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Also includes Luke 22:39-46
Click the notes link below to view Dr. Dean's “Harmony of Jesus in Gethsemane” document.
Our Savior’s Sorrow: How to Face Adversity
Matthew 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42; Luke 22:39–46
Matthew Lesson #171
July 30, 2017
“Father, we’re thankful for this time that we have together to be refreshed in Your Word, to come to a great understanding of who our Lord Jesus Christ is and what He went through prior to the Cross, to come to understand some of the dynamics that impacted Him personally, deeply, profoundly. That there is in many ways a parallel with our own lives, and His response is that which gives us a pattern for how to face the difficulties, the pressures, the traumas, the challenges of life.
“Father, we know that You have a will that is revealed in Scripture to us and that we are to walk by Your spirit and walk by Your Word, and that as we do that You will produce in us spiritual growth, maturity, wisdom, and skill at living. We pray today that as we study these things, You will help us to understand them a little more fully, that we can imitate our Lord Jesus Christ.
“We pray this in His name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 26. We’ve been in Matthew now for almost three years, and it may take us a little while going through the last part because there’s not only so much here, but each of these last three chapters are extremely long. There is so much in some of these sections. Even though it is mostly narrative, this section we are in right now has conversation, it has dialogue, and that is important to understand.
There are things that are said here that are not always understood. It goes beyond our finite minds to fully comprehend the depths of the suffering that the Lord went through that night before He went to the Cross as He anticipated what would happen the next day.
But there are important things that we can understand and in my reading and study of a lot of things that have been written about the Lord’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane and His prayer, it also has impressed me that there are aspects to this that are just not probed. They are not probed for a number of reasons, but they’re just not.
There are some fascinating things that are going on here, not that I’m going to cover everything exhaustively, but try at least to answer some questions and to probe what’s going on here because we know that all Scripture is given to us for instruction, for rebuke, for correction, and instruction in righteousness.
We are to learn from this, that all Scripture has been breathed out by God and this extends to every word. These aren’t just interesting little stories or descriptions of things that happened a long time ago in the life of Jesus, but they are recorded for our benefit and for us to learn. Today we’re going to look at this as a pattern for how to handle and face adversity.
Now what we have seen so far is that this is part of the last week of our Lord’s life on the earth. As I examined the Scriptures and as we look at the Gospels, there’s so much that’s in the Gospels. I think somewhere between a quarter to a third of what we know about the life of our Lord Jesus Christ occurred in that last week.
Maybe a little bit more because in the Gospel of John, we have John 13–20 when you include the crucifixion and resurrection. That’s a huge chunk of the Gospel of John.
In Matthew, as He is ascending to Jerusalem, about seven days before the Cross: from Matthew 20–28. That’s eight chapters. So when you combine that, that’s a huge chunk, and we have two of the largest sections in Scripture of His instruction recorded that took place during this time.
We studied the Olivet Discourse which had to do with answering questions related to God’s plan for Israel and the Jewish people in terms of fulfillment of prophecy. That was in Matthew 24–25 Then—it is not part of our study—but in the Gospel of John, you have what’s called the Upper Room Discourse from John 13–17, which all relates to in the Upper Room, what He taught on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, and then what began to transpire there. All of that is recorded for us. So that’s a big chunk of our Lord’s teaching, and that was just within this last week.
We’ve seen the context of our section here that begins in Matthew 26:36, “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’ ”
As I pointed out last time, they’re walking roughly the area of what is known as Mount Zion, which is a little bit to the south and west of the Temple Mount, and they’re coming around the edge of the Temple Mount.
This is a picture of what it looks like today. This is the wall built by Suleman around the Temple Mount, which today houses the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
You’re looking down here; this is the Kidron Valley, and they would’ve come around the southern side of the temple most likely, we don’t know exactly what the path was. Then all along the Kidron Valley here, which is at the base of the Mount of Olives, which should be off to the left in the picture: that is all covered with olive trees; and it was even more covered in the time of Jesus.
There was an area that was called the Garden of Gethsemane. Now what we think of as a garden is something that has been well kept, and it may be a vegetable garden, it may be a flower garden, and so that communicates something to the English mind that is not exactly the way in which it was used at that time.
The same problem when it talks about the tomb of Christ is that there was a garden near the place of crucifixion. A garden can just be an area where there are trees, in areas where there are no buildings. It can be a flower garden, it can be just a grove of olive trees. It can be any of those kinds of things. So that’s the kind of thing that we see here.
This is what it looks like today due to some very ancient trees. I pointed out last time that there’s a significance to the location because the word “Gethsemane” refers to an olive press.
These are couple of pictures I showed you last time of the olive press, where the olives would be placed under this roller here. Usually a small donkey would be tied to the harness, to the post here, and then he would walk in a circle around, and that would crush the olives.
Then they would be put in a bag under this press, and weights added would squeeze the oil out of the olives.
That’s the picture that we see here: this is a time of testing. It is a time of testing for our Lord. It’s a time of testing for His disciples. Testing has two aspects. The word PEIRASMOS the noun can also be translated “temptation”, because in the midst of a test, an objective test, there is the attraction to disobey, to do things the wrong way.
That’s the internal, subjective side of a temptation. Often, because we are sinners, we are drawn to that sinful side. Scripture-defined sin is anything that is contrary to the will of God. Anything that is apart from faith in other places. It is anything that is contrary to the character of God.
That is the nature of sin. When we try to go it alone instead of in dependence upon God, then that leads to sin. That is what sin is, it is acting apart from God, being independent of God rather than dependent upon God.
The reason I’m emphasizing this as we go through this section is because part of the questions that come to people’s mind in the midst of this is that it’s clear that Jesus is going through an emotionally traumatic event. That’s often overlooked by a lot of people because it raises questions about the impeccability of Jesus.
That’s a big word and it refers to His sinlessness. The idea that the sinless Jesus had this emotional turmoil somehow doesn’t gel with our preconceived notions of Jesus in a perfect humanity: that if you’re perfect and you have omniscience, you’re not going to have these kinds of problems.
But as a human being, even as a sinless human being, He has the same nature that we do. That is why God had to enter into human history and become a man. God could not die for sin, but a man had to die for sin, to stand in the place of man. As such he had to be two things:
1. He had to be true humanity.
He wasn’t some sort of blend between God and man, so sort of like take a little deity, take a little humanity, and mix it together. That was one early misconception in the church. It is not that these are so disparate, so distinct that they are not united.
When we study what we call the “hypostatic union,” hypostatic is the Greek word HUPOSTASIS, which refers to substance or the nature of Jesus.
2. He has the full 100% nature of God.
He’s undiminished deity on the one hand; on the other hand, He is perfect humanity. He is completely human. He’s not missing anything. These two natures were somehow united together in the single person of Jesus.
Sometimes you will hear people say, “Well, Jesus did that in His deity.” That’s not the best way to put it. A better way to put it is, that Jesus could do that reveals that He was fully God. That Jesus suffered emotional anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane shows that He was truly human.
But the One Person—when we give that definition that goes back to the Nicene Creed in AD 325—that you have the undiminished deity and the true humanity of Jesus united together in One Person. The One Person of Jesus is suffering anguish in Gethsemane.
It’s that One Person who turned the water into wine. Changing the water into wine showed that He was fully God; that demonstrated that He was the Creator. Healing the lepers demonstrated that He was fully God. But He’s not like a multiple personality. He’s One Person united together.
That’s a heavy thought for a lot of people because it goes beyond our ability to fully comprehend it. We can understand the truth, but we can’t understand it exhaustively.
The writer of Hebrews says a lot about this. Hebrews 4:15, “… we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses ...”
That’s a double negative. “Do not” and “cannot” cancel each other to make a positive. So what he is saying is we have a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. Why? Because He was fully human. And He went through the same kinds of things that we do, as it says here, “yet without sin.”
Whatever happens in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals to us that He is going through the pressure of the test, but He is not choosing to respond to the test in a way that violates the will of God.
The pressure is real, it is significant, and it is very much a part of His maturation process in His humanity.
Hebrews 2:10, “It was fitting for Him”—that is, God the Father—“for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation”—that’s the Lord Jesus Christ—“perfect”— or mature—“through sufferings.”
In His humanity, He had to grow from being a baby, to being an adolescent, to being an adult. And he had to grow spiritually: He had to learn the Scriptures, He had to memorize the Scriptures, and He had to apply the Scriptures, because He’s a pattern for every human being.
When we take these elements of who Jesus is, and we look at what’s going on here, we recognize that something profound is happening here, something that makes a lot of people a little bit uncomfortable because they don’t slice the baloney thin enough.
One of my seminary professors, always loved that phrase that “some people slice the baloney too thin,” but it just means that we have to get detailed enough in our understanding to realize that on the one hand, Jesus doesn’t sin, but on the other hand, He is profoundly pressured to sin. What we see here is that pressure that is perfectly pictured by that olive press imagery that’s going on in Gethsemane.
I pointed out last time that this is revealed by these words in Matthew that He is sorrowful, He’s deeply distressed. Mark also uses the word for being deeply distressed, but he uses a different word for trouble.
Matthew’s two words are LUPEO for sorrowful, which has to do with grief, grieving, being extremely sorrowful; and ADEMONEO, which means to be burdened. He’s under pressure.
Mark uses this word, EKTHAMBEO. I’ve been reading and studying more upon the usage of this particular word in the last week. It has the root idea of something that can cause a surprise. So some people raise the question, “What surprised Jesus at this time?”
I think the answer to that can be somewhat subjective, but one writer, a former seminary professor of mine who many years ago wrote a paper on this, makes a suggestion. I’m not sure he’s right on target, he’s not the center of the target, but I think he’s close. And that is there is an element of pressure that’s going on here in the Garden of Gethsemane that’s related to the angelic conflict: that there is a temptation …
We haven’t heard much from Satan. You look at the fact that in the life of Jesus, you start off back in Matthew 4 with the temptation, Jesus is taken by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness. There are the three temptations of Jesus by Satan.
We don’t hear anything about Satan again until later on when you get to the point where Peter is encouraging the Lord to go ahead and bring in the Kingdom, and Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan.” That what Peter is saying there has its origin from satanic influence.
Then when we get to this point, we recognize that Satan has indwelt Judas, that Jesus has told Peter that Satan has asked for permission to sift him, and that Satan suddenly seems to be more a focal point.
Even though he’s not mentioned right in this context, this is the ultimate struggle between righteousness and evil, as Jesus is preparing to go to the Cross to pay for our sins. So this is part of this dynamic that is going on here, that in some sense, Jesus in His humanity is becoming aware of a dimension of this pressure and He is seeing what is going to happen the next day.
It’s not new news to Him. How many times have we heard that He has proclaimed that that He is going to Jerusalem, He is going to be betrayed, He is going to be crucified, He’s going to be buried, He is going to rise in the third day.
None of that is new information, but I think in His humanity, there is a new realization that on the next day, the sins of the world are going to be poured out on Him, and He is going to be judicially separated from the Father, and this is a profound realization that is causing this anguish.
Now we can’t minimize this anguish. Some people want to minimize the anguish because they’re not comfortable with Jesus being emotional, but you can’t avoid this. There is a state of the emotion that occurs when somebody is under extreme pressure called hematidrosis, which is when you sweat blood.
Luke, who’s a physician, is the only one who tells us this, that the pressure became so great at this time in the garden that our Lord sweated blood. The pressure is so great that the tiny capillaries around the sweat glands begin to leak blood into the sweat glands. It’s extremely rare, but there are known cases of this taking place. This happens because of the degree of pressure that our Lord is feeling.
The writer of Hebrews later on says in reference to those who are resisting or not resisting temptation is “have you resisted to the point of death?” I’m not going to ask the question how many of us have come close to resisting the temptation of sin to the point of death, fighting it so desperately that you are almost dead because it.
This is what’s going on, on the Cross. Jesus is fighting this external pressure. That tells us that whatever the pressures may be in your life or mine that they don’t even come close to the pressure that Jesus felt in His humanity when He’s in the Garden of Gethsemane. The pressure to disobey God, the pressure to go His own way, the pressure to follow an independent will, as it were.
In Hebrews 5:7–9 the writer says, “… who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications”—he uses those two words to emphasize the intensity of His prayer. When Jesus is in the garden—we don’t know how long He was there—but He makes this statement to Peter, “You couldn’t watch for just an hour?”
He probably was there for more than 15 or 20 minutes. He was certainly praying what we have recorded here. For example, in Matthew 26:39, He prays, “Oh My Father.” “My Father” is an extremely intimate phrase. Mark in the parallel uses the phrase “Abba Father.” Now “Abba” is Hebrew for daddy. It’s an intimate term.
Paul says that we now cry “Abba Father.” We have that kind of an intimate relationship with the Father once we’re saved. We are in the family of God. We’re in the body of Christ, and we have that same intimate relationship. This is the only time that we have Jesus using this term expressing this close intimacy and dependence on the Father. This is a time of intense prayer.
I believe that the writer of Hebrews, though he doesn’t specifically identify it this time, I think it indicates that this is what he’s talking about through the context, “in the days of His flesh”—that is, His humanity, His incarnation—“when He had offered up prayers and supplications”—notice the next line—“with vehement cries”—with intense cries, audible cries.
When you look at the text in the Synoptics, when you look at what Matthew says in Matthew 26:39, “He went a little farther and fell on his face.” That’s an important thing. Luke says that He knelt down and prayed. Mark says He fell down. Matthew gives us the full account, He fell on His face and prayed: He’s prostrate.
This is not uncommon in a Middle Eastern personality. Most of us come out of an Indo-European background, and we don’t want to get to in touch with our emotions, and we certainly don’t want to get too emotional or too excited about anything, so when we pray we’re going to close our eyes and we’re going to bow our heads about a 20° tilt. We don’t want anybody to think that we might be getting emotional.
But if you were Jewish, you would typically get down on your knees when you prayed, you would pray out loud. We often think of prayer as something that is just silent. We’re silent prayers more than audible prayers. Not that that’s wrong: that’s just a difference in culture and orientation.
But when things were intense, they would get down prostrate, lying down on their face fully stretched out in a position of subservience and submission to God in their prayer. That physical posture is designed to exhibit the intensity and the importance of the prayer. So, Jesus falls on His face and He prays.
That’s one of the important things for us to realize when we are going through any sort of testing or temptation is prayer. I often talk about the spiritual skills, the stress busters or problem-solving devices. Prayer in and of itself is not a problem-solving device.
Prayer is a tool because we pray in confession, we pray to express trust, we pray to express our love for God. Prayer’s a vehicle for all of these different distinctive things that we’ve identified. Prayer is the vehicle; prayer is communicating to God what our needs are and how we are trusting God. It is a way in which we work through a situation.
For those of you who’ve been following along on the Tuesday night series in Samuel, we’ve seen this as we’ve talked about the Psalms. The Psalms express the emotions that David feels; that in many cases, David is overwhelmed by his circumstances. These circumstances have generated emotions from fear, worry, and anger. Sometimes he’s totally confused by what God is doing, and he expresses that to God, not in a sinful way.
Remember in the Psalms, he says be angry and do not sin. He is angry when he looks out at the world and the wicked are prospering and the righteous are suffering. He comes to God, he says, “I don’t understand it! This isn’t right!” He’s not just saying academically, “I don’t understand the problem of evil here, Lord.” He’s not having a philosophical discussion in the way he’s expressing himself in the Psalms.
Part of what it means to go to the Lord with our problems is to be willing to be honest with God that it’s a problem. Not in a way where we’re just accusing God, but to work through the solution to a difficulty in our life, we have to first of all admit, acknowledge there’s really a problem here. I’m confused, I’m upset, I don’t understand.
Then what happens? We don’t stop there. See a lot of people stop with their anger with God, their bitterness, their resentment and they just stop there, “I’m upset,” they don’t work through the process. They get to bat and then they strike out.
In the Psalms we see the same pattern that we see with our Lord here. There is a progression of thought as David thinks about who God is and the problem. He works from identifying and admitting and expressing the problem to talking about the character of God, talking about the plan and the purpose of God. And many times he will rehearse things that God has done for him in the past. As he does this his mental attitude shifts from the problem to the perfect solution to the problem, which is his trust in God, and he closes with a praise to God.
That’s what we do in the process. When I say you ought to express your anger to God, people say, “Well, why?” It’s being honest. Otherwise, we come to God and we act like everything’s okay and we really have it together, and we’re just blowing smoke at God.
To be honest we have to express where we are emotionally, but don’t stop there. Don’t sit and dwell in it. Don’t have a little spiritual pity party, don’t have a little anger attacking God. You move through it as you think it through, but you have to have doctrine in your soul.
You have to have had the teaching of the Word of God in your soul. You have to have Scripture that’s memorized, you have to understand who God is and what His plan and purpose is, so you can apply it in the thought progression.
Otherwise, your prayers are pretty empty because there’s nothing to have a conversation about. That’s why people find that reading the Psalms is so important because it impacts how they’re thinking.
Hebrews 5:7, Jesus is offering “up prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears.” Notice the level of emotion that’s there; He’s weeping. “… and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death ...”
Now this isn’t physical death. We’ll discuss this when it gets to the point when Jesus prays, “… let this cup pass from Me …” It’s clear that that cup is a reference to the cup of God’s wrath.
The term that is used here in the Greek is a term that is, there’s several words are used for cup in the Old Testament, but there is one word in particular that is used when it’s talking metaphorically of the cup of God’s wrath. This is the Greek word used for that.
It’s talking about judgment, and that judgment that’s going to come on the Cross is not the judgment of physical death. The judgment that’s going to come is the judgment of spiritual death—the judicial separation of the Son from the Father.
You can’t have an ontological separation. That means that He can’t be separated in His being from the Father. He and the Father are One. The Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit are One in the Trinity. You can’t split Him off.
When the Father imputes the sins of mankind to Jesus on the Cross, because the Father can’t have fellowship with that which is sinful, He is judicially separated. He isn’t a sinner, but Paul says He becomes sin for us, so that He is judicially separated from the Father. As He anticipates that, that is what He is talking about here, to save Him from spiritual death.
I think it’s more than that, and I’m still working through a lot of this as I’m reading and studying and thinking it through. But some of the language that’s used here, isn’t just that Jesus is fearful that He’s going to pay the penalty for sin, but that there’s not going to be the recovery, restoration, and resurrection that comes afterwards.
This is the midst of this intense spiritual conflict in the angelic conflict. Later on—He says in His second prayer—“If this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” It will pass, but only if He drinks it. But His prayer is basically to make it through the whole process culminating in that resurrection.
That’s why when we read in Hebrews 5:7, “… tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His godly fear ...” God didn’t keep Him from either physical death or spiritual death, but He took Him through the process and brought Him out the other end, and He was resurrected and ascended and is at the right hand of the Father now.
Hebrews 5:8, “… though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” When it uses the phrase “Son,” that’s a reference to His Deity, but because He is also human, He had to grow. He had to learn obedience by the things He suffered.
That doesn’t mean that He was ever disobedient, but He had to go through that same learning process that every one of us goes through. But we learn more from what we fail than what we do right. Jesus is the perfectly obedient son, but He has to be obedient for that maturity to engage: that is how He is perfected.
Perfect doesn’t mean flawless, because He was already flawless. Being perfected is the idea of being matured, being brought to completion, spiritual growth. Hebrews 5:9, “… having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”
We see something that takes us back to basic material that we’ve covered many, many times over the course of our study, and that is that when we face adversity in life, we have to understand that there’s a difference between the external adversity and that which happens internally. I want to go back and just try to take something abstract and chart it out for us.
Every human being is made up of three components. We have a physical human body that was made from the dust of the earth, the chemicals of the soil, Genesis 2. Then God breathed into man the breath of life.
- He has a soul that is in the image of God.
- He has a self-consciousness, “I am.”
- He has a mentality, “I think.”
- He has a conscience, “I ought,” and
- He has volition, “I will.”
That’s what makes up the soul.
Then there’s a third element—that which binds it all together—what we describe as the human spirit. When man dies spiritually that human spirit is lost, so that we’re soulish. The Greek word is PSUCHIKOS. The unsaved person is referred to as a natural man. The Greek word there is PSUCHIKOS because he’s just soulish, he’s not spiritual. He doesn’t have that spirit.
He looks like this, which means he’s the living dead. He is spiritually dead. But he still has biological and mental functions, but he is separated from God who is the Source of all life.
When we trust in Christ, we receive a human spirit, we are regenerate, we’re born again, and that can never be taken from us.
Our soul is inside of our brain, but when we have external adversity, we normally respond with our sin nature. Isn’t that right? That creates fragmentation in the soul, and we associate that with all of those negative emotions. When we realize that negative volition—we choose not to obey God, so that gives our sin nature control—and it controls our soul.
But Jesus doesn’t have that. So when Jesus faces adversity, it’s just putting external pressure on Him, but that pressure was severe at this time. This is His final test in His humanity before He goes to the Cross. What we learn from this is how He addresses the solution in terms of His will versus God’s will.
Jesus had, as we saw, as a person, Second Person of the Trinity, He had a will. But that will has always been dependent upon the Father. He’s never exercised it independently. That was the pressure, that was the test in the garden, was would He operate independently of the Father.
That’s the test we all face as human beings. Our default position is to operate independently from God. Our default position is to do it our own way. Our default position is to first try our solution, and then try His solution.
But Jesus doesn’t have that internal pressure from the sin nature. He is pressured though to take a different course to avoid the Cross. He says in Matthew 36:39, “… if it’s possible.” Theoretically, it is possible. He uses a first-class condition, and He says, “… assuming it’s possible, let this cup pass from Me.”
But He also knows that it’s not possible because He has to complete the plan of salvation. Then He says, “… not as I will but as You will.” He says I’m not going to operate independently of Your plan no matter how great the pressure is, we’re going to do it Your way.
Then He comes back to the disciples in Matthew 26:40. There are other things that we need to talk about in this passage, and we will do that next time.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things, to reflect upon who our Lord Jesus Christ is as true humanity and undiminished Deity, united in One Person, and that in His humanity, He is like we are, yet He was not born with sin; He was sinless.
“Nevertheless, the tests were real, the pressure was real as we can see from how He responds and how it impacts Him emotionally and how that emotion impacts Him physically. This is a real test, but He doesn’t sin.
“Too often we feel the internal pressure and temptation; we feel the physical pressure and we just give in. We don’t operate on trusting You. Our default position isn’t to pray, and to take these things before You, and to wrestle with them in prayer, much as David did in the Psalms.
“Father, You’ve provided everything we need. The struggle is real. Often we think that if we have the Christian life, there is not going to be the struggle. Jesus struggled immensely as we see here, and we’re to follow that pattern of prayer and provision, not the pattern of giving in.
“Father, we pray that if anyone is listening to this lesson, this is really designed for teaching the believer, the provision that we have in Christ. If you have never trusted in Christ as Savior, if you don’t know what would happen if you were to die tonight, where you would go, then you need to make the first decision, the most important decision, and that is to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior.
“Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. He paid the penalty for every single sin, no matter how egregious, horrible, terrible you may think it is, Jesus paid the penalty for it. He died so that we might have eternal life. It’s a free gift: Scripture says it’s not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to Your mercy, You saved us.
“That we are not saved by works, but by faith, trusting in Christ. We have nothing whatsoever to do with our salvation other than simply accepting the free gift by believing Jesus died for us. Father, we pray that if anyone listening has never made that decision that they would make that decision, that they would trust in Christ.
“We pray for those of us who are believers, that we might be challenged by this example of our Lord to struggle, wrestle with temptation, applying Your Word, spending time in prayer, understanding the importance of trusting in You, that victory through these trials is how we grow and mature as believers.
“Father, challenge us with these things. We pray in Christ’s name, amen.”