Mark Study #31
Mark 14:26-42 details the events in between the Passover meal with His disciples and Christ’s arrest. During the Passover meal, Christ announced His betrayal but also the arrangements for remembering His death. Christ would soon be arrested beginning His trials. This current segment takes place late Thursday evening and into the early hours of Friday—it is one episode with two scenes. The first scene (14:26-31) reports the conversation that Jesus had with His disciples as they departed from the room where they had celebrated the Passover. The second scene (14:32-42), at Gethsemane, records Jesus’ deep struggle in prayer contrasted with the disciples’ drowsiness.
Jesus and His disciples sung as they wrapped up their Passover meal. They were on their way back to the Mount of Olives. Traditionally, Psalms 113-118 were sung in conjunction with the Passover celebration. Jesus oriented His disciples to His death once again: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered,” which was a citation from Zechariah 13:7. Jesus used that passage to not only underscore that God the Father was ultimately in control of the details surrounding Christ’s death, but also that each of the remaining eleven disciples would soon abandon Jesus. However, Jesus assuredly promised their reclamation, “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” The future of the advancement of Jesus’ mission would depend on God’s intervention to raise Jesus up, not on the disciple’s individual faithfulness.
Peter and the disciples make it clear that they were still unseeing and unready for what was about to unfold. But they do reveal that they perceived that they were confident in their abilities as Peter declared, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” Jesus informed Peter that before the morning dawned, he would deny Him three times. In denying Jesus three separate times, Peter’s words would not merely be a momentary lapse in weakness, but a thorough reflection of Peter’s heart posture. Peter, who had still not accepted the fact that Christ would need to suffer and die, now affirmed: “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” Such sentiments of confidence were not just Peters, each of the disciples declared their ability to remain faithful (v. 31).
Gethsemane was an olive orchard at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Leaving eight of the disciples outside, Jesus had Peter, James, and John accompany Him into the orchard. Once in the orchard, Jesus said: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” There are two contrasting pictures of what took place at Gethsemane. First, there is Jesus’ struggle in prayer with His Father. Next, there are three intermittent conversations between Jesus and His disciples in which He implored them to be at watch. Jesus would face His struggle at Gethsemane totally alone.
Being told that Jesus was, “greatly distressed and troubled,” shows the grip of horror that Jesus experienced as He faced the dreadful prospects that awaited Him. Gethsemane shows the moment in Jesus’ life when the full meaning of His submission to the Father confronted Him with its immediacy. Jesus, “fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.” Sensing the full ordeal that awaited Him buckled Jesus’ knees as He collapsed to the ground. From the ground, Jesus prayed. Specifically, Jesus prayed: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Jesus’ struggle at Gethsemane was not about a refusal to complete His mission. It is however, a reminder that Jesus, the God-Man, faced the full pressures and emotions of His humanity.
So why did Jesus, who being aware of His death as He marching resolutely to complete His mission in Jerusalem, now tremble? Jesus was conscious that He was facing something more than death. In Mark 10:45 Jesus had confessed that He would, “give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus would soon become the payment for the sins of others. The cup that Jesus requested to be taken from Him symbolized the wrath He would face to satisfy a just payment for sin. He was, “pierced for our transgressions,” and, “he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus knew that being a sin-bearing substitute meant alienation from His Father, the One whom He intimately knew as “Abba,”—His dearest Father. Such alienation would shortly be shrieked from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Ironically, and yet, most gloriously, at Gethsemane and Golgotha, when Jesus felt the most tormented and excluded from God’s presence, He was most perfectly in His Father’s will.
Golgotha was the location where Jesus relinquished His body to be crucified; but the location where Jesus definitively surrendered His will to the Father resolving to go through with the plans to hang on the Cross was Gethsemane. Not taking anything away from the intense physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering that Jesus faced at the Cross; the struggle experienced at Gethsemane reveals the deeply intense internal suffering Jesus battled leading up to Golgotha. At Golgotha, Jesus would be the sin-bearer; at Gethsemane, Jesus would settle His will to do so. The faithful obedience of Christ and His pleasure in pleasing His Father would continue right through to the end.
Interspersed in between His prayer to the Father, Jesus went to Peter, James, and John on three occasions. Even though Jesus had directed His disciples to keep watch, that is pray, they were asleep at each encounter. Their drowsiness was yet another indication that they failed to realize just how crucial the moment was before them. Thus, Jesus’ words to Peter, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” was not only directions for Peter; they revealed Jesus’ conviction about the strength He obtained by the Spirit through prayer. Failing to obey the call to pray would have direct bearing on their subsequent disobedience. But time to get ready was now over, “Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
The failure of the disciples would not be the final word, for Jesus would complete God’s purposes. While the disciples snoozed, Jesus prayed. While Jesus was hauled away, they fled. While Jesus was being condemned, they denied Him. Yet, their unfaithfulness would not trump God’s purposes. The Faithful One had said at the outset of this episode, “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Jesus would prevail!