The Garden of Gethsemane was a tree-filled spot near the base of the Mount of Olives just outside of Jerusalem. After the Lord’s Supper, our Savior retreated there for a moment of solace alone with His Father. Unfortunately, His disciples followed and the agony of their betrayal moments later was real and unavoidable. As we continue to think about all Jesus suffered in those last few moments before His death we have to stop at the Garden of Gethsemane.
Hebrews 12:2 says, “look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.” If the word joy doesn’t stick out to you, then I don’t think you can appreciate the cross and all its pain appropriately. Crucifixion was one of the most painful and humiliating forms of capital punishment ever invented. It was shameful, meant to make the person an example and keep them alive so the pain could be lengthy. And Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him.
A trial is any situation that tests a person’s endurance. The first trial Christ endured in the garden was another shallow promise made by His closest followers. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus called them out on their eventual betrayal. He warned them they would abandon Him, yet each of them had the nerve to deny their teacher’s prophecy. See the common thread in each passage:
Matthew 26:31-35 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples.
Mark 14:27-31 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all said likewise.
Luke 22:31-34 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”
While Matthew and Mark almost quote one another, Mark’s emphasis on Peter’s extra statement, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” sets it apart and matches nicely with the phrase from Luke, “I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” I’m not quite sure why Peter is the only one quoted here, but I can take a guess or two. Quite often, he was quick to speak and rather impulsive. Speaking up was never something he shied away from. Secondly, due to the public nature of his betrayal (in the high priest’s home during Jesus’ first trial), a necessary public rebuke was needed. I’m blown away by the strength of Peter’s consternation at the prophecy. The strong language he uses, “even if I have to die,” and “even if all are made to stumble,” makes me think he was overexaggerating for effect. Nevertheless, Jesus made it known to them that He knew they would abandon Him. Much like the scene declaring His betrayer among them, the emotional toll that must have taken on Jesus can’t be overlooked.
The second trial He faced in the garden was the pray we’ve come to know and love. Luke describes it more graphically than the others (no surprise since he was a physician). It says in 22:39-46:
Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. When He rose up from prayer and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”
Very little can be added to this discussion by trying to describe the drops of blood/sweat or expanding the thought of agony. Luke’s straightforward description lets us know just how difficult it is to pray selflessly. If we like it or not, most of our prayers (if not all of them) are inherently selfish. We want something to be better, someone to get better, or a situation to finally resolve itself and while we pray for others, we never pray for them to get what they don’t want. That was Jesus’ prayer in the Garden. Lord, I don’t want this, but I’ll accept it if you need me too. That selfless prayer was agonizing to Him because He knew what it implied.
Finally, the third trial Jesus faced in the garden was the actual betrayal by Judas and the other Apostles. The rundown of events is quite tragic. John 18:2 says “Jesus often went to the garden so Judas knew where He’d be.” Mark 14:44-45, Judas told the troops, “whomever I kiss, seize Him.” John 18:5-6 says the detachment of troops fell back when Jesus responded to the statement, “we are looking for Jesus of Nazareth,” by saying, “I AM He.” In Luke 22:49-50 we see the Apostles ask, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” and see Peter strike Malchus. Then in Matthew 26:53, we see Jesus say, “don’t you think I could call 12 legions of angels?” While these are only a few of the events, the most tragic is found in Matthew 26:56 which says, “then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.”
I know Jesus knew this was coming. I know He told them it would happen. I know He understood their hearts, their motivations, and even their fears at that moment. I also know it had to hurt watching them run, watching them abandon their rabbi whom they just pledged undying loyalty to. It must have been harder than we can possibly imagine. He loved them with all their imperfections. They were supposed to love Him back.
Instead, they ran and added to the torment He was facing.
Thankfully, our Savior was willing to endure it for the “joy” that was set before Him (see Hebrews 12:2). That joy drove Him to face the unavoidable and the unimaginable. That joy, found in our reconciliation with His Father in Heaven and an eternal home had to be on our Lord’s mind in those moments. Otherwise, I just don’t see how He faced all these trials.
All Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.