh was so weak. “Just trust me” is often a prelude to a fall.

Christian, be careful. Your intentions to faithfully follow Jesus at any cost are admirable. But you must stay awake to the enemies lurking around the garden of your commitment. And you must pray for grace when you venture from your garden into the wider world. Adam and Eve found this out the hard way.

The Safety and Danger of Gardens

Think about the first garden in history. What a wonderful, safe place. It was a graced place. It was a place with tremendous potential for building a relationship with God. Adam was told to tend and keep it. Literally, he was to guard it (Genesis 2:15). He and his wife would need to stay awake and to pursue God. They would need to watch and pray, for temptation was at hand. The serpent lurked.

As human history so sadly testifies, they fell asleep on their watch and the fall was so great that only God could ever put things back together again. He is doing that now. Where the first man failed, the second man will succeed. Where the first Adam failed, the last Adam will be victorious. Praise God for him! “Just as rebellion in a garden brought death’s reign over man (Genesis 3:1–19), submission in Gethsemane reversed that pattern of rebellion and sets in motion a sequence of events which defeated death itself” (Lane).

When we read this account, we need to identify more with Peter, James, and John than with Jesus. Their failure provides us with the exhortation to watch and pray and Jesus, thanks be to God, provides us with the example of the victory that is secured as one takes God’s word seriously and therefore watches and prays.

The writer of Hebrews speaks of human priests as being “in the weakness of human flesh” and then applies this Jesus (5:2ff). The flesh of humanity that Jesus had was weak. It was not sinful, but it was weak. Jesus in the garden was displaying his willing spirit, but his words also reveal the weakness of his flesh. His caution was passionate for he knew by experience what he was speaking about. That is why, despite the most exhausting hours of his life, he was both watching and praying. His prayer was a vital means towards his watching. And because he was faithful in Gethsemane, he would be faithful to and at Calvary. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

The Spiritual Snooze Button

You might be tempted to think that Jesus’ words roused them to alertness, but actually they proved to be something of a spiritual snooze button: “And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him” (vv. 39-40).

This scene reminds me of a time in my life when I discovered the snooze button on my alarm clock. I meant well, but delay was my undoing. I needed to discipline myself to not only wake up but also to get up. Our brothers in this passage apparently had access to a spiritual snooze button. They would be embarrassed, and enfeebled, because of it.

It may very well be that Jesus was praying for an hour each of the three times recorded. We can imagine that, having been rebuked, these three resolved to stay awake, but soon they slipped into sluggishness. If you have ever worked the late shift you might relate. I can.

Anyway, Jesus comes upon them sleeping again. When confronted “they did not know what to answer him,” which implies either their fear or their embarrassment, or perhaps both (see 9:6). Even Peter was now silent.

Sadly, they had not taken his counsel and so there was no improvement. And all too often this is the problem in the church: good counsel but a lethargic and careless response. And the outcomes are often as tragic as was that of these three sleepy-heads. Calvin exhorts,

On every hand Satan finds suitable and ready opportunities of spreading his snares for us. For if we dread no danger, he intoxicates and drowns us in sleep, and if we experience fear and sorrow, which ought to arouse us to pray, he overwhelms our senses so that they do not rise to God; and thus, in every respect, men fall away and forsake God, till he restores them.

A Place of Perseverance

Finally, vv. 41–42 reveal Gethsemane to be a place of perseverance: “And he came the third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.’”

In these final verses, there is another record of failure. However, if we look and listen closely, we will see a beautiful record of faithful perseverance—the kind we need to watch and pray for. It is both a tragic and triumphant scene. “Jesus remained faithful when his heart was breaking, when the cup was bitter and when his companions were weak” (Ferguson).

For the third and final time, Jesus found the three disciples asleep and asked, no doubt with disappointment, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?” This must have pained him, and, if he didn’t have faith in his Father, he would have been despondent at this point. After all, these were among the first who answered his call to come and follow him. Peter was supposed to be a “rock” on which the church would be built (Matthew 16:13–20), but now he was simply “Simon.” Yet, that the disciples failed to share in Jesus’ sufferings was thoroughly predictable.

(We do well to be encouraged, however, when we consider that these three became the most prominent and bold leaders in the early church record.)

If you have ever suffered serious setback in your aspirations, if you have ever been wounded in the house of your friends (cf. Zechariah 13:6), if you have ever been faced with what looks like failure, then you can appreciate something of what Jesus, the Son of Man, faced at this time. How would he respond? With contempt? With disgust? With despair?

He did not respond in any of these ways. Instead, he chose to persevere, obeying the will of the Father, despising the shame and embracing the cross. Jesus persevered in faith despite failures in his church.

“It is enough” has more interpretations than the words in the phrase! Most likely, Jesus was saying, “Okay, I have had enough time to pray. I am ready, even though, in spite of my efforts, you’re not. Sleep on.” Perhaps Jesus was also indicating that his time was up and they had missed their opportunity for faithfulness. Brother and sister, let’s not miss ours.

The “hour” had come for the prophecy to be fulfilled that “the Son of Man is betrayed” (9:31). Therefore, there were no more delays. Jesus had spent the last hours of freedom praying and was now prepared for what was to come. “Rise, let us be going; see my betrayer is at hand.” Jesus was ready through prayer. “What had been settled in prayer would be carried out in life—and death” (English).  He was preprayered, we might say. The disciples? Not so much.

As we bring this study to a close, let us marvel at the persevering faith of our Saviour. Marvel at his courage, composure, and commitment. Marvel, as Peter would many years later tell his readers, at Jesus’ example (1 Peter 2:21). As Edwards notes, “The suffering of Gethsemane left an indelible imprint on the early church.” As evidence, consider Hebrews 5:7, which speaks of Jesus who, “in the days of his flesh, … offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”

Christian, learn from this that Jesus can sympathise with your weakness and with your temptation to do the easy thing. This is not because he failed but rather because he succeeded. Sinclair Ferguson pastorally encourages, “The fact that he entered that darkness and experienced such grief is the source of all our comfort. It assures us that he understands our darkest hours. But more, it means that he has drawn the sting from our darkest hour for he has entered our God-forsaken condition so that we might share his God-accepted relationship to the Father.”

Christian, consider this exhortation from Matthew Henry:

Surely reflecting thereon would convince us of the evil of sin, the awful justice of God, the love of the Saviour, the vanity of the world, the impotence of man’s malice, and the danger and helpless state of our souls. And this would have powerful effect in rendering us humble, dependent, and thankful in the hour of trial, exciting us also to watchfulness and prayer, lest we should be born down by temptation.

Non-Christian, you are a sinner who needs the Saviour. If you choose rather to face God on your own, you will not succeed. You will not survive. Only holy Jesus could do so. And he did. Repent of your sins and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. May Jesus’ garden of grief be embraced as your entry to glory.

AMEN