************ Sermon on Mark 14:26-42 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 21, 2010
"They went to a place called Gethsemane" (Mk 14:32). Do you know what a "Gethsemane" is? Or, do you know what "Gethsemane" means? "That's easy," you might say. "It's a Garden. The Garden of Gethsemane." We have heard it said so often that we don't even have to think about it.
"Gethsemane." That is an Aramaic word for "oil-press" or "olive-press." Remember, "Gethsemane" was an olive grove (Jn 18:1) on the Mount of Olives (Mk 14:26). The owner must have built a press in the middle of the grove to squeeze the olives and harvest the oil.
An oil-press or olive-press is made of a big, flat, elevated stone and, on top of it, a heavy wheel-shaped stone that is rolled over the olives. The oil runs down a channel or a drain and is collected in a pan or jar underneath.
"Gethsemane." "Oil-press." "Olive-press." A place of pressure. A place of stress. A place of squeezing.
"They went to a place called Gethsemane" (Mk 14:32). In a Scripture inspired by God's Spirit, the name of the place is highly significant. We are being told that the Garden is not quite as peaceful a place as we often make it out to be. Rather, it ends up being a place of testing.
When I think of Gethsemane's press I cannot help but think of what Paul writes to the Corinthians:
(2Cor 4:8-9) We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; (9) persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
It might surprise you to learn that Jesus is NOT the only One Who was being tested – pressed, stressed, and squeezed. So, let's discover what happens in the Garden.
I The Disciples
A As I already said, Jesus is not the only One tested in the Garden. The disciples were there with Him. "They went to a place called Gethsemane" (Mk 14:32). "They" – that is, Jesus and the disciples.
On the way to the Garden, Jesus warned His disciples that "You will all fall away" (Mk 14:27). The Greek verb "skandalizo" is translated as "fall away." You probably hear that it forms the root of the English word "scandal." Jesus predicts that the disciples will be scandalized by Him, that they will take offense at Him and the cross. The Greek word actually goes further than this. It means to take offense and fall into sin.
To back up His warning, Jesus quoted from the prophecy of Zechariah,
(Mk 14:27) 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'Without the care of a shepherd, sheep tend to stray and scatter. This is not accidental. This is the nature of sheep. Likewise, the falling away of the disciples is not accidental; it is something done deliberately.
In response, Peter emphatically declared that he would be the exception:
(Mk 14:29,31) "Even if all fall away, I will not ... (31) Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you."
Do you see what Jesus was saying? Jesus was predicting a time of testing – a time of pressure, a time of stress, a time of squeezing.
Jesus follows His first prediction with a second prediction – a glorious prediction:
(Mk 14:28) "But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."
B So what happened? Let's start with the disciples as a group. At the time of testing – when they were pressed, stressed, and squeezed – you already know what happened:
(Mk 14:50-52) Then everyone deserted him and fled. (51) A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, (52) he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.Do you hear the words: deserted, fled. To use military language, they all went AWOL – Absent Without Leave. They deserted their post. They all swore they would stay by Jesus' side. To paraphrase 2 Corinthians 4:8-9,
They were hard pressed on every side, and crushed; perplexed, and in despair; persecuted, and abandoned; struck down, and destroyed.
Next, let's look at Peter specifically. At the time of testing – when he was pressed, stressed, and squeezed – you already know what happened. Not only did Peter "fall away" but – even as Jesus said – Peter disowned Jesus three times (Mk 14:30; 66-72).
But there is more. Remember Jesus' second prediction? Jesus not only predicted the falling away but He also predicted a reunion in Galilee after the resurrection. So, what happened after Easter's resurrection? The disciples did not believe the news of the resurrection. They were in mourning – they were pressed, stressed, and squeezed – and they did NOT receive and remember and believe Christ's words.
Didn't Peter do this once before? Peter always seems to hear only part of what Christ says. Remember when Jesus first predicted what would happen to the "Son of Man"? Jesus predicted the "Son of Man" must suffer many things, must be rejected, must be killed, and must rise again after three days (Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33). "Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him" (Mk 8:32). Peter heard the first three things; that time, too, he did not hear about Easter's resurrection.
What would have happened, do you think, if the disciples took Jesus at His word, if they received and remembered and believed the prediction of Easter's resurrection? I doubt any of them would have deserted Jesus and fled. I doubt that Peter would have denied knowing the Lord. I doubt that any of the disciples would have questioned the news of the women who visited the empty tomb.
Aren't we the same way? So many times we don't listen to God's Word and don't believe His promises. So, we put ourselves through all kinds of anxiety. All of it unnecessary – if only we listen and believe!
C Between the predictions and the falling away came Gethsemane. What did the disciples do in the Garden? Or, better yet, what didn't they do? It is clear that Jesus expected the disciples – especially His three closest friends – to "watch and pray" (Mk 14:38).
The disciples were told to "watch." On the way to the Garden, Jesus and the disciples skirted the very edge of the Temple area. In other words, they passed by the Temple guards keeping watch. In the Temple, during the night, the captain of the Temple made his rounds, and the guards had to rise at his approach and salute him in a particular manner. Any guard found asleep on duty was beaten, or his garments were set on fire.
While the disciples watched, like the Temple guards, they were to pray. So, "watch and pray." This combination appears four times in the Bible (Mk 14:38; Mt 26:41; Lk 21:36; Col 4:2).
But what were the disciples doing? They were sleeping – which means they were neither watching nor praying.
"You will all fall away." "The sheep will be scattered." "You will disown me three times." Jesus warned about all of this. What is the antidote? What is the spiritual answer to all of this? When you face pressure – think of the oil-press, the olive-press – you are supposed to "watch and pray." But the disciples did not watch and pray. No wonder they fell into temptation (Mk 14:38). No wonder they fell away. No wonder they were scattered. No wonder Peter disowned the Lord three times.
Is there sin in your life, congregation? Some sin that grips you? Pornography. Adultery. Lust. Alcohol abuse. Drug addiction. Greed. Gossip. Doubt. Unwholesome talk. Coarse joking. Rage. Malice. Hatred. Are any of these sins in your life? Do you find yourself being pressed by sin and Satan? Well, let me ask, do you watch and pray? For, if you don't, you can only expect to fall as the disciples fell. If you don't, you can only expect to be hard pressed on every side, and crushed; perplexed, and in despair; persecuted, and abandoned; struck down, and destroyed (cf 2 Cor 4:8-9).
A Let's now look at Jesus in the Garden. In my mind, at least, I imagine the olive-press in the background. There is no doubt that Jesus was being tested – pressed, stressed, and squeezed.
What are we told? That Jesus "began to be deeply distressed and troubled" (Mk 14:33). Jesus said to the disciples, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death"(Mk 14:34). The words Jesus used indicate alarm, anguish, and great sorrow.
B What do people want when they suffer? Two things. First, they want someone with them to share the burden. As the saying puts it, "Misery seeks company." Which is why, many times in my ministry, I have sat with people at the hospital waiting for the doctor's report. Being completely human, Jesus was no exception. So, He selected Peter, James, and John to be with Him (Mk 14:33).
This is not the only time these three were selected to be with Jesus. Jesus took these three with Him when He raised from the dead the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue ruler (Mk 5:37). He took these three with Him up the mountain of Transfiguration. These three came to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings (cf Phil 3:10).
C The second thing wanted by those who suffer is relief from suffering. Again, Jesus was no exception.
(Mk 14:35-36) [Jesus] ... prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. (36)"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."Three times Jesus prayed this or something similar to this.
I want you to note the seriousness with which Christ prayed. First, "he fell to the ground" (Mk 14:35). He prostrated Himself before God. Second, Mark does not use the ordinary word for prayer (euchomai). Rather, Mark uses a word (proseuchomai) which indicates prayer before God; that is, Jesus consciously and deliberately directed His prayer to God; He was conscious of God's presence and attention. Third, His first prayer lasted at least an hour (Mk 14:37).
Let's look at Jesus' prayer. The address is "Abba, Father" (Mk 14:36). "Abba" is the Jewish word for "daddy." It conveys intimacy, familiarity, trust. Keep this in mind as we hear the rest of the prayer.
"If possible" (Mk 14:35). "If possible" does not express doubt about God's power because Jesus also prays, "everything is possible" (Mk 14:36) for God. So what does this mean? The issue is whether this was God's will.
"If possible the hour might pass" (Mk 14:36). "The hour." What hour? This is a phrase denoting God's appointed time for Jesus to suffer and die. God has a plan. God has a timetable. From eternity and to eternity. And, everything must happen according to that plan. As Paul put it in his letter to the Galatians,
(Gal 4:4-5) But when the time [the hour] had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, (5) to redeem those under law ...It was God's plan for Jesus to suffer and die. But it was not to happen an hour earlier nor an hour later than what was called for by the plan. Jesus asked if the hour could pass – that is, be skipped.
"Take this cup from me" (Mk 14:36). What cup? It is the cup of judgment that appears often in the Old Testament. For instance, the psalmist says,
(Ps 75:8) In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs.Or, consider the words of Jeremiah the prophet:
(Jer 25:15-16) This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. (16) When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them." (cf. Ps 60:3; Is 51:17-23; Jer 25:15-29; 49:12; Lam 4:21; Zech 12:2).
We all know of the Greek philosopher Socrates. He was found guilty of neglecting the gods and of corrupting the morals of Athens' youth. He was sentenced to die by drinking a cup of poison, a cup of hemlock. In the same way, the wicked of the earth are sentenced to die by drinking from God's cup of wrath. The cup of wrath means judgment upon sin, it means rejection by God, it means hell fire.
Jesus prayed about God's cup of wrath because He is going to be drinking from it.
What is the worst part of Christ's sufferings? It wasn't the desertion by the disciples. It wasn't the denial by Peter. It wasn't the lack of sleep. It wasn't the mocking by the Sanhedrin. It wasn't the whipping and the scourging – though the movie "The Passion of the Christ" depicts this as the worst part of Christ's sufferings). It wasn't the crown of thorns. It wasn't carrying the cross (remember how He needed someone's help). It wasn't being nailed to the cross. The worst part of Christ's sufferings was the cup.
When Christ drinks of the cup He will experience God's judgment upon sin, He will be rejected by God, He will experience the torments of hell-fire and the curse of sin. He will be separated from "Abba, Father" – the God of His intimacy and trust. Remember the three hours of darkness at midday? Remember the cry from the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34). During those three hours Jesus experienced all the wrath and anger of God against the sin of the entire human race. During those three hours Jesus drank deeply from God's cup of wrath. No wonder Jesus was deeply distressed and troubled (Mk 14:33).
Do you see the pressure, the stress, the squeezing on Jesus? Do you see the olive-press in the background?
But, then, notice how the prayer ends: "Yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mk 14:36). See how Jesus ends up? The answer to Jesus' prayer is what God wants and not what Jesus wants. Jesus, in other words, submitted Himself to the will of God, the hour of God, and the cup of God.
D Now, look at the results. Did Jesus flee like the disciples? Did Jesus fall away like the disciples? Did Jesus say denials like Peter? Did Jesus disown God? No, no, no, a thousand times NO. Again, I want to paraphrase the words of Paul to Corinth:
(2Cor 4:8-9) He was hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; (9) persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.Jesus faced the test, the pressure, and passed.
Why did Jesus succeed where the disciples failed? The difference was prayer; or, to be more specific, what prayer revealed. Jesus' prayer indicated a whole-hearted trust in His heavenly Abba, His heavenly Father. Jesus' prayer indicated that God came first in His life – before anything else, even before His own security and comfort. Jesus' prayer indicated that His purpose on earth was to do the Father's will.
Let me end with two final thoughts. Both of which we find in the first verse of our Bible reading. What is the last thing Jesus did with His disciples before they went to the Mount of Olives? They sang a hymn. Of whom does this remind you? Doesn't this remind you of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail? Paul and Silas were whipped and beaten, their feet were in stocks, and they sang. Jesus is about to leave for the olive-press, the betrayal, the hour, the cup, the suffering and death of the cross; yet, He was singing. Shouldn't we be doing the same when we see the cross? And, shouldn't we do the same when we experience the olive-press in our life?
The second thing I want you to notice is the time of Jesus' trip to the Garden. It was late at night, past bed-time. Did Jesus go back to the safety of Simon's house in Bethany (Mk 14:3)? Did Jesus go into His bed? Did Jesus give badly-needed sleep to His eyes? No, He went to the Mount of Olives. This is the Passover night we are talking about. The Israelites were forbidden to go out of their houses that night, for fear of the sword of the destroying angel (Exodus 12:22-23). But not Christ. Jesus did not avoid the sword; rather, He went out to expose Himself to the sword.
We can only say the words of the song-writer: "Hallelujah, what a Savior!"
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