The Path Through Gethsemane
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
John 17:1-18:1; Matthew 26:36-56; Luke 22:39-54; Mark 14:27-50
We noted that between the time of John 13:30, when Judas Iscariot left Jesus, and went to betray him to the Chief Priests, to the time of the crucifixion and burial was less than twenty-four hours.
In John 14-16, Jesus had to prepare the disciples for His own departure, and give them solid teaching as to what they should expect regarding the Holy Spirit and His future ministry to the Church. But, beginning in chapter 17, we see the path Jesus walked with the disciples, approaching Gethsemane, and the coming betrayal.
The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus (John 17:1-18:1)
John chapter 17 is frequently called the “High priestly Prayer of Jesus.” This is because He was about to function as the High Priest for the entire human race. As you may remember, the Old Testament High Priest entered within the veil in the temple, once a year, bringing a substitutionary sacrifice for himself, first, and then for the sins of the people of Israel.
The Divine Substitute
Jesus entered once for all time, bringing His own blood as our substitute, but no sacrifice for himself, as His perfect life precluded the need. He brought a sacrifice for the sins of humanity that would take away the sins of all who placed their trust in it. He brought no sacrifice for himself, because He had no sin, so no need for a sin-offering for Himself.
The Old Testament sacrifices served as a substitute, in place of the condemned sinners. Because He is our substitute, there can be no substitute for Jesus. It is good to keep that in mind: There is no substitute for Jesus.
Eternal Life in the Here and Now
Notice in verse 3, Jesus confirms that “…this is Life Eternal, that they may know Thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Eternal life is not found in any creed or ritual, or pageantry, or in pious works of any kind: It is found in an ongoing relationship with Jesus.
Interestingly, entering into that relationship is what ensures eternal life, but to experience it on a daily basis requires continually engaging in that relationship, not just knowing about Him, but in knowing Him in an ongoing relationship.
Set Apart By the Word
Further, in verses 14-17, He states that His having given His Word to the disciples is what set them apart for Him, so that they were no longer part of the World system. John 15:3, agrees, where He said that they were “clean, through the Word” which He had spoken unto them. But He goes on to say that we are to be continually sanctified (set apart…made holy to God) through the Word of God. Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth. Thy Word is truth.”
Jesus prayed for the Unity of the church in verses 18-23. It might be easy to assume that He only was praying for the eleven Disciples, as they were the ones with Him at the time. But in verse 20, you can look and see where Jesus prayed for the future believers. He said He was praying for those who would believe in Jesus through the words of the disciples.
Jesus Prayed For You!
Look at it! Jesus was praying for YOU! He knew the future, not just in a general sense of what was coming, as if He were predicting the weather, but rather on an individual basis! He knew you before He created you! Jeremiah 1:5 says that before He (God) formed Jeremiah in his mother’s womb, He knew him and ordained him as a prophet to the nations.
Jesus was praying for you! And, in verse 24, He specifically declared that He wants you to be with Him throughout eternity, and to see Him face to face; to behold Him in His glorified state, which He had before the Creation, and which Peter, James and John briefly glimpsed on the Mount of Transfiguration. That is what Jesus has planned for you! Take it personally!
At Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46)
In John 18:1, we saw that Jesus and the Disciples crossed the Brook Kidron, and went to a place called Gethsemane where there was a garden Jesus liked. Matthew 26:36-46 encapsulates what happened there.
All eleven disciples went with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane, but Jesus had Peter, James and John go further with Him, to pray. He left the three of them to themselves, too, only asking that they “Watch with Him” in Prayer. He went a little further, and He fell on His face before the Father, and He prayed, in agony for what was to come.
What was the Agony of Gethsemane?
Luke 22:44 states that he was in such agony of Spirit that “His sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground.” Please take note that it says the sweat was “like” great drops of blood: it does not say he was sweating blood. Many readers ignore the comparison made, here, and interpret the scripture wrongly. But, regardless of the nature of His sweat; what was the source of His spiritual agony?
We think of it mainly in terms of the physical pain that He was to endure, but in Hebrews 12:2 we see that he “despised the shame” and He endured the agony of the Cross with Joy for what would result. So, if that is how He felt about the physical torture of the Cross, for what cause was he agonizing in prayer, at Gethsemane? (Look at Matthew 27:46.)
Separation From the Father
When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” He was quoting Psalm 22:1. In that Psalm, David was prophetically describing the crucifixion. You see, none of the things described in Psalm 22 ever happened to David. It was all about Jesus. And Jesus poured Himself out for our benefit, even enduring separation from the Eternal Father for our sake.
It is difficult for us to understand how the Trinity could separate itself like that, especially since Isaiah 9:6 says that the Son shall be called the Everlasting Father. But that is what happened. And, no, I do not have to understand it. I only need to see it as a fact, and respond in faith. As a teacher, I am required to faithfully teach what God says. I am not required to understand it all.
How Much do We Understand?
In Daniel 12:8 Daniel complained that he did not understand the prophecy God had just given him. But, in the next verse, we see God’s answer: He effectively said, “Write it down and run along, Daniel! That prophecy was not for you but for the people of the future!” It comforts me, to see that I’m in “good company.” It is OK to not understand everything God says.
But, when we consider the separation Jesus faced, there are some things to remember. He saw it as a horrible, unbearable thing. We tend to take it lightly, because we have never experienced the fulness of a relationship with the Father in the same way that Jesus did. He was the Eternal Son, forever in the presence of the Father.
Another thing to remember: as horrible and as unbearable as Jesus saw that separation to be; for Him, it only lasted for three hours. For us, that separation would have been eternal, had Jesus not taken our place at the Cross. He became our substitute, to endure God’s rejection of Sin…our sin, on our behalf!
His soul-felt, spiritual agony was in the fact that God the Father turned away from Him, because Jesus had become the sin of the whole human race. 2nd Corinthians 5:21 says that He (who knew no sin) became sin, for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. That is our new position: “In Him.” And the result is that God the Father sees us as the righteousness of God…in Him. That separation and actually becoming the Sin that He hated, was what Jesus was dreading, there in Gethsemane.
Through Gethsemane (Matthew 26:47-56; John 18:4-13)
After we saw Jesus agonizing in the dark night of Gethsemane, anticipating the Cross, and we saw the disciples unable to stay awake and pray with Him, we see Him awakening them and then turning to face the advancing enemies.
There is an interesting incident, here, involving the soldiers who were sent to arrest Him. These were not Roman soldiers, but rather the temple guards under the authority of the priests, at this point. Rome became involved later in the story. But verse 47 says there was a great multitude carrying swords and staves, sent from the chief priests, and the elders of the people.
Confronting the Mob
(Notice that Israel was involved as a nation in what was about to happen, despite the thousands who had individually believed in Him.) But, in John 18:4-8, we see that Jesus stepped forward to confront the mob, and asked “Whom do ye seek?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
And Jesus said, “I am He.” You will notice in your Bible, in John 18:5, that the word “he” is in italics, indicating that it was not in the original text. Many conjecture that what Jesus actually did was to quietly say His Name, the Great “I AM,” of Biblical History. There are other passages, where the same sentence structure is used without such dramatic results, but: look what happened, here! The whole mob fell backward to the ground!
Something special happened there! They came with swords, torches, and clubs to take Him as if He were a criminal. All He did was speak His Name, and He dropped the whole crowd on their backs! (Please don’t get the idea that they were “slain in the Spirit” or any such thing. This was not a “spiritual blessing:” They got body-slammed! These were the enemies of Christ, getting a warning of the unspeakable Authority and Power of the Incarnate God they were rejecting.)
Also, notice this: He reminded them why they were there, asking again, “Whom seek ye?” Then they cranked up their collective courage and they arrested Him. And, they bound His hands, though He had just knocked them flat with His Word! How strange! He did not need His hands, to manage that crowd. But that is what they tied up.
Judas’ last Move
At some point in this exchange, Judas identified Jesus by greeting Him with a kiss, which is where we get the phrases “the Judas-Kiss,” and “the Kiss of Death.” In Luke 22:48, Jesus commented on the gross inappropriateness of using such an intimate greeting to betray the Son of Man.
But after that point, He ignored Judas and faced the mob, and dealt with them alone. We see in Matthew 26:56, and in Mark 14:50 that after His arrest, all His disciples fled. On the other hand, we see that some of them trickled back, circled around, and followed at a distance, to see what would happen to Him.
What happened to Him, of course, was the trial, the condemnation, the scourgings, the abuse, and finally, the crucifixion, and a brutal, agonizing death. We will look at all of that next week.
What About Gethsemane and Us?
In the meantime, what do we do with the Story of Gethsemane? Is it just a “Biblical drama” for us to vicariously experience, empathizing with Jesus and clicking our tongues over the disciples failure to watch with Him? Or is there something deeper for us to learn, here?
For one thing, I think it is important for us to see that Only Jesus can prevail over the darkness. He is the Light of the World, and only Light overcomes darkness. The darkness of the fear, alone, at Gethsemane, was too much for the disciples. The trial and all that followed was completely outside their ability.
Zechariah 13:7 foretold that the shepherd would be smitten, and the sheep would be scattered. In Mark 14:27 Jesus said the fulfillment of that prophecy was at hand. He said that the disciples would be scattered when He was arrested, and He cited that specific prophecy from Zechariah.
How can we Stand?
We are no more capable of withstanding the attacks of the enemies, in our own strength, than they were! The eleven disciples, who knew Him face to face, still fled from the enemy, and failed to stand fast. We confess that we cannot serve in our own strength. But that does not deny that we are called to “press on, and go ahead and serve!” We are called to be His ambassadors and to function as His representatives, here on Earth. But we are not called to do it on our own!
Remember that the Jesus who is living in you is the same Jesus who knocked down a mob of soldiers just by speaking His name! Does that mean we should expect to “knock down soldiers?” No, it means that we are not to fear the results of standing for Jesus.
Count the Cost!
It may be costly. It may be painful, and we may be rejected by all that know us. It was costly and painful for Jesus as well. Remember that the disciples who were scattered and fled, that night, were later transformed by His Spirit, and they preached fearlessly, in public. It turned out to be costly and painful in each of their lives as well, but they lived through the hardship with Joy, knowing they were working with Jesus.
Set your heart on the goal of working with Jesus. Experience the Joy of knowing that what you are doing today will be valuable for eternity.
Lord Jesus, raise us up to be your disciples. Fill us with Your Spirit, and strengthen us with Your Joy. Let us be increasingly aware of your presence and Leading in our daily lives. Pour your love through us to the world around us and let us feed them with the Bread of Life.