It was the beginning of the end. Jesus was nearing the end of a long and arduous journey that would reach its apex of pain and agony on a rugged cross the very next day. To be more precise, it was Thursday, Jesus and His disciples gathered for their observance of Passover in what we call “The Last Supper.” The end was near and Jesus wanted to share His most important lessons with those who had followed Him most closely during the past three years. What would He do? Which lesson, out of all of the lessons He had taught, would He share? How would He deliver the message so that they would never forget it? Let’s take a look at John 13:1-5 and see what Jesus taught.
1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. 2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:1-5 NIV)
Isn’t that amazing? “He showed them the full extent of His love.” How did He do it? He washed their feet. He took a basin of water and a towel from the living quarters of the lowest slave in the house and He began to wash their feet. The King of Glory, the Lamb of God, took the hands that formed the seas and stars, and He cleaned grit and grime from between the toes of His impetuous, sometimes impossible, disciples. What a picture! After washing the feet of His disciples, Jesus began the Passover observance with His disciples for the last time this side of glory. Jesus took the bread and the cup and told the Passover story like they had never heard it before.
The Passover, or Feast of Unleavened Bread, is observed by the Jews to commemorate God’s deliverance of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. When the final plague came, the Jews were instructed to take the blood of a lamb and smear it over the doorframe of their houses. On the night of the final plague, the death angel would pass over Egypt and kill the firstborn throughout the land. The only ones who would be spared would be those who were under the blood. The Jews ate only unleavened bread for the seven days following Passover as a memorial of the unleavened bread that their ancestors had eaten following God’s deliverance from the Egyptians.
The Passover story had been shared countless times around the table in Jewish homes, it is still being shared today, but it had never been told like Jesus told it that night so long ago. Mark tells us what happened as Jesus observed Passover with His disciples.
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” 23 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.” 26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Mark 14:22-26 NIV)
The cup, representative of the blood of the lamb, was given a new meaning as Jesus held the cup in His hand and said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many…” A new deliverance was on the way! Jesus took the unleavened bread and gave it a new definition as He said, “Take it; this is my body.” Deliverance came for the Hebrew slaves, but it wasn’t a lasting deliverance. Israel has been in captivity many times since their deliverance from the Egyptians. As Jesus took the bread and the cup He announced to the world that a final, lasting deliverance had come!
I’ve read the story of the final week of Jesus’ life so many times this past week. I’ve walk through the streets of Jerusalem in my mind all over again. I’ve looked across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. Years ago, while we were in Jerusalem, we had an opportunity to go to the Garden of Gethsemane and pray. I’ve relived my time there and thought about Jesus lying on the ground pouring His heart out before His Father. The emotion that must have raced through Jesus’ heart and mind is beyond my understanding. Before Jesus surrendered Himself to those who would crucify Him, He told His disciples.
32 “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33 NIV)
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In just a few short hours Jesus would be overcome by those who would crucify Him, but He wanted to reassure His followers that He was the Overcomer!
Matthew and Mark both tell us that after Jesus finished sharing the Passover meal with His disciples they “sang hymns” and headed out across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives. They walked about a half a mile down the slope from Jerusalem into the Kidron Valley and up the slope of the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus had been so many times before. Luke tells us, 39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. (Luke 22:39 NIV)
What was Jesus going to do on the Mount of Olives? He was going to pray. Jesus had been there before and now in His greatest hour He was going there again to cry out to the Father. This isn’t the only place where we find Jesus praying. In Matthew’s Gospel we read,
2 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone… (Matthew 14:22-23 NIV)
The crowds were always following Jesus. They had needs; they knew Jesus could meet their needs, so they went to Him. With all of the demands on Jesus’ life and time He made time to be alone with the Father. In Luke 5:15-16 we read,
15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:15-16 NIV)
Jesus didn’t pray because He had nothing else to do. Luke tells us that the news spread and the crowds increased, but Jesus “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” I share this with you because the number one response I get as to why people don’t come to the Sweet Hour of Prayer or get involved in a weekly Bible study is because they are busy. More busy than Jesus? Come on. Let’s be honest, none of us “has” time to pray or study God’s Word, we have to make time. We have to make it a priority just like we do everything else that we choose to do. We make it a priority. We say, “No” to things that are not as important as what we want to do so that we can do them. If you want to pray or you want to study God’s Word you will choose to say “No” to lesser things my friends.
Jesus made His way up the hill to the Mount of Olives and then entered the Garden of Gethsemane because He needed to be alone with the Father. Take a look at Mark 14:32-42 with me and let’s read about Jesus’ time in the Garden.
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!” (Mark 14:32-42 NIV)
If you’ve never been to a place it is difficult to understand the lay of the land. I had that same problem before I went to Israel the first time. Let me try to help you out. The Garden of Gethsemane is on the Mount of Olives like Stars and Stripes Park is located on Lake Hefner. It’s not the only place on the lake, but it is one of the places. The Garden of Gethsemane is not the only place on the Mount of Olives, but it is one of the places on the mountain, which is really more like a hill.
The Mount of Olives was important in Jesus’ life. It was on the hill that Jesus shared some of His most powerful teaching with the disciples. He told them about how the end of history would unfold, that there would be “wars and rumors of wars,” and that He would come back for His own. He warned them about false Messiahs that would come claiming to do things in His name. In Matthew 25 Jesus told them the parables of the ten virgins, the five talents, and He gave them a picture of the final Judgment where the “sheep” would be separated from the “goats.” Jesus came to the Mount of Olives to rest, to be alone with His disciples, and on the night in which He would be handed over to be crucified, Jesus came to the Mountain once again to be alone with the Father and pray,
36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36 NIV)
The Garden of Gethsemane is a beautiful place. The word in Greek means “Oil press” and it was, and still is, a beautiful garden full of olive trees. The Scripture tells us that Jesus went there with His disciples on the night of His betrayal. Peter, James, and John were left in one place while Jesus went deeper into the Garden to be alone with the Father. Before Jesus left them He told them, “Stay here and keep watch.” Jesus went to pray and came back a little later to find the disciples asleep. Jesus called Peter out. Jesus said, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?” Why would Jesus call Peter out like that? He wasn’t the only one who fell asleep during Jesus’ greatest hour of need. Maybe Jesus called Peter out because he was most vocal about his commitment and willingness to die for Jesus. Take a look at Mark 14:26-31 and you can see what I am talking about.
26 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.” 31But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same. (Mark 14:26-31 NIV)
Those of you who are more observant than others probably noticed that the other disciples were saying the same thing Peter was saying. You are sharp! Since all of the disciples were saying the same thing why did Jesus single Peter out? That’s a great question. I believe I can answer you. Who started all of the talk about radical commitment, faithfulness, and being willing to die for Jesus? Peter did. The others were late comers. They were followers, but Peter led the charges. I’m not being critical of Peter—I’m just like him. How quick I am to shoot off my mouth and talk about my faith and commitment to Jesus only to be shown how shallow and feeble my walk truly is. I need bigger feet and a smaller mouth.
Peter might have been sleepy, but Jesus was experiencing the deepest sorrow that anyone has ever experienced. Turn with me to Mark 14:33-34 and let’s try to get a better understanding of what Jesus was experiencing.
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.” (Mark 14:33-34 NIV)
Even though Peter, James, and John didn’t take the opportunity to drink in what was happening, I want us to be still for the next few minutes and drink in this distressing time in Jesus’ life. There are three words that will take us to the heart of what was going on in Jesus’ heart while He was there in the Garden. Jesus told His disciples that He was “deeply distressed and troubled” and that His “soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” That’s pretty descriptive don’t you think. Let’s take a deeper look. The Greek word for “distressed” means, “to be alarmed, be greatly disturbed.” The Greek word for “troubled” means “to be upset, be distressed, or to be deeply troubled.” The last phrase that I want us to take a look at is the phrase, “overwhelmed with sorrow.” The phrase is really one word in Greek, it’s the word we get our word, “periphery,” from, and it means, “encompassed with grief, very sad, exceedingly sorrowful.” The great Bible teacher Alexander MacLaren, who preached in the last half of the 1800’s wrote these words.
Our Lord’s own infinitely touching words heighten the impression of the Evangelist’s ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful,’ or, as the word literally means, ‘ringed round with sorrow.’ A dark orb of distress encompassed Him, and there was nowhere a break in the gloom which shut Him in. (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: Mark, Baker Book House, 1974.)
Can you feel the heaviness that weighed upon Jesus’ heart on that dark, dark night? The sorrow was crushing; the weight of the turmoil that raged inside of Him was draining. Mark tells us,
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.” (Mark 14:35-36 NIV)
As Jesus walked away from the disciples he fell to the ground. The Greek word that is used here means, “to fall down, to plunge down, or to collapse.” Jesus fell under the weight of sorrow, under the strong hand of distress, and He prayed, “Daddy.” That’s what “Abba” means. It is an Aramaic word, the most intimate and childlike word for Father in the language. Jesus, lying on the ground, cries out to His Daddy, the Father, and He prays, “Is there any other way? Can you take this cup from Me? Is there a possibility that it can be accomplished through some other means?” There has been great debate about this verse. Some have said that Jesus was struggling with whether or not He was going to go to the cross. I don’t believe that at all.
Have you ever been in a situation that you knew was going to be difficult, but necessary? It caused your heart to race, you broke out in a sweat, and you thought to yourself, “There must be some other way, some easier way to deal with this.” You knew there wasn’t. As painful as it was going to be you knew it had to be done. This is what I believe was going through Jesus’ mind in the Garden of Gethsemane. You may ask, “Well where do you get that?” Thanks for the question. I get it from the previous three years of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus let it be known from the beginning that He had come to do His Father’s will. In John 8:28-29 we read,
28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:28-29 NIV)
Just six chapters later in John’s Gospel we read,
30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. “Come now; let us leave. (John 14:30-31 NIV)
Jesus knew there was no other way to bring deliverance, hope, and eternal life to lost souls like you and me. He said so Himself in John 14:6,
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)
Jesus was born to go to the cross. In the Garden of Gethsemane He knew where He was headed and the thought of carrying the weight of our sin upon His shoulders was crushing, but it didn’t cause Jesus to lose sight of why He had come. After Judas arrived in the Garden with the soldiers Simon Peter drew his sword and went to war. Jesus said,
11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11 NIV)
Before we leave here this morning I want us to consider something. What was it that caused Jesus, God in the flesh, to suffer such anguish and sorrow in the Garden? Was it the scourging that He would suffer? I don’t think so. Was it the humiliation that would be heaped upon His shoulders? Not likely. What was it? I believe it was my sin. My sin. Sin is crushing isn’t it? Stop and think of our own lives. What is it that causes us so much pain and suffering? It’s our sin isn’t it? Now multiply the sorrow and anguish you have felt under the weight of your own sin by an infinite number and you can better understand why Jesus suffered so. Why did He do it? He did it because He loves you and me. He desires that we be delivered from our sins and reconciled with the Father once and for all.
There is one more lesson that I want us to gain from our study this morning. I meet so many people who are going through tough, tough times. The fact of the matter is that we will all go through struggles that will weigh us down and try to crush us. We need to learn from Jesus where we should go when these trials come our way. Where did Jesus go when troubles were pressing down on Him? He went to get away with the Father, He went to the Garden. I know folks that will go to the liquor store, the crack house, the casino, the club, and many other places when they are troubled, but they won’t even consider going to the Garden. Folks we need to go to the Garden, to some place where we can be alone with the Father and cry out to Him.
There may be someone here this morning who is learning this lesson for the very first time. What will you do? Will you walk away from the One who carried your sin from the Garden to the Cross so that you would have the opportunity to experience the lasting love of God? I sure hope not. I pray that you will surrender your heart to Him this very morning.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
April 2, 2015