Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

Life of Christ (1996-1998)

In The Garden

Matthew 26:30-36, Mark 14:26-52, Luke 20:39-53, John 18:1-12

The essence of Christian leadership is best shown by our Lord Himself, and nowhere more clearly than the night in which He was betrayed. Here, in the last moments before the trial, Christ shows us what it is to be a Servant Leader.

(Mat 26:30-46 NIV) When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. {31} Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: "'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' {32} But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." {33} Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." {34} "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." {35} But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same. {36} 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." {37} He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. {38} Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." {39} 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." {40} Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. {41} "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." {42} 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." {43} When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. {44} So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. {45} 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. {46} Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"

(Mark 14:26-42 NIV) When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. {27} "You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: "'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' {28} But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." {29} Peter declared, "Even if all fall away, I will not." {30} "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "today--yes, tonight--before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times." {31} But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same. {32} They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." {33} He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. {34} "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch." {35} Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and 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." {37} Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? {38} Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." {39} Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. {40} When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. {41} Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. {42} Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"

(Luke 22:39-46 NIV) Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. {40} On reaching the place, he said to them,

"Pray that you will not fall into temptation." {41} He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, {42} "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." {43} An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. {44} And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. {45} When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. {46} "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

Preparing Himself

One of the surest ways to become a published author is to write a book on leadership or management. So many of us who have such a position are looking for the answers to our problems. In the Kingdom of God we have more than a book – we have the example.

Jesus begins his preparation for the coming trials in prayer.

·         It is worth noting that he does not pray just once, but three times. Can it be that the Father does not hear him – or is it possible that he is teaching persistence in prayer one last time? In either case, the point is clear: even Jesus asked the Father for the same thing more than once.

·         Jesus gathers strength from this time of prayer. Luke’s account says that God sent an angel, but however it was done we see the strength. Many of us have difficulty in praying not because we are weak but because we prefer to remain weak, to excuse our timidity.

·         Note the trust that Jesus had in the Father. Perhaps he was thinking back to the example of Abraham and Isaac.[1] He knows that His Father can provide, but is it His will to do so? The relationship of trust is implicit in each prayer.

Nothing is so clear in this account as the humanity of Jesus. The Gnostics – who are still with us – denied the humanity of Jesus, thinking he could not be a man of the flesh. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is pictured here as “deeply grieved” – the NIV has it as “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” The literal translation would be “grieved all around.” Luke, the doctor, tells us that his sweat was like “great drops of blood.” (It is not clear if he was sweating blood, or merely that the drops were of great size. The word for drops is thrombos, from which we get thrombosis.)

What was he afraid of? If He is God, why the sweat? The sweat is because He is also man.

·         First, there is physical pain. Crucifixion is intentionally a horrible, painful, publicly humiliating death.

·         Then, there is death. As a child of Adam, Jesus was subject to death like the rest of us.

·         More than that, there is the separation from His Father. Christ who had no sin was made to be sin for us, and sin cannot touch God.

The nature of courage is not to deny danger; nor is it to deny fear. It is to face fear and do what must be done anyway. This is the greatest example of courage.

Righteous suffering is a form of sanctification. It “sets us apart” for the purposes of God. Those who have been through boot camp in the army know that such shared pain often makes friends for life. The main purpose, however, of that suffering is to prepare soldiers. We are told that Jesus learned obedience and was made perfect through this suffering.[2] It is interesting that Christians today have abandoned the idea that suffering might be nothing more than preparation for greater things. Perhaps our attitude toward suffering needs a change.

Preparing the Disciples

One of the great mistakes of leadership is keeping the followers in the dark. Christ has made it clear that He has come to reveal what God wants made known. Now, at the last, Jesus tells them the most personal of things: their failures. He tells Peter that he will deny him three times, and that all the others will fall away also.

Nothing is so characteristic of Jesus as the servant king than this: he recognizes that his followers are human, filled with frailty – and takes them with him just the same. Even though Peter will deny him and all will run away, he takes three with him to pray. It’s interesting to note that these are the same three (Peter, James and John) who witnessed the transfiguration on the mount. Those who saw him in glory will now see him in agony. The servant leader has nothing to hide. For him, God’s will is everything.

There is a touching passage here. Luke tells us that at the beginning and the end of these prayers Jesus counsels his disciples to get up from their sleep and pray – so that temptation would not befall them. He knows their weakness; he knows they should ask to be led from temptation. Even as he faces the cross he cares for his sheep.

We must be careful here. The failings of the disciples do not make them hypocrites, just faulty disciples. Jesus knows that he has left the church in the hands of men with failings (why else would the Holy Spirit be so needed?). Despite that, he does not “do it himself.” The servant leader builds up his followers so that they may imitate him.

With such failures about him, why did not Jesus go to the garden alone?

·         First, there is the example of Jesus. When we face life’s greatest trials, we need to face them first in prayer, as he did.

·         And we should not face them alone. Jesus, son of Man, took his friends with him into the garden. In the hospital corridors we often lack the words we think we should have. Jesus did not ask for comforting words, just for those who would watch and pray with him.

 

(Mat 26:47-56 NIV) While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. {48} Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him." {49} Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him. {50} Jesus replied, "Friend, do what you came for." Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. {51} With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. {52} "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. {53} Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? {54} But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" {55} At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. {56} But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Mark 14:43-52 NIV) Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. {44} Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard." {45} Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Rabbi!" and kissed him. {46} The men seized Jesus and arrested him. {47} Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. {48} "Am I leading a rebellion," said Jesus, "that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? {49} Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled." {50} 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. (Luke 22:47-53 NIV) While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, {48} but Jesus asked him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" {49} When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" {50} And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. {51} But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him. {52} Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? {53} Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour--when darkness reigns." (John 18:2-12 NIV) Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. {3} So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. {4} Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, "Who is it you want?" {5} "Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) {6} When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. {7} Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." {8} "I told you that I am he," Jesus answered. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go." {9} This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: "I have not lost one of those you gave me." {10} Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) {11} Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" {12} Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him  

The Servant King

The hour has now struck. John’s Gospel gives us an intimate portrait of the last acts of the servant king. The soldiers come forward with Judas, and Jesus asks them who they are looking for. In the dark, with only the dim torchlight, the temptation to say, “Never heard of him” must have been there. But Jesus stands up with courage and proclaims who he is.

·         There is the sense in which he does this to protect the disciples. The soldiers are in sufficient numbers to round up the whole band. But their orders are to collect only Jesus. He makes it easy for them to do so, and argues (successfully) that the others should be allowed to “go their way.”

·         He does this even though “go their way” is equivalent to abandoning him. Even though they are not equal to the task of staying with him, he covers their retreat.

·         It is also a fulfillment of prophecy, and therefore an expression of God’s will, that none be lost. The mission is foremost.

Even this last episode is not without its point of instruction. It is interesting how the first three Gospels do not name the man with the sword. Only John, writing after Peter had died perhaps, mentions the name. Even in this Jesus gives his disciples an important lesson. God’s purposes are to be achieved God’s way. The sins of man are used for his glory despite the sinner; the end does not justify the means – for God will provide the means.

Notice, by the way, the moral force of Jesus. Peter has taken a sword to Malchus’ ear – but he is not arrested! (No harm, no foul?) This is further shown in that the soldiers “fall to the ground” – in awe of this man. If the text can be taken literally (it is not certain) the word “cohort” means a thousand soldiers. That’s a lot of military force to take one man. So one may presume that they had some idea of who they were dealing with. (How many chickens does it take to equal a lion?)

One last thing that must be observed: through all of this night, Jesus is clearly intent on only one thing: His Father’s will. Many of us are willing to fight for Christ. How many are willing to die for Him? It is the ultimate test. It is the one He struggled with, for us, this night – and he passed.


[1] Genesis 22:1-19

[2] Hebrews 5:7-9

Previous     Home     Next