Hello and welcome to Wednesday’s Foundations podcast. My name is James and I’m part of the team here at STC. We are reading through the book of Matthew this term and we are coming to the closing chapters of this book. Today we are looking at the passage of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and his eventual arrest, Matthew 26:36-56. You can find all the verses on the website to read through. Today I’ll be focusing though on Jesus’ time in Gethsemane.
Yesterday we looked together at the famous passages of the last supper – if you had not read the story before you may have seen the picture by Leonardo Da Vinci depicting Jesus sharing a meal with his disciples at the long table. Similarly there is a lot of art out there depicting this scene in the garden on Gethsemane. If you are anywhere near a search engine I would really recommend doing the search. It really is a story where you feel the emotion of the scene as well as hear it and take it in.
Jesus is anticipating his betrayal, arrest & crucifixion. Yet he sticks to his usual rhythm of prayer. Throughout the book of Matthew, time and time again, Jesus engaging with the public space and then actively searches out times of quiet where he would pray – ready for what comes next. Just a short thought on that as I heard a great idea through the Advent reflections through the 24/7prayer movement. He talked about the need for everyone to have a regular space to meet with God. His is his chair. In the morning over a coffee he dedicates time to spend with Jesus, to still himself and to make time for God and for God’s presence. Then he gets up and he carries on with his day. What he has noticed over the years is that – his chair moments have grown him significantly. And when he is looking to meet God in prayer, anywhere really, he takes himself back to that place he does it regularly. He becomes mindful of God and it helps him to connect. That idea really connected with me. What is our regular rhythm and what is the equivalent in our lives of his chair? That place we go back to – time and time again – that helps us to connect with God.
So Jesus is looking to prioritise some time with God in prayer and Peter, James and John are with him.
As much as Jesus was the Son of God, with all the access and resource of Heaven that identity brings, he was also the Son of Man and fully human. Here we really catch a raw glimpse of that human nature. We read:
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
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.”
We go on to read in a few verses after this that Jesus looks to his friends for some comfort and they’re asleep. And finally in v56 of our Bible passage today, after Jesus gets arrested, we read: Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Crazy scenes! A deep sadness looms over Jesus’ final night. Not only because he will soon be arrested by his enemies, but also because of the failure of his own friends to keep watch. To pray. On that night, weariness and weakness got the better of Peter, James and John. We need to learn the Jesus rhythms of work and rest so we can play our parts effectively.
This small section is packed with drama. I don’t know if you have ever been in that mindset like Jesus had in the garden. I don’t know the most appropriate word for what it is but one that comes to mind is overwhelmed. Its in those moments that all we really have left is prayer. If you are struggling to relate don’t worry. The important thing is that we have a God who knows what it is like.
We’ll finish with this, often when we are in our darkest hour, when we are in the pit, we pray our escape prayers, “get me out of this God”. It’s almost impossible to see where God is in those moments and trust what is going on, and pray “your will be done”. Then a friend comes and stands with us. Just where we are. Prays with us. We can get glimpses of God moving. We might just find ourselves praying the words Jesus spoke in verse 39 & repeated in verse 42, “your will be done.”
Lets pray together that we can be that kind of friend. Or find encouragement, through this podcast, if needed that even these darkest moments can turn to glory. As we will see over the next few days and into next week.
READING: Matthew 26:36-56
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’
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.’
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men 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 flesh is weak.’
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.’
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him.
Jesus replied, ‘Do what you came for, friend.’
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’
In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.