Midweek Lent 2 March 12&13, 2019
Text: Mark 14:32-42 Synodical series from 2003 19:2114
Theme: Gethsemane: The Place of Temptation
At the foot of the Mount of Olives, outside and to the east of Jerusalem’s city walls, lay pleasant gardens and farmsteads. Among them was the Garden of Gethsemane. It was filled with olive trees, a quiet retreat, a getaway from the crowds. There Jesus could be alone with His disciples to teach them in solitude. Perhaps He had a favorite tree or grassy knoll near which He would lift a meditative gaze to heaven and pray to His heavenly Father. This is the place to which He flees in anticipation of severe temptation. A garden of rest would soon become a place of extreme sorrow.
I. It was night when Jesus entered it with His disciples. The old, gnarly olive trees swayed in the night breeze under the full Passover moon. There was more to the darkness that night for Satan, the Prince of Darkness, lurked in the shadows, waiting to attack the Christ.
Shortly after Jesus’ Baptism, Satan had tried his best at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to make Jesus fall into sin and thus destroy any hope of our salvation. But with each temptation, Jesus repelled the attack and soundly defeated him. When the battle was done, the Scriptures tell us that “the devil departed from Jesus for just a time, awaiting another opportune moment” (Lk.4:13).
That opportune time came in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before Jesus’ death. Satan had used a garden in Eden to bring sin and death upon us. And so Christ would begin His suffering in a garden also.
Twelve men entered the garden; eight were left at the gate. Three were taken closer to the place of temptation. In His mysterious ways, God ever draws some closer to temptation and the cross, setting them right up front. There He lays on them a weightier burden. Notice who is placed in the forefront of this in Gethsemane, Peter! Just an hour before he had sworn to be ever faithful to Jesus: “Lord, if I have to die with You, I will not deny You. Even if all the rest should fall away, I never will.” Self-reliant, that was Peter.
Jesus speaks to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch.” Then going a little further, He fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass from Him.”
Here, in this place of temptation, face to the ground, Christ begins to shiver and shake. An unavoidable danger lies ahead. Being truly human He is anxious and fearful beyond measure. How deep does the anguish go? He declared, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”
His soul, the most inward being which enjoys one’s direct spiritual relationship with God is plagued, terrorized, and oppressed so much so that Christ’s outer body loses its strength. His legs will support Him no more. In anguish He falls to the ground as He pleads with heaven, “Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.”
This struggle against temptation for Him to resist going to the cross is most severe. Later the writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us, “Jesus offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death” (Hb.5:7). So intense was the struggle that the Father sent Jesus an angel to strengthen Him.
Oh, what a heavy burden was laid on the Son of God. It required God to send angelic comfort and strength. Jesus as the Word made flesh is the source of all comfort and strength for without Him nothing was made that has been made. And yet, in this place of temptation, a creature made by Him must uphold the Creator.
Ah, what is this and what is the cause of such agony and distress? The Bible answers, “Surely, He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows….He was stricken…smitten…and afflicted….He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities …punishment was upon Him.” (Is.53). Perhaps “crushed’ says it all!
The burden of God’s wrath for sin pressed upon Christ, and Satan saw the opportune moment to inject the temptation to run away from it all. Gethsemane means “oil press.” Here Jesus was pressed hard between heaven’s eternal expectations and hells terrible temptations.
That is what should have rightly fallen upon us for we were the guilty ones, not Christ. Yet, He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. Carrying it all God truly viewed Him, head bowed to the ground, as the greatest of sinners, not in His own person, but in the tremendous load that He carried.
So, then dear friends, ponder what sin is and the anguish that results. Look how this holy Soul agonizes! If the Son of God must fall to the dust in prayer because of it, what terrors it presents. If His strong legs could not hold Him, how would it have gone for us had He not taken our place?
But here is powerful comfort for us as well. This is the reason Christ anguished here, for He bore our sin and guilt as His own. As the result of Jesus’ battle with Satan and victory over him, God will not enter into judgment with the believer who is in Christ (Ps.143).
So sink all sin here, in Christ. Drown your pains in His agony. And rejoice with thanksgiving in a Savior who entered the place of temptation and endured it for you.
II. And if you have any doubts, look at the attitude in which Jesus approaches this. He bears our burdens willingly. “My Father,” He cries, “everything is possible for You. Take this cup from me. Yet, not what I will, but what You will.”
A second and a third time Jesus repeated His impassioned plea while the disciples in weakness slept. So intense it became, that He sweat great drops of blood. Yet God, the Lord, kept silent. Other than sending an angel, there was silence from the heavens, indicating that there could be no other way for this to be done, even for His dear Son, whom the Father loved. Christ was all alone. Such was heaven’s will that all should overtake Him. And it was to that will that the Savior bowed when He prayed, “Then, Father, not my will but Your will be done.” Jesus bore our burden willingly.
See how the Savior’s heart is strongly attached to you? In this place of temptation, amidst such agony for sin’s curse, He willingly goes on for us. And this is for disciples who so frequently fall asleep at their post.
But thankfully it is so that even then Jesus bears our burdens willingly. So, approach Him in love. Don’t feel sorry for Him. He does not ask such a thing of us. Feel sorry for your sin which caused such terrible temptations to seize Him. But in joyful faith, lay hold of His atoning work and victory over Satan’s temptations for us. God grant it to us in faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen.