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A Place Called Gethsemane

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

     It is wonderful to be together again as we look into the Word of God and as we understand and learn the principles of God and can share the truths of God with others.  The title for the lesson is, “A Place Called Gethsemane,” and the text is Matthew chapter 26 verses 36 to 46. Listen to the Word of God.

     Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane and he said to them: Sit here while I go over there and pray. He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them: My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with me. Going a little farther he fell with his face to the ground and prayed.  My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will. Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour, he asked Peter. Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.  He went away a second time and prayed: My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done. When he came back he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them: Are you still sleeping and resting? Look. The hour is near and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise.  Let us go.  Here comes my betrayer. This is the Word of God.

     Sometimes we all need a place to get away, to have some privacy for prayer, to think, to work things out in our minds and our hearts, maybe to let our emotions, to vent, to cry out. For me, for example, there is a place in Perry County, Indiana called Fulton Hill, high above the Ohio River, secluded, a great place to get away with my thoughts.  In Clark County, Indiana there is also a rather high hill or knob with a shelter that overlooks the Clark County State Forest below, a special place, a place to be alone with God.  Even Jesus Christ in his humanity needed a special place, a place for prayer, a place to agonize, a place to be alone with his Father God. In Matthew chapter 26 and verse 36 and following, we have our study text to better understand and to apply to our lives, such as our special place to be alone with God.

     In verse 36 it says, in part:  To a place called Gethsemane. This was a place that all four gospel writers knew about as all four—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John refer to it in their gospels.  In Old Jerusalem, according to scholars, there were no gardens or open spaces of any size.  The city temple was set on a main hill, Mount Zion, no room for open spaces. Every foot was valuable for structures.  Wealthy citizens had their gardens in groves or orchards across the Kidron Valley on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. Gethsemane is a Greek word from the Aramaic language which literally means oil press, oil as in olive oil.  Therefore, it was an olive garden or grove.  On the Mount of Olives there were many olive groves and gardens. Gethsemane was just one of these olive groves.  Regarding this olive grove, according to the gospel of John chapter 18 and verse one it says, in part:  He and his disciples went in to it. Again, according to Scholars, it was probably this garden of Gethsemane was probably a privately held garden that was enclosed by stone walls to which Jesus and his disciples had permission of its owner to enter. According to Luke chapter 22 and verse 39 it says in part: Jesus went as usual to the Mount of Olives.  That is, here to Gethsemane on a usual, regular, customary basis for privacy, for prayer, for seclusion from the crowds. According to Bible scholars, Gethsemane is believed to have been a triangular in shape garden of about 70 paces in circumference with large olive trees and a flower garden. This was Jesus’ oasis in a desert of human suffering and increased harassment from the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, the scribes.    Olive groves of ancient olive trees remain on the southwest slope of the Mount of Olives to this day.

     In verse 37 it says, in part: He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him. In studying all four narratives in context of this incident, Jesus evidently took 11 of his apostles—Judas Iscariot had left them earlier—to the Mount of Olives. But only Jesus’ inner circle—Peter, James and John, the sons of Zebedee—were invited deeper into the garden of Gethsemane with Jesus.  So in Jesus’ humanity, notice that he desired encouragement, help in watching and prayer partners by his closest followers. How much more do we also need encouragement, help and prayer partners in our darkest and most difficult times?

     In verse 38 then he said to them: My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Notice that Jesus Christ in his humanity confided, shared, with his closest disciples, his deepest and darkest emotions, his great anguish and agony. Never to this point or degree having experienced this before. We also, by application, need someone, sometimes to confide in, to share our deepest, darkest emotions for support, for encouragement, for comfort, for prayer.

     So what was Christ’s overwhelming sorrow? He knew he was just hours from the full force of the fury of God the Father. Jesus knew in advance that he was very soon going to himself become the sin offering, sin for mankind. 
     Warren Wiersbe, a very fine Bible expositor, put it very well with these words. Quote: Many godly people have been arrested, beaten and slain because of their faith. But only Jesus experienced being made sin and a curse for mankind.  The Father has never forsaken any of his own. Yet he forsook his own Son, end of quote. Jesus Christ knew that he was going to become a sin offering for our sakes that would separate him from his Father. For the first and only time in all eternity, for a season as he died, as he shed his blood for the human race, for you and for me. 

     And so Jesus Christ can obviously totally relate to our suffering because he was the man of sorrows.  In 2 Corinthians chapter five and verse 21 it says: God made him who had no sin a sin offering for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Also consider Galatians chapter three and verse 13 that says: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. Sorrow to the point of death overwhelmed Jesus in his humanity. And as the Son of God, because he knew in advance and agonized to become sin, to become a curse. Why? Because it was the only way to pay the price in full for our sin.  Jesus Christ loves us that much. God the Father loves us that much to give his one and only, only begotten Son for us, that he died for us, that we might live for him. Imagine the suffering that we would endure if we knew in advance the sufferings, the trials, the tribulations that we would go through, to know it in advance, only heightened the sorrow, the agony that Jesus went through for you and for me.

     In Matthew chapter 26 and verse 39 it says, in part:  My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. This cup is often a symbol of divine wrath against sin. For example, in the Old Testament Scriptures in Jeremiah chapter 25 and verse 15 it says, in part: Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath.  May this cup be taken from me. This does not imply any conflict between God the Father and God the Son.  Only that in his humanity and his deity was the horror of becoming sin, of becoming a curse. And so Jesus was praying, was agonizing, was crying out to his Father: Is there possibly any other way? Yet, not as I will, but as you will. Perfect obedience to God the Father as Jesus Christ the Son of God voluntarily laid down his life, a sin offering for mankind.   And this reemphasized and repeated three times in the very fervent supplications of Jesus Christ to his Father.

     In Matthew chapter 26 and verse 42, may your will be done.  In verse 44 it says, in part: He prayed the third time saying the same thing. And notice, again, also the abhorrence of the perfect sinless Son of Man, Son of God, the abhorrence of sin even one sin. Jesus Christ never sinned in any way in thought, in word or in deed. Such is the abhorrence of sin to God. 

     What does it take for you and for me to say: Even in the midst of terrible suffering for you and me to say: Yet, not as I will, but as you will, Lord.  It takes deep faith. It takes firm trust in God as our Lord that his will, especially when it still hurts deeply, that his will be done, not ours. Whether it hurts physically or mentally or emotionally or even spiritually, we must succumb, surrender, yield to the will of the Father.  Spiritually that even though we are sorely tempted, that we would not sin, that we would do the will of the Father.   It takes continued praying, repeating not my will but your will be done.  And it takes obedience to follow through in our faith in our Lord whatever his will and whatever his timing are. Submission, surrender, yielding, which we are usually are not very good at. Dependence, not independence in God. 

     At Jesus’ time of agony how did he find his closest disciples? Notice verse 40. It says, in part: He found them sleeping.  Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?  They failed Jesus. Before we are too hard on them, we need to understand that we fail Jesus also when we sin, when we are too tired or sleepy to pray, to study Scripture, to worship, to witness, to work for the Lord, to serve our Savior. The spirit may be willing, but the body is weak.  But thank God Jesus Christ did not fail in any way. Jesus Christ endured the cross for you and me. Jesus Christ conquered sin, conquered Satan, conquered death for you and for me and the sin of the world.

     In Gethsemane remember that Jesus Christ was extremely pressured, pressed, his blood sweat and tears squeezed out of him. It was his agony before his assassination on the cross. We all have our Gethsemane type experiences when we feel everything, as it were, squeezed and sapped out of us.  But we can, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, within the born again baptized believer, we can be more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. May that be the meditation of our hearts? May that be the reality of our lives in our Gethsemane experiences?

   

              David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.




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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4