Mark 14: 32 – 72 NLT
“Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
32 They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. 34 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
37 Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 38 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
39 Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. 40 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say.
41 When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”
Luke 22: 40 – 46 recounts the same story, but adds some details, so let’s read Luke’s account:
“40 There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.”
41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. 44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.
45 At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.”
These moments in the Garden of Gethsemane are crucial moments. Jesus is God, one of the Trinity. He could have decided to walk away. He knew where his captors were; he would have had no difficulty in avoiding what was to come. In fact, he could have struck them all dead on the spot. But … he stayed and waited.
Here we see Jesus in his full humanity as well. He knows the horror ahead, and his body is reacting to the extreme stress – sweating drops of blood. Was it just the pain and suffering of a death by crucifixion that Jesus was dreading? That would have been terrifying from scientific data about that type of death. But – no! Jesus was about to face the wrath of God on sin dumped completely on him. Every single sin that each one of us has done would be loaded on Jesus to take the punishment. Just stop and think for a moment of the enormity of that. That God was willing to place that on Jesus, and that Jesus was willing to take it for us is beyond my comprehension.
How did Jesus face this upcoming horror? He prayed. I’m going to ask that question again. How did Jesus face this upcoming horror? … He prayed. And what did he ask the disciples to do? he asked them to pray.
Was he asking them to pray for him? Maybe, since we know as humans that when we face difficult situations, we are comforted when we know others are with us and praying for us. However, I think Jesus wanted them to pray for themselves since Jesus knew what was ahead. Did you notice that in both Mark and Luke’s accounts, Jesus said, “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” While Jesus was praying for God’s strength to continue in his journey to the cross, Jesus also wanted his disciples to pray for the strength they needed to face the next week.
Did the disciples pray? No. They fell asleep. In fact, they fell asleep at least twice after Jesus woke them and asked them to pray. They had had a long day with preparing for the Passover, and then the supper and the conversations at the table, the walk to the Garden late at night where the fragrance of the olive trees would have been calming. I understand their fatigue and sleep. Was Jesus angry with them? Listen to Jesus as he wakes them finally to meet the oncoming Temple police: “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”
Jesus’ kindness in the face of their weakness is amazing. Let’s read the rest of this chapter to see how things turned out that night:
“Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested
43 And immediately, even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. 44 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” 45 As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss.
46 Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. 47 But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.
48 Jesus asked them, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? 49 Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there among you teaching every day. But these things are happening to fulfill what the Scriptures say about me.”
50 Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away. 51 One young man following behind was clothed only in a long linen shirt. When the mob tried to grab him, 52 he slipped out of his shirt and ran away naked.
Jesus before the Council
53 They took Jesus to the high priest’s home where the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law had gathered. 54 Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and went right into the high priest’s courtyard. There he sat with the guards, warming himself by the fire.
55 Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council (Sanhedrin) were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But they couldn’t find any. 56 Many false witnesses spoke against him, but they contradicted each other. 57 Finally, some men stood up and gave this false testimony: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another, made without human hands.’” 59 But even then they didn’t get their stories straight!
60 Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” 61 But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 Jesus said, “I am. (Exodus 3: 14) And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Why do we need other witnesses? 64 You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”
“Guilty!” they all cried. “He deserves to die!”
65 Then some of them began to spit at him, and they blindfolded him and beat him with their fists. “Prophesy to us,” they jeered. And the guards slapped him as they took him away.
Peter Denies Jesus
66 Meanwhile, Peter was in the courtyard below. One of the servant girls who worked for the high priest came by 67 and noticed Peter warming himself at the fire. She looked at him closely and said, “You were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth.”
68 But Peter denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and he went out into the entryway. Just then, a rooster crowed.
69 When the servant girl saw him standing there, she began telling the others, “This man is definitely one of them!” 70 But Peter denied it again.
A little later some of the other bystanders confronted Peter and said, “You must be one of them, because you are a Galilean.”
71 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed the second time.
Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept.”
The arrest was a little sloppy. Other gospels tell us that it was Peter who chopped off the ear of one of the guards, and that Jesus healed the man. It’s not surprising that impetuous Peter would do something like that. But as Jesus is bound to be taken away, all the disciples fled. Notice that? ALL the disciples fled. Mark is the only one who includes a brief story of a young man who fled naked. Here is what Steve Wilmhurst says about that:
“In vv.51-52, Mark presents an intriguing little episode. Who is this unexpected character and whatever is he doing in the story? Mark’s gospel is the only one that includes him, and that is always significant. We can deduce that he got dressed in a tearing hurry, because he has nothing on under his garment; and that he is fairly well-off, because he is wearing linen. The most likely explanation is that this young man is none other than Mark himself, our author. We know Mark’s family lived in Jerusalem: it was a meeting place of the early church (Acts 12:12). Tradition has always held that it’s the same house where Jesus has just shared the Passover with his disciples. So perhaps Mark has done what Hollywood film directors sometimes do and given himself a cameo role in his own production, in which case Mark is actually an eye-witness of this episode!”
The trial in the high priest’s home was a farce. They couldn’t actually get any incriminating evidence that they thought the Romans would accept. It wasn’t until the high priest asked Jesus – “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” – that they felt they had a good case they could present to the Roman governor. Jesus’ reply (“I am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”) could be interpreted as a threat to the Roman rule. The beating and harsh, disrespectful treatment began at the high priest’s house, even before they took Jesus to Pilate.
The disciples had fled, but Peter snuck into the courtyard of the high priest’s home to be able to see what was happening. When he was confronted by various servants and people in the courtyard about being associated with Jesus, Peter denied it. When that rooster crowed the second time, Peter was devastated.
The verses we’ve read today strike me in two ways. The first is our need to pray. Jesus prayed for the strength to face the horror ahead. In prayer, he went from extreme stress, sweating drops of blood and falling on the ground to being able to be kind to his disciples who kept falling asleep, and being able to treat the Temple guards with a peaceful calm. It’s from God that we get the strength to be able to face the challenges that life brings. Jesus comes right out and says, “pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.”
Prayer is something we desperately need to do. I know that I struggle with prayer and I suspect that many of us do. In our busy lives, it’s hard to find time to pray. We have a tendency to think we have the mundane events of each day under control, and we just go through our day with little thought of talking with God. It’s when crisis strikes that we remember to pray. We need to realize that we need God every moment of each day, and that prayer is necessary.
The fact that Jesus was so kind to the disciples when they completely failed him is amazing. They fell asleep when he asked them to pray. They ran away when the Temple guards arrested Jesus. Peter managed to sneak in to see what was happening, but then denied vehemently that he knew Jesus at all. God’s love for us and his forgiveness for our failures is so hard to comprehend. He is so patient with us. “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2: 4 NLT) We can know in this loving relationship we have with God because of Jesus’ sacrifice, that our failure can be forgiven. Remember it’s a loving relationship, so it’s not a relationship where we keep on doing whatever we want, expecting God to put up with us. That wouldn’t work in any human relationship either. But, it is amazing that God is patient and is willing to forgive. He does so much for us.
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1: 9