It was the night before His crucifixion. Having counseled, comforted and prayed for His disciples, there was nothing left for Jesus to do but wait for His arrest, trial and execution. Jesus decided to wait in a grove of olive trees called Gethsemane, just outside of Jerusalem, a place where He and His disciples had often met. Judas would know right where to find Him.
Anticipating what He was about to endure, Jesus was “filled with anguish and deep distress” (Matthew 26:37). He told His disciples that His soul was “crushed with grief to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38), and even prayed that, if possible, the cup of suffering might be taken away from Him. It was not, however, just the thought of being beaten, whipped and crucified that disturbed Jesus so much. He was about to bear the sins of the world as He hung on the cross. He knew He would suffer God’s holy wrath, as had no other human being. Jesus would become the guiltiest person who ever lived, having no guilt of His own, but taking the guilt for our sins. The anguish Jesus would experience would be the combined anguish of every sinner at the moment of His condemnation, and the “cup” that Jesus requested be taken away if possible was the cup of God’s wrath spoken of in other places in the Bible (see Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15; Revelation 14:10; 16:19). By the time He was led away from Gethsemane by the soldiers, Jesus had fully resolved to take what was due us. He responded to Peter’s defending Him from arrest by saying, “Shall I not drink from the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11).
John recorded in his Gospel that when Judas arrived with soldiers and Temple guards in Gethsemane, Jesus stepped forward to meet them and asked, “Whom are you looking for?” (John 18:4). They replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.” When Jesus said, “I am he,” they all fell backward to the ground! They got a small taste of God’s power when God speaks! John also revealed that it was Peter who cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave, and Luke revealed in his Gospel that Jesus immediately healed the man! That was the second miracle in Gethsemane witnessed by the mob who came to arrest Jesus. Still they arrested Him.
One of the most significant statements we read today was what Jesus said about His being able to call for thousands of angels to protect Him from arrest. This makes it ever so clear that Jesus didn’t have to die. His death was not an accident or twist of fate. It was God’s plan. And the only possible reason such a thing could be God’s plan was because Jesus’ death would accomplish something good. We know, of course, that Jesus’ death is what satisfied the requirements of God’s justice on our behalf. If Jesus hadn’t died, we would have to spend eternity in hell, enduring the punishment we deserve for our sins.
Praise God for Jesus! Praise God that we’ve had the privilege of knowing about what we’ve read today!
Q. Jesus prayed essentially the same prayer three times in Gethsemane. Does this teach us that we should follow His example, repeatedly making the same requests?
A. No, because Jesus was not praying a prayer of faith, that is, a prayer based on one of God’s promises. In fact, He knew what He requested was not God’s will. His was actually a prayer of consecration, submitting to God’s will. To ask continually for what God has promised us is to doubt Him.
Q. When Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave with his sword, do you suppose he was aiming for the man’s ear?
A. More likely, Peter was aiming for the man’s neck, and the man ducked in the nick of time. I almost wish the man hadn’t ducked so that Jesus, rather than healing a severed ear, could have healed a severed head! That would have been considered one of His greatest miracles!
Application: When Jesus was arrested, the mob apparently tried to arrest Jesus’ disciples as well (see Mark 14:51-52; John 18:8). Yet they all escaped, deserting Jesus, fearing for their own lives. Jesus had predicted this, and the Old Testament had foretold it as well (see Matthew 26:31). But when He was resurrected, Jesus received and restored deserters and then used them to build His church. This shows us how merciful Jesus is. In the world, deserters are rarely given a second chance. In God’s kingdom, there is abundant grace available.