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The Garden of Gethsemane – By Dr. Glenn Cummings

My thoughts today come from Mark 14:32-42.  The word “passion” is used today in our culture in several different ways. We talk about a person who has a great passion. That means they have a great fire. They have a great love to do something. But the word “passion” literally means suffering.  When you get to the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to the depths of the Word of God.

Think with me about the agony in the garden. It had evidently been quite a long day for Jesus. He has gathered in the upper room with His disciples for the celebration of the Passover supper and for the initiation of the Lord’s Supper.  The supper is now ended and He leads His disciples out of the city of Jerusalem, down the hill eastward and moving toward the Mount of Olives.  He crosses over the Brook Kidron. Historically and seasonally, at this time of the year, the Brook Kidron was swelling in its banks. We also know that the waste from the temple was poured down into the Kidron.  The blood of the sacrificial animals that had been slain on that Passover had been poured down into the Kidron Brook so that when Jesus and His disciples came to the Brook Kidron, it must have been blood red with the blood of sacrificial animals. Surely His thoughts were turned to the cross of Calvary at this point.

They cross over the Brook Kidron and come to the foot of the Mount of Olives. The Bible says that at the foot of the Mount of Olives there is a garden. It is a garden which we must approach with bowed heads and hushed hearts.  The more you study the Garden of Gethsemane experience of our Lord, the more you will understand that you are engulfed in mystery. It staggers our minds to understand it. It bankrupts our language to try to explain it. It almost freezes our lips to speak about it.

Mark says in verse 32 that “they came to a place which was called Gethsemane.” We are told in John’s Gospel that He often came to this place. Luke tells us in His Gospel that it was a custom for Him to come there.  Some believe that this was a private garden owned by a wealthy friend of the Lord Jesus Christ. From time to time Jesus would come to this garden and it was a kind of a retreat for the Lord, a place of relaxation and rest and reflection.  But it is quite different this evening. There is an altogether different atmosphere in this place. The word “Gethsemane” literally means oil press.  They would take the olives and crush them and the olive oil would be harvested that way. The Lord Jesus Christ is going into the oil press. The Lord Jesus Christ is going into an experience now where He is going to be crushed.

There is a mystery attached to the place. There is a mystery attached to the prayer. The Bible says in verse 32 that He said to His disciples, “You stay here and I’m going off to pray.” We are familiar with the prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. As you study that prayer you see that there is something different about this prayer from any other prayer Jesus ever prayed or any other prayer the disciples of Jesus ever heard Him pray.

The Bible says He prayed it three times. It is not an unfamiliar prayer. When you put the Gospel accounts together, here’s basically what Jesus prayed:  “Father, all things are possible to you, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but your will be done.” That’s the essence of the prayer.

Have you ever heard a grown strong man so overwhelmed with an emotion and a burden and anguish that he is sobbing? He is not just sobbing, but with loud cries and shouts.  The garden of Gethsemane and the trees of Mount of Olives must have rained with the anguishing cries of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says that those disciples went to sleep in sorrow. It was so overwhelming to them they couldn’t even stand it. They tuned themselves out.

Mark uses a word to describe the agony of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.   Verse 33 says that He had left the eleven disciples. Judas has already gone to betray Him and will be back later. Jesus has left eight of the disciples there, evidently at the entrance of the garden of Gethsemane. He has taken Peter, James and John with Him.

Mark adds in verse 33 that He began β€œto be sore amazed.”  Martin Luther, the theologian, said that it is one of the most astonishing statements in all the Bible.  It means He was in a panic of fear. He was seized by horrifying terror. It’s as if Jesus sees something approaching and it rends His nerves. What amazing words!  Jesus said to these disciples in verse 34. “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death.” The word He uses is a word that really means to be circled with sorrow, to be surrounded by sorrow. Jesus is saying, “I’m in a whirlwind of sorrow.”  There is sorrow above Him.  There is sorrow beneath Him.  There is sorrow outside Him.  Thee is sorrow inside Him.                      

Gethsemane! Oil press! Crushed! The physical nature of Jesus Christ is experiencing agony. He is not here in this garden praying that He will not die. He said, “I am surrounded by exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” He had come into the world to die. Jesus is not praying that death be taken away from Him. That’s why He had come into the world. But Jesus Christ had a human nature. He was fully human, except from sin, and it is natural for the human body to recoil from pain and suffering.

I think there also had to be emotional agony. It is the idea of being isolated. It is the idea of being separated from others.  We do know that when Jesus went into that garden of Gethsemane there is a loneliness that overwhelmed the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus loved people. He liked to be around people. That’s one of the things Jesus was criticized about.  He was a friend of publicans and sinners.

Now there is a sense of isolation. The large crowd that had followed the Lord Jesus Christ had ceased following Him. He lost His congregation, so to speak. There is also something about our human nature that in the hours of great crisis, upheaval and need in our lives, we want those who are nearest and dearest around us. If today should be the last day of your life, who would you want to be around you?

When Jesus Christ begins His suffering on the cross of Calvary, no human hand is there to comfort Him.  Not only surely was there physical agony in the garden, not only was there emotional agony in the garden, but without question there had to be spiritual agony in the garden. Jesus said to these disciples in verse 34, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful.” This is a soul agony.

Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ was perfect.

  • He was the Holy One.
  • He was the One who never partook in human sin.
  • Never a sinful thought originated from His mind.
  • Never a sinful word came from His lips.
  • Never a sinful look stained His eyes.
  • He was the absolute, perfectly sinless One.
  • Yet He knew that just ahead He was going to bear the sins of the whole world.

He talked about a cup and said, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” What kind of cup is Jesus talking about? It is not a physical cup that He would drink with His body. It is a spiritual cup that He will drink with His soul. This cup is all the sins of all of mankind for all of time. In that dread cup! To drink a cup means to fully experience something. He understands that He is going to fully experience what sin is all about without having ever yielded to its rule.

Jesus, of all people, understood the horror of sin. Jesus had seen sin turn angels into demons. He had seen sin turn human beings into animals. He understood sin.  No wonder He is in agony. No wonder there are groans and shouts coming from His body as He prays. He sees, in the cup just ahead, all the sins of the world and He is going to be made those sins.  The Heaven Father is going to look at Him like He was all the sinners that ever lived. The Heavenly Father was going to pour on Him all the sins that had ever been committed in the history of the world. In that moment, Jesus Christ went into the depths of agony.

When it says that Jesus Christ was in an agony, it means that He was in a battle, a contest. Who was Jesus battling? What was the nature of the contest? Was He battling the devil? No. That battle was won back when the devil tempted Him three times and He won the victory over the devil there.

Was He battling against the Heavenly Father? No, He was battling against His own attributes. The attributes of Jesus were carrying on a battle in the Garden of Gethsemane. He said, “If it be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”  

His humanity is saying, let the cup pass. His deity is saying, I’ll drink it. His purity is saying, take this cup from Me. But His love is saying, I’ll drink every drop of it to buy and pay the price for the sins of the whole world.

The victory was won in the garden of Gethsemane.  The garden of Gethsemane means that Jesus is a real person. He knows everything you are experiencing. He’s been there. He understands.  This garden of Gethsemane means that Jesus Christ loved you so very much that He was willing to be crushed under the load of sin that you and I might have forgiveness of sin.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the sacrifice made for my sin.  Thank you for loving me so much that you gave your only Son to die in my place on the cross. Help me to never forget the price that was paid for my salvation.  Amen