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Jesus Prays in the Garden
Matthew 26:36-46 (ESV) – Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”  And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”  And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.  Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
1. His hour has come.
a. Twice in the Gospel of John we read that the hour for which Jesus was here had not yet come.
i. John 7:30 – So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.
ii. John 8:20 – These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
b. And then we are told that it has
i. John 12:23 – And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
ii. John 12:27 – “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.
iii. John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
iv. John 17:1 – When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,
The hour is the hour of His glorifying God through His death and resurrection. That hour has come. We find ourselves in that hour this morning and the part of that hour that we focus on is Jesus’ prayer in the garden.
2. Agony in the Garden
a. V.37 – he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
i. We can, of course, never experience the sorrow that Jesus is enduring this evening. We do not say his because it is the expected thing to say. We do not say that because we dare not say that we have suffered more than Him, even though we sometimes think it. We say this because it is true. No one has ever, or could ever, endure what Jesus is being called to endure this night and the next day. But we know, in some small way what this is about. You have been to the doctor and had the tests and a few days later his office calls to say that something has shown up on the tests and they need to see you asap. You make the appointment and as the day and hour approach you get more and more anxious. On the drive to the doctor’s on the day of the appointment your mind wanders. What if its cancer? What if its terminal? … The closer you get to the time of appointment the more filled with anxiety you become. … Jesus’ hour has come. As He enters into it He is filled with sorrow and inner trouble.
ii. Jesus was a real human being. He was not play acting. He did not just appear to be human. He felt. He is sad. He is here not trying to identify with people. He is not pretending. He doesn’t just seem to be upset. He – is – upset. Jesus’ heart is broken. His head is full of sad thoughts. He is sad because of what awaits Him. And what awaits Him is more than just the physical suffering, as great as that will be. There is something awaiting Jesus that is far worse than even six hours of agony that His crucifixion will bring.
b. V. 38 – sorrowful to the point of death – We would say “I am so sad that I could die”. Do not diminish this. Do not conclude that Jesus is merely feeling things for the sake of His followers. Do not conclude that these are less than real, or not truly His emotions/feelings. They are precisely what He was experiencing.
i. So sad He could die because He is going to be separated form His Father because God will treat Him as an unrepentant sinner and pour out His wrath on Him. And the irony here is that while that separation form God has caused Jesus to sad to the point of dying, there are people who are in the same state whom it does not bother at all. They live their lives outside the presence of God without a concern. Jesus knew what this meant and it horrified Him. It should horrify us that people live in such a state. Do you live in such a state?
3. The Prayer
a. My Father, if it be possible – see Mark 14:36
i. If it be possible? With God all things are possible. God can do all things. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”, Abraham asked. And we know that the answer is “no”. There is nothing too hard for the Lord.
(1) But there are things that God cannot do aren’t there?
(2) He cannot deny Himself – this means He cannot not be loving and just.
(3) He cannot lie
(4) He cannot forgive sinners without sacrifice being made.
(5) He cannot deny either His love for mankind or His wrath against their sin. So when Jesus prays “if it is possible” it takes us to this question: “Couldn’t God have saved people in some other way than He did? And the answer is “no”. There simply was and is no other way. If God is going to be the loving God that He is He must save people from their sin. If He is going to be the just God that He is He must punish sin. How can God satisfy both His love and His justice? He will show His love by offering up Himself as a sacrifice for sin and taking the punishment for sinners. Taking the punishment satisfies God’s justice. Taking the punishment that others deserve satisfies His love.
b. If it is possible for you to save in any other way than the way that I have embarked upon, please do so.
i. Dear ones, do not think that the eternal, sovereign, almighty Creator of all things could have saved sinners some other way but just chose this method as the One He would use. That is an insult. If we can say it respectfully: even God’s hands were tied when it came to saving people. He cannot save them and spare Jesus. He cannot spare Jesus and save anyone at all.
c. Did God answer Jesus prayer? By all means. We are given no indication of the Father saying anything to the Son here in answer to this request form Jesus. But would it be wrong for us to use our sanctified imaginations and see the Ftaher responding to the Son here and saying: “It is not possible.” Jesus knew that. He is simply expressing the sorrow and horror of his heart.
d. Dear one, know this. It was not possible for God to save you if Jesus had been spared the cross. If God Himself cannot save you without the cross how in the world do you think that oyu can save yourself without coming to the cross?
e. Christian – preach the cross!!
4. Let this cup pass from Me – v. 39
a. Did God answer this request? He did not.
b. What is “the cup”?
i. The denials of Peter? The desertion of His friends? The crown of thorns? The whip of the Romans. The mockings of the crowd? The hatred of the religious leaders? The nails in the hands and feet? The spear in the side?
ii. That may be a portion of the cup that Jesus is speaking about here. But it is not the chief thing. Not at all. The cup is what happens in the three hours of darkness when Jesus is upon the cross. Note the text dear ones – Matthew 27:45-46. The cry of anguish “My God, My God …” comes immediately after the three hours of darkness. It was during those three hours that God turns His back on the Son. Below Jesus, mocking and ridicule and rejoicing at His death. But at least there is God. And Jesus finds during those three hours that no, there is not even God. Below Him, rejection. Above Him – silence. No one has ever been this alone.
c. God did not let the cup pass so this request was not granted
i. Jesus will hear no “Fear not for I will be with you” because the Father has determined NOT to be with Him.
ii. There will be no Psalm 103:3 voice from heaven for Jesus tonight. Why? Because God will visit Jesus on the cross and show no mercy. He will come to Him in wrath and fury and lash out upon the Son all the wrath for sin that sin deserves.
iii. There will be no Psalm 46:1 for Jesus tonight or later on the cross. Why? Because Jesus will look to heaven and find no refuge. And no strength.
iv. Jesus looks ahead to hours when God will do to Him what He did not even do for rebellious, idolatrous, adulterous Israel. Tomorrow morning God will not say to Jesus on the cross “Why will you die?” as He said to Israel through Ezekiel. He will not say it because God said that to people who had forsaken Him. Such is not the case here. Here it is God who will forsake His Son. Even Israel could not say such a thing in the way it was true of Jesus here on the cross.
v. Jesus looks ahead to being treated by God as if He had committed all the sins of all His people for all of time.
vi. Babylon did not inflict as much damage on the city of Jerusalem as God is about to inflict on His Son.
vii. The punishment for sin is banishment from the presence of God. See
(1) Matthew 7:23 – And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
(2) Matthew 25:41 – “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
(3) Rev. 21:26-27 – They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.  But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
(4) Rev. 22:15 – Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
This, dear ones is the cup that Jesus is praying about. And the Father called Him to it
d. Dear one – God would not let Jesus pass the cup. If you do not trust Him you certainly will not have it pass you. And the cup will last forever.
5. Not as I will, but as you will – v.39
a. Did God honour this request? Indeed He did.
i. First note that this was Jesus’ desire more than avoiding the cup. He came to do His Father’s will. And Jesu s is not saying that His will and the Father’s will are not the same when He makes this prayer. This is not Jesus saying “I’ll do this, but I really do not want to”. Not at all. As a real human being Jesus does not want to endure what awaits Him. But this does not mean that His will and God’s are different.
ii. See the mocking by the soldiers – God’s will. See the crown of thorns thrust upon Jesus’ head so that the blood trickles down into His eyes and nose and mouth and causes excruciating pain – God’s will. See Jesus’ back laid bare and a scourging take place that has, as its only hope for leniency, the will or fatigue of the soldier swinging the whip – God’s will.
(1) Hear this quote from a 19th century writer regarding the scourging that Jesus received at the hands of the Roman soldiers the morning He was crucified:
(a) “The Law of Moses had provided that a scourging should not exceed forty stripes, and Jewish custom made use of this by stopping at “forty save one”; but the Roman scourgers were restricted by nothing but strength and inclination. We ought to feel a shuddering gratitude at our inability to conceive the consequences of this cruel infliction.”
iii. And that, dear ones was God’s will. This is the plain statement that Isaiah makes in Isaiah 53:10.
(1) Ah but we tend to think that all this is Satan at work don’t we? And it is. But it is Satan at work in the evil hearts of evil men who are accomplishing a plan forged in the eternal triune councils of God before He made the world.
(a) This is what Peter tells us in Acts 2:23.
(b) This is the prayer of the church when Peter and John are beaten for preaching the Gospel – Acts 4:27-28.
(c) This is what we see in Acts 13:27
(d) See Genesis 3:15. The Bible is the unfolding of the plan of salvation. The whole Bible is an exposition of Genesis 3:15. We could entitle the Bible “Serpent Crusher”.
b. Dear one
i. It is God’s will that all who come to Christ should never perish.
ii. Your sins condemn you. Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for those sins. He will not refuse you. Come and He will show oyu what His work there accomplished. Come and He will apply all the glorious benefits of His death and resurrection to you. And you will know the immense joy of having your self counted with the very righteousness of Jesus Christ.