Gethsemane: The Greatest Display of Courage in History (Matthew Sermon 140 of 151)
April 21, 2013 | Andy Davis
Wrath of God, Death & Dying, Incarnation, Prayers of Christ, Deity of Christ, Courage
“Take off your shoes, for the ground on which you're standing is holy ground.” Do you remember how God said that to Moses in the account of the burning bush? And I have that sense this morning as we approach Gethsemane. If the burning bush is holy ground, then how much more Gethsemane? We just sang in that song, “View him on the garden, there on the garden ground prostrate your maker lies.” And I'm thinking about that word “view,” and I think that it's only by the preaching of the word and by the ministry of the Spirit, and that illumination, that vision that God alone can give that we can do that. How it says in Galatians, “You foolish Galatians, before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.”
And so, going earlier in the account, before your very eyes, I want you to see the Creator of the ends of the earth, Almighty God incarnate in a human body, laying prostrate, as one version of that song puts it, groveling on the ground. And that, dear friends, is holy ground. We could spend eternity, I think, trying to understand all of the themes that there are. And as we approach Gethsemane, we need to realize how badly others have handled that scene, how poorly others have understood or twisted what was happening at Gethsemane.
I remember my first year as a pastor up in Massachusetts, I had to do an ecumenical Good Friday service. That's a time to be afraid, even to be very afraid. An ecumenical Good Friday service. I think I was definitely the only evangelical there. And one of the ministers was up there and that minister combined some psychological analysis that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross had done on stages of death and dying, which she had done in 1968, this psychological analysis of various stages that people go through concerning death and dying - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance - and married that together with Gethsemane. I thought I was going to be ill.
Or others of you, perhaps years ago, heard Jesus Christ Superstar, and there's a very moving song, “The Gethsemane Song,” but it's just so wrong doctrinally, as the Christ character, the Jesus character basically sings, “I've changed my mind after all this time,” and that he and his father were on different pages. I'm not gonna read the lyrics, but how wrong-headed they are about Gethsemane, how much they misunderstand what was really happening there. Mormons believe that Jesus did much of his atoning work in Gethsemane, and that's not taught in the Bible either.
So what I desire to do is just go carefully through the text and bring in parallel texts, other places in the gospels, to try to understand the infinite mysteries of Gethsemane. My desire is that we should exalt and magnify and glorify Christ for what he did for us at the cross, and first at Gethsemane. That we would see his excellencies, that we would see his courage, we would see his obedience, we would see his love for the Father and his love for sinners like us. That we would understand more fully and accurately the perfect humanity of Jesus. That we would see his frailty, and his weakness, his mortality. That we would understand his emotions and his temptations. That we would understand the greatness of power of prayer in facing temptation, and the need all of us have to do that.
That we would be motivated more than ever before to trust in Christ's finished work on the cross for our full acceptance before God. And that ultimately we would be motivated to follow his pattern of obedience, to say day after day in countless situations, “Father, not my will, but yours be done.” That we would learn his pattern of obedience. So I can sum it up very, very plainly: My desire is that we would worship and thank Christ for what he did, and that we would learn at a lower level, we would learn to imitate him forever. That's my desire.
Now, let me lay my cards on the table. Let me tell you what I think happened at Gethsemane. So here you're getting the application right away and you're getting the exegesis and the understanding right away, and then there's gonna be a lot of words after this, but we'll just get the simple mini-sermon, and then you can glaze over. No, don't do that. Keep listening. But let's try to understand what happened.
Jesus came to Gethsemane, and there, I believe, his Heavenly Father gave him a fuller, deeper, more profound vision of the cup of his wrath. That's number one. Number two, that experience knocked Jesus to the ground, literally, and overwhelmed him. Thirdly, Jesus in effect asked the Father, not literally in these words, but asked the Father, “Is there any other way to save my sheep than that I drink that cup?” So a question went from Earth up to Heaven, “Father, is there any other way?” Fourthly, the Father answered in effect, “No. Will you still do it?” So that's really the core moment there, Jesus asked the Father, “Is there another way?” The Father says, “No. Will you do it?” Jesus, fifthly, answers back, “Yes, I will do it.” That's the greatest moment in human history right there in terms of courage, obedience and love. None greater. And then sixthly, Jesus prays for strength to see the race through to the end, and the Father gives him the strength he needs. That's what I think happened at Gethsemane.
The Facts of Gethsemane
All His Life, Jesus Lived Under the Shadow of the Cross
So let's look at it, and let's start with the facts of Gethsemane. All of Jesus' life, his whole life, Jesus lived under the shadow of the cross. We need to understand that first and foremost, when we get to the idea of a special revelation of the cross given to Jesus. He knew he was going to die on the cross. That was not a surprise to him. He knew even the specifics of it. B.B. Warfield, a theologian and commentator, said this, “The prospect of his suffering” - looking ahead to his suffering - “the prospect of His suffering was a perpetual Gethsemane to him.” So Jesus' whole adult life lived basically in the Garden of Gethsemane. He wasn't in any way surprised there in Gethsemane that he was going to die.
He knew very well that he was going to die, and he knew the specifics of it. At Caesarea Philippi in Matthew 16, it says, “From that time on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law, and that he must be condemned by them and handed over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. And on the third day, he would be raised to life.” He was very plain about this, and he said it again and again. In Luke 12:50, he said, “I have a baptism to undergo and I'm like in a straightjacket until it is accomplished.” So all of his life he lived, his adult life, he lived under the shadow of the cross, his whole life.
Michael Card in his song, “Love Crucified Arose,” put it this way, “Long ago, he blessed the earth, born older than the years, and in the stall, a cross he saw through the first of many tears, a life of homeless wandering cast out in sorrow's way, the Shepherd seeking for the lost, his life the price he paid.” And then later in that song, “Throughout your life, you felt the weight of what you'd come to give, to drink for us that crimson cup so that we might really live.” So we need to get this established, Jesus knew throughout his life he would die on the cross, he knew the very specifics of it, he warned his disciples again and again about it, it was hidden from them, they didn't fully understand it, they couldn't accept it, but Jesus certainly knew.
We have evidence in John 12:27 and 28. Jesus there said, “Now, is my heart troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” And then he lifted up his heart and he said, “Father, glorify your name.” And then the Father answered him, saying, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” So Jesus knew he was going to die. There's no doubt about that.
Following the Gospel Account in Order
Now, let's get caught up in terms of the sequence here in Matthew's gospel. In Matthew 26:1-14, Jesus was anointed by Mary at Bethany, prepared, he said, for his burial. In verses 15 and 16, we have the account of Judas agreeing to betray Jesus to the chief priests and scribes for 30 pieces of silver. In verses 17 through 19, we have the account of Jesus arranging for the Passover meal to be held and making preparations for the Passover meal. Then in verses 20-25, while they were eating the Passover meal, Jesus predicted Judas' betrayal. Sometime after that, Judas leaves the room to go betray Jesus, and he is en route, coming back with soldiers even while Jesus is there in Gethsemane. Then in verses 26-30, Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper. And then in verses 31-35, he predicts the disciples' denial and flight.
Now, this is the night, the first night of the Passover Feast, celebrating that incredible symbol of Jesus' own bloody death, how that Passover lamb had been sacrificed and its blood had been painted on the doorposts and the lintels, redemption accomplished and applied. There's a picture of that, how the blood of the Lamb was shed, but then it was applied and then the angel of death passed over, and they did not die. And so Jesus was there to establish the blood of a new covenant, and so that very next day he would shed his blood to establish that new covenant.
So when they had finished the meal, they sang a hymn, and then they went out and crossed the Kidron Valley and they went into the garden of Gethsemane. Look at verse 36, “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane.”
What Was “Gethsemane”?
Now, what is Gethsemane? Well, Gethsemane was a private garden, probably walled in, on the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. It was out of the city, probably owned by some rich benefactor of Jesus who let Jesus and his disciples use it frequently. It was a place of quiet refuge, a place where he could be away from the maddening crush of the city, where he could have some time alone with his disciples and pray. Away at this point from hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who came from all over the Roman world to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. On the Mount of Olives, it was.
The word Gethsemane itself literally means olive press. It involves some kind of press, some kind of grindstone in which the olives are put in and weight was put on and they ground down and it left a kind of a thick paste with stems and leaves and what was left of the olives, but out of that would come a reddish viscous oil that was very valuable, olive oil. It was really kind of a metaphor, a picture, of the crushing pressure that we see in Gethsemane in Jesus' life spiritually, emotionally, even physically pressing him. But that's what Gethsemane means, it means olive press, the intense pressure that would be on him.
Why Did Jesus Go to Gethsemane?
Now, why did Jesus go to Gethsemane? Well, as I said, it was a place of refuge and prayer, a place where he could be alone. It was commonly used by Jesus and his disciples, and therefore Judas, who was in the process of betraying him, knew that he would go there. He knew exactly that he would go there. He knew where to bring the soldiers to arrest Him. Jesus was in a regular pattern here.
So you could say, “Now, why was Jesus trying to make it easy for Judas?” I remember hearing John MacArthur preach on this and he said Jesus wasn't trying to make it easy for Judas - forever it will not be easy for Judas. But by going there intentionally and knowing that Judas knew the place, it was his way of surrendering easily over to the will of the Father. So to go to Gethsemane was the same as the decision to go to the cross and die.
Now, it's vital for us to keep in mind as we consider and we go on in Matthew's Gospel, as Jesus lays down his life for the sheep, that he is never a victim. He's never in over his head, he's never caught in some political or military vortex that he can't get out of like Whitewater or something like that. He is willingly, gladly, volitionally, laying down his life for the sheep. In John 10:18 he says, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down freely of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back up again. This command I received from my Father.” So Jesus is not a victim, ever.
Jesus’ Command to His Disciples and His Separation of Them
So He goes to Gethsemane, and then he commands his disciples and separates them out. Look at verses 36 and 37. “He said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ And then he took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, along with him.” Jesus wanted all of the twelve to prepare themselves for the trials that were about to befall them, but he separated out his three closest friends, his closest disciples - Peter, James, and John - to be with Him.
The same thing happens regularly, this is a regular rhythm in Jesus' ministry. These were the three that were with him on the Mount of Transfiguration. You remember how he took Peter, James, and John up the Mount of Transfiguration, and he was transformed before them, and his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as light, and a cloud, a bright cloud, enveloped them and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” It's amazing as I've meditated on this, these same three, Peter, James and John, who saw Jesus at His most glorious and most powerful in the days of his incarnation, are about to see him at his absolute lowest, His weakest, His most groveling as well.
Now, you might ask, “Why did he pick these three out?” Well, we have to know that Jesus, now ascended to the right hand of God, is able to have equally, through the Spirit, intimate relationship with all of us in the same way with millions of Christians all the time. But in the days of his life on earth, he was limited in space and time, and he could only be intimately connected, I think, with certain numbers. There was just a limitation of access in relationship. And so Jesus poured himself especially into Peter, James and John, and then outward from there, the other of the 12, and then on from there to the rest of the disciples, etcetera. And so these were His closest friends, and let's just speak humanly, he just wanted them with him. He just wanted them there, just to be with his friends, just to have those three friends with him at the hardest hour of his life.
Jesus, I think, has one desire at this moment, and that is to pray to his Heavenly Father. Though his disciples will fail in their prayers in Gethsemane, Jesus will not fail in his. And we see the intense God-centeredness of Jesus here as he goes to pray.
The Awesome Emotional Distress of Jesus
And he begins to describe, Matthew does, the awesome emotional distress that Jesus is feeling at this point. We can't really even put it into words. It's like a cascade of words and phrases that come. If you put all of the gospels together, it's really quite astonishing. It seems to stretch language to the breaking point, what it is that Jesus was feeling at this particular moment. In verse 37, it just says, “He began to be sorrowful and troubled.” So this is the description given by Matthew, and then we have the description in Jesus' own words. He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” There's a sense of loneliness and pain that's almost incalculable. He yearns for their friendship, their nearness, he wants them close because he's feeling isolated and alone in some way. He wants them to stay and keep watch with him.
Now, what words does Matthew use to convey his emotions? He says, “He began to be sorrowful." The root word has to do with grief, with a sense of overwhelming grief, it's usually associated with death. And “troubled,” the word “troubled” here refers to a distracted, anxious state, like someone just ringing their hands in anxiety over something about to happen. And then he adds phrase upon phrase, “My soul,” speaking of his humanness, “My soul is overwhelmed.” You can imagine someone standing in front of just huge waves, wave upon wave, like in Hawaii or something like that, just crashing down on Him.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow even to the point of death.” It's encompassed all around. You picture, like Samson surrounded by hundreds of Philistines who wanna kill him, and Jesus, you get this feeling of Jesus surrounded by grief and sorrow, and it's crashing in on him, it says “even to the point of death.” Now, this is very insightful at this point. The agony of emotion and pressure is so great that I believe Jesus is physically close to dying. And it's really Luke that gives us a double sense of the physical nature of this agony. It says in Luke 22:43, “An angel appeared from heaven and strengthened him.” It's an incredible thing. Here is Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, he is God, Creator of the ends of the earth, Creator of all things visible and invisible, including that angel, and it's the angel who has to come and strengthen him. Jesus is weaker, lower than the angel at that point. It's the second time an angel had to strengthen him. The first time was when he fasted for 40 days in the desert, an angel came and strengthened him. But here an angel comes to strengthen him. We have a sense of the frailty of Jesus, and the weakness.
And then again in Luke 22:44, the very next verse, it says, “And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like clots of blood,” is what it literally says, “falling to the ground.” Some commentators zero in on the word “like” and they say there wasn't any blood. Friends, there was blood. You're really pitting the word “like” against the word “clots” at that point. And then you have another word “blood,” and so I just think there's blood. And I think his blood pressure was so great, like, “Ahh!” like that, and his face is red and it's just - But we stop, he kept going, and then the blood starts coming out, and it wasn't a small amount, it was large amounts like clotting. And you think about that and just that there was even sweat, but blood, what kind of night was that? Later that same evening, Peter would be standing by a fire warming himself. It was a cold night, but Jesus is drenched in sweat. I don't even know what it would be like to stand there and watch that. Pressure so great that capillaries, blood vessels are bursting, and blood is dripping down off his face. Intense agony.
Hebrews 5 gives us a sense of how close Jesus was to death. Hebrew 5:7, it says, “During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Now, ultimately on the cross, there's indications biologically, medically, that Jesus died of a ruptured heart. You know, when that soldier drove that spear into his side, out came blood and water. So perhaps this is an early stage of that kind of intense pressure that Jesus was under.
Jesus’ Prayer Itself
So what does he pray? Verse 39, “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me, yet not as I will, but as you will.’” So you've got his physical position, he's prostrate, he's on the ground, he's on his face, he's totally weak, he's helpless, submissive to the Father, humble and lowly. “View him groveling in the garden. Lo! your maker prostrate lies.” Jesus assumes a physical position, even lower and more humble than that tax collector, you remember, in his parable who beat his breast and would not even look up to heaven, but said, “Be merciful to me, oh God, the sinner.” Jesus is even lower than that. And what is his request?
“Father, if it's possible, make this…” In Mark 14:36, it says, “Abba Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.” This is hard for any parent. You think about this, he goes to baby language. “Daddy. Daddy, if it's possible, is there any way to get out of this? Is there any other way? Is there another way for that multitude, greater than anyone could count from every tribe and language and people and nation, is there any other way, Daddy, any other way than that I have to drink that cup?” Jesus himself had said, “With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” He says that in Mark, “Abba Father, all things are possible for You.”
Somewhere in here, we must hear the answer back from the Heavenly Father, “No, my Son, there's no other way. No other way.” In a few moments, Jesus is going to be arrested. Peter will try to save him from arrest, you remember. And Jesus said, “How then would the scripture be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way? My hands and my feet must be pierced, my blood must be poured out, I must die as a sacrifice. This is exactly how it has to happen. There's no other way.” So it's based on the Scripture. It's based on the plan of God. It's based on the will of God. “How then would the Scripture be fulfilled?” The answer to the question is written in the blood of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, even millions of animals that have been sacrificed from the beginning of redemptive history, the shedding of blood, and all of the promises that God has spoken to his people throughout the prophets, “No, my Son, there is no other way.”
Now, what is this cup? “Take this cup from me,” he says. Now, in the Psalms, in Psalm 16, the cup represents God's will for your life, handing you something, saying, “This is the cup, this is my purpose for you.” Psalm 16:5, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup.” But frequently in other places, it represents God's wrath and judgment. For in Jeremiah 25:15-17, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me,” this is Jeremiah speaking, “‘Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. And when they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.’ So I took the cup from the Lord's hand and made all the nations to whom he sent me drink it.” It is clearly the cup of God's wrath poured out on Jesus as our substitute.
We deserved the wrath of God, we deserved to go to hell. And so there's another cup portrayed in Revelation 14. It says there, of the condemned person, “He, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the lamb, and the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those in hell.” So Jesus is staring, I picture him staring into this cup of God's wrath and is understandably shrinking back from it in horror, in terror. The wrath of God is terrifying. God is a consuming fire. The wrath of God I've pictured as his omnipotence, focused down like a white or blue hot laser beam or lightning strike on his enemies to effect their destruction. That's the wrath of God.
The Submission of Jesus
Jesus is staring at this intense white blue hot, pouring out this lightning bolt that just keeps pouring, and He's going to walk into it and be destroyed by it, so he's shrinking back from it. And here we see the submission of Jesus. He basically then answers his Father back, “Yes, I will do it.” The Father is asking, “Will you do it?” And he answers back, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” This is the centerpiece of this magnificent moment, this the greatest statement any human being has ever made. This is the most courageous act, the greatest act of submission, the most loving act that any human being has ever done. Here is the paradigm of what God wants from you and me for the rest of our lives, though the cup is less than what Jesus drank. More on that in a moment.
The Admonishment of the Sleeping Disciples
At that point, “he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’” So here we have a clear contrast. We have Jesus pouring out his heart unto his Heavenly Father in prayer. And then we have Peter, James and John, and they're unable to stay awake even for one hour.
He focuses on Peter in particular. Now remember, Peter is the one who just earlier that evening had boasted, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Furthermore, Jesus had warned Peter what would happen to him that very night. “This very night before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” Peter should have been getting ready for that by praying, just as Jesus was getting ready for what he was going to undergo by praying. Jesus' statement is timeless, very famous, much more famous in the KJV, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” A well-known statement.
Jesus’ Second Prayer and The Disciples’ Second Failure
So Jesus then goes for a second prayer. “He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’” Then he goes back, verse 43, a second time and he again finds his disciples sleeping because their eyes were heavy. Luke 22:45 tells us why. It says, “When he rose from prayer and went back to his disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.” So they're just worn out by the events of the evening, it's too much for them, and they just shut down, and they're just asleep.
Jesus’ Final Prayer
“So,” verse 44, “he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time saying the same thing.” What did he pray for at this point? Is he really trying to get the Father to change his mind? No, he's past that now. I believe he is asking the Father to deliver him from death right there, that he would not die in the garden, and then to give him the strength he would need to finish the work that the Father gave him to do, to go ahead and die on the cross right to the end. He had six trials to go through, three religious and three secular trials. He had all of that, then he had to take the cross and carry it up that hill, be nailed to it, suffer on the cross and die. And so he was asking his Father for the strength to finish that race. And Hebrews 5 says,8 “he was heard because of his reverent submission.” God sent an angel to strengthen him so that he would be able to finish that race.
The End of the Account: Jesus’ Arrest is at Hand
Then in verse 45 through 47, “He returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’ And while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived.” So the opportunity for Jesus to escape has passed. He prays right until Judas comes. There is no longer a chance for him to escape. The only way he can escape now is to use his supernatural power to defeat his enemies by killing them, which he could have done. But from this point on, he has prayed away his last opportunity to run away. And in so doing, he's accepted what the Father wants him to do.
The Mysteries of Gethsemane
The Mystery of Jesus’ Incarnation: Weakness, Yet Deity
So those are the facts of Gethsemane. What about the mysteries of Gethsemane? First of all, you can't study Christian theology without embracing mystery. It's impossible for us to study the depths of the Word of God and not bump into mystery. So here we come face-to-face with the mystery of the incarnation, the doctrine of Jesus as perfectly God and man at the same time. 100 percent God, 100 percent man. It's a mystery. It's beyond what we can comprehend, perhaps the most profound mystery in the Bible. The only thing that would rival it is the mystery of the Trinity.
How can Jesus be fully God and fully man? Many philosophers and theologians have tried to deny one or the other. Dualists, like the gnostics and Docetists others, tried to say that Jesus wasn't really human, he maybe only seemed to be human, something like that. Gethsemane is a powerful rebuttal to that argument. He is human. He is completely human. He's 100 percent human. We see his weakness here, his frailty, his mortality, his blood. We see his emotional life; his emotional life is on display here, the emotions of Jesus. He fully displays the reality of that title, “man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.”
How then can Christ be both omnipotent deity and yet groveling on the ground so weak, ready to die? And how do we understand his overwhelming fear of death? Many other people have faced death with more apparent courage than this man. Even many Christian martyrs went singing to the stake. Pagans, Roman soldiers, absolutely courageous right to the death. Now, I would say to them, the pagans, I would say to them, they should have measured from Jesus' terror at the wrath of God how terrified they should have been to die, because they were about to experience it and not for three hours, but forever and ever. They should have been terrified to die, but they didn't know. Socrates took his bowl of hemlock without any hesitation and drank it down and died.
Martin Luther said of Christ, “No man ever feared death like this man.” He feared death more than anyone that's ever lived. How do we understand that? How does the infinite Creator of all things visible and invisible need help from an angel? How does he need strengthening from an angel? Clearly the answer to these questions is a mystery, but it shows clearly the humanity of Christ.
The Mystery of Jesus’ Amazement: Why Does Mark 14:33 Say Jesus was Amazed?
Secondly, the mystery of Christ's amazement. The mystery of his amazement. I don't ask you to turn there now, but I would urge you to look in Mark 14:33. In the King James Version, the only version that really does a good job of translating the Greek word, “ekthambeo” is the Greek word, and there in the King James it says, “And taketh with him, Peter and James and John, and began to be,” listen, “sore amazed and to be very heavy.” Sore amazed. Sore means “very” or “extremely” amazed. The Greek word is sometimes used for reactions to Jesus' ministry, like his miracles or the miracles of the apostles, the reaction of the women as they go to the empty tomb and there's an angel and they're astonished at it. It has to do generally with surprise, mingled with fear. That's what the Greek word means.
How then is Jesus amazed? How is he surprised in Gethsemane? What's happening there?
Now, remember at the very beginning of the sermon, I said, no, he knew he was gonna die. He knew exactly how he was gonna die, the circumstances, all of it. So what is amazing to him? Well, I think that the Father in some way, some mysterious way, pulled back the veil from his human understanding to show him the cup of wrath, what it would be like.
And I've likened it, in other places I've talked about this before, to the difference between, let's say a grainy black and white photo of the Grand Canyon taken in 1900 to an IMAX video of a helicopter ride through the Grand Canyon. Any of you ever been to an IMAX? You got that peripheral vision, you've got those big Dolby speakers, this thing pounding in your chest, right? I've been to an IMAX where it was a roller coaster and you felt like you were gonna vomit. And they say if you're feeling like you're gonna vomit, close your eyes, you're not moving. I know you think you're moving, but you're not moving. And so like the helicopter ride through the Grand Canyon, you're going down and you can feel the feeling in the pit of your stomach. It's so real.
I think that's what the Father did to the Son, said, “This is what my wrath is going to be like. This is what it's gonna be like on the cross. Feel it.” And it knocked him to the ground. Blood dripping out of his pores. Why didn't the Father do it earlier? Because you can't live like that. Not even Jesus could live like that. He had to have an angel just to get up off the ground. You can't live like that for years, and so the Father held that full revelation back.
Well then, why did he do it at all? Because he didn't want anyone to say that Jesus got tricked into the cross or deceived. Interestingly, Jeremiah said to God at one point when his ministry was going very badly, Jeremiah said, “You deceived me.” It's a low point for Jeremiah. God said to Jeremiah, “You know, if you speak worthy words, not worthless, I'll let you continue to be my spokesman, alright? I didn't deceive you.” But this is the most important thing there has ever been in history: The cross of Christ. And so that it might not be seen that he was unjust in pouring out wrath on his Son, he showed his Son as fully as he possibly could what it would be like, and then in effect asked him, “Will you do it anyway?” So that, as it says in Romans 3, “He could be just and the justifier of those who have faith in Christ.” Jesus did it of his own free will. He did it knowingly, he did it willingly, he did it courageously and obediently. The Father showed him what it would be like as much as he could and Jesus said, “Yes, I will do it.”
The Mystery of Jesus’ Prayer: Is His Will Different Than God’s?
What is the mystery of Jesus' prayer? As Jesus is praying, is Jesus' will different than the Father's? Are they having a battle? The first ever, the first inter-trinitarian argument there's ever been. Is that what's going on here? “Father, I know you want me to die but I don't wanna die.” Is that what's going on? Not at all. The Trinity can never change. Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” That's not what's going on here either.
Actually, it says in Isaiah 53:10, concerning the will of the Father, it was so much the will of the Son, it says, “Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days,” listen to this, “and the will of the Lord will prosper,” or flourish, “in his hand.” So, I love to look at it, I don't play music, but I wish I did. So I'm always in awe of musical people, you guys are amazing to me. But I picture this, the Father wrote the most beautiful piano concerto ever and Jesus played it flawlessly, played it beautifully. So no, there's no discrepancy between the will of the Father and the will of the Son here. This is infinite mystery.
The Glories of Gethsemane
The Free Will of Jesus Properly On Display
What then are the glories of Gethsemane? Well, we see the free will of Jesus put on display. Many speak of free will, Jesus had a perfectly free will, he had no sin nature, no corruption, nothing holding him back, no hesitation from his wickedness and history in sin, he had no sin nature at all. His will was perfectly free, and he used his perfectly free will the way that free will is supposed to be used, saying to the Father, “Not my will, but yours be done.” That's what it's for.
The Choice of Jesus and Romans 3:26
In the glories of Gethsemane, we see Jesus vindicating the justice of God the Father. I hesitate to even utter some of the things commentators say, but they say that the cross was a form of heavenly child abuse. Have you heard that before? The Father beating up on the Son, it is nothing like that at all. The Son willingly gladly drank that cup that the Father handed him.
The Obedience of Jesus vs. the Disobedience of Adam
And, this is very significant theologically, in the obedience of Jesus we find our salvation. This is how sinners like you and I have hope of heaven. This is made very, very plain in Romans 5:19, “For just as through the disobedience of the one man, the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man, the many were made righteous.” It is by Jesus' obedience and going to the cross that we are made righteous.
It says the same thing in Philippians 2:8, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” And again, in Hebrews 5:8-9, “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect, became the source of eternal salvation to all those who obey him.” So by the obedience of Jesus displayed plainly here in Gethsemane we find our salvation.
The Perfect Love of Jesus... First for God, then for His People
We also see perfectly displayed here, the glory of his love, for his Father and for us. Isn't it a perfect display of the love that Jesus has for his Father? For him to love his Father enough to obey him, Jesus said to us, “If you love me, you'll obey me.” In effect, the Father could say that to the Son and the Son would say back, “I do love you, and I'll obey you. No matter what it costs me, that's how much I love you.” And not only that, but look at his horizontal, his love for us, as it flows from his love to his Father and then out to us. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,” Hebrews 12:2, “the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of God.” He enjoys giving you eternal life, He enjoys giving you salvation, so for that joy and that love we see displayed in Gethsemane.
The Courage of Jesus: Perfect Love Drove Out Fear
And then finally the courage of Jesus, perfect love driving out fear. Many people display courage. In 1957, then-senator John F. Kennedy wrote a book that he won the Pulitzer Prize for, Profiles in Courage. It was eight senators who displayed unusual courage in their lives, which they usually suffered in their lifetime for having such courageous views, Profiles in Courage. Even more, our government gives the Congressional Medal of Honor to people on the battlefield who willingly lay down their life sometimes right to death to save the lives of others, it's the highest award that can be given for courage.
And it does happen, as it says in Romans 5:7, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man, someone might possibly dare to die.” As he says in John, “Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends.” So this has happened, there's displays of courage throughout history, the martyrs show courage, but I say that all of them are as a candle compared to the sun, the raging sun of Jesus' courage in Gethsemane. For him to look in that cup and say, “I'll do it,” that's courage. The greatest courage there's ever been.
The Application of Gethsemane
Come to Christ
So what application can we take from Gethsemane? Well, how about this? Come to Christ. Why should you drink the cup of God's wrath when Jesus is offering to drink it for you? If you're outside of Christ right now, you ought to fear death more than you do. Look at Jesus and how much he shrank back and he wasn't gonna be enduring that forever, just for three hours. You ought to fear hell more than you do, if you're outside of Christ. So I urge you, don't leave this place unregenerate.
Come to Christ, all you have to do is trust in him and believe in him. I've been portraying Christ crucified throughout this whole sermon, it was for the shedding of the blood on the cross that we might have eternal life. Trust in him.
Worship Christ for His Courage, Submission, and Love
For you who are Christians, can I just say - And in a minute, we're gonna do it - just say thank you to Jesus. Say it every day. We're gonna sing it. Daniel, I said, Daniel, can we finish with “Thank You, Jesus.” Yeah. Alright, let's do that. Thank you, Jesus. We just need it every day, just go to him and close our eyes and just say, “Lord, thank you for doing that. Thank you for saying yes in Gethsemane, and for going to the cross for me and drinking my cup. Thank you.” Let's just worship him.
Rest Totally in Jesus’ Choice for You
And rest totally in what Jesus has done for you, there's nothing you can add to it or detract from it. It's a finished work. Now, let's talk for a minute about choice, shall we? America is a nation of choice-aholics, and friends, it's getting worse, I mean, we're surrounded every day by more choices than our great-great-grandparents could have ever even imagined. What do you think your great-great-grandfather would think if he saw the cold cereal aisle at Kroger's? I don't even know how many there are. Are we in the hundreds on cold cereals? I wouldn't be surprised. Definitely dozens, dozens and dozens. And those are just benign choices, like all of your in-flight entertainment choices. Last flight, it was over 50 things I could choose from. I was glazed over, hitting the screen. Not that one, no this one, how about this one? Halfway through, changing, I was glutting and getting drunk on choice.
And then on moral issues, it's getting weird. We've heard it in abortion for years, the choice, if the woman chooses then it's a child. I don't understand that, but we're elevating choice so high. And then the state of Massachusetts ruled that students should have the freedom to choose their gender. Can you believe that? I would think that'd be one thing you had no choice over. It's just straight biology to choose whether you're male or female. God chose that right from the beginning. If you have any confusion... Never mind, at any rate... We don't have a choice in that. But yet to take this idol of choice and lift it up so high, right in God's face.
Imitate Jesus’ Pattern for the Rest of Your Life
Jesus shows us here what choice is for, this is what you're supposed to do with it. You have choices to make, you have a choice to make every day. Just learn to say what Jesus said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Just learn to say that day after day. Now, in this church, we talk about this a lot, we have in front of us for the rest of our lives as Christians, two infinite journeys. Internal journey of holiness, external journey of evangelism and missions. I say to you this, you cannot make any progress except that God brings you to a fork in the road of a difficult command and asks you, “Will you drink the cup?”
Now, it's not the same cup that Jesus drank, but you remember how James and John, He asked them, “Can you drink the cup I'm going to drink?” “We can,” they said, not knowing what he was talking about. Jesus said, “You will indeed drink from my cup.” So Jesus set smaller cups, not so bitter in front of us, but they're still hard for us. You will make no progress in the Christian life if you don't learn to deny yourself and take up whatever cup Jesus sets in front of you and drink it. Only by saying, “Not my will, but yours be done” can you grow in holiness. And only by saying, “Not my will, but yours be done,” can the unreached people groups of the world be reached for Christ.
Now I'm gonna finish this sermon by saying this: I have been convicted, I went to a missions conference, I actually spoke even at a missions conference, but God was speaking to me. For the first number of years of my Christian life, I was passionate about unreached people group missions. After I came to the conclusion that we were not called to missions, my ardor for unreached people group missions diminished somewhat, and I'm ashamed of that now. And so I want to pray every day for an unreached people group. I wanna keep unreached people groups in front of this church. I want you folks to give more money than you've ever given before to unreached people group ministry, I'm going to become a somewhat shameless beggar for unreached people group money for missions, and you'll be glad on Judgment Day, I did. If you give. Not so much if you don't. We need to keep the loss, the unreached people groups, in front of us. We need to keep evangelism in front of us, that's not unreached people groups, those are lost people around us every day. We will not reach them unless we learn to say, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Close with me in prayer.
Father, I pray that you would transform this church, make us more passionate for the lost, more passionate for holiness, more passionate for unreached people groups and missions than ever before. Help us to be more passionate, O Lord, at the moment of temptation, that we would deny those fleshly lusts and that we would be holy and pure in your sight. That we will be more passionate, O Lord, to hold the ropes for missionaries that are on the field, counting on us to pray for them and to support them. Oh, God, raise us to another level at First Baptist Church in the internal and external journey. Lord, all of those themes are small compared to this. Thank You, Jesus, thank you for dying for us. Thank you for drinking that cup. In Jesus' name, amen.