The King in the Garden – Mark 14:32-42
Many of us may be familiar with the 1945 historic picture of five American soldiers planting the American flag atop a mountain in the Battle of Iwo Jima during WW II. Joe Rosenthal took this picture, but the soldier who took video of this in color, Bill Genaust, was killed in a battle nine days later and his body was never recovered.
Back in 2007, 62 years later, a US search team went out to Japan look for Genaust and others who have been reported missing (around 250 soldiers are missing from the Iwo Jima campaign). When asked why this was being done, Lt. Col. Mark Brown replied, “Our motto is `until they are home…No man left behind’ is a promise made to every individual who raises his hand.”
Leave no man behind—even his remains. In his blog Thabiti Anyabwile says, “Such a commitment represents loyalty to the highest degree, just as intentionally leaving a man behind represents betrayal to the highest degree. Soldiers cannot justify forsaking their comrades in battle. We call that cowardice.”
We have all felt the sting of betrayal and abandonment in various degrees. People have let us down. We have let people down as well. Friends who have failed us by sharing things we have shared in confidence. We have failed others by being the perpetrators. We have said things that tore others down instead of building them up. We may have seen politics played in our families, jobs and churches. We may have parents who have let us down, seen people go through broken marriage vows and felt the sting of stabbings in the back. These betrayals all have a sense of abandonment. Some days it is really hard to cope. If only everyone truly embraced a “no man/woman/child left behind” motto as a driving principle of our hearts! How do we become people that are so lion-hearted like that? Where can we find the resources to be people with incredible loyalty, love, patience and courage?
Today we will look at “The King in the Garden.” This is the beginning of the greatest abandonment ever. Yet it is the only abandonment with any honor. There is deep mystery in our passage today, but at the same time, incredible wonder. What we are about to study really goes beyond our comprehension and it defies human understanding. God abandons one perfectly obedient Son in order to adopt millions of sinful sons! What?! But through this act, we find a God, as Servant King, who teaches us what it really means to be so determined, so loyal, so committed to bring a lost humanity home to God and to the degree our hearts are melted by that, we too can find our hearts doing the same for others.
Let’s go over the passage and then we will try to glean out lessons for us.
The eleven disciples and Jesus had the Passover Meal. Judas has left to betray his master to plot his arrest. They are walking to the Mount of Olives. This is Thursday, probably around midnight. Peter along with the rest of them vow their loyalty to not abandon Jesus: “No man left behind Jesus! We got you!”
The olive orchard called Gethsemane was part of an estate at the foot of the Mount of Olives. This was a garden. People lived in the crowded cities and some owned gardens outside the city walls on the hillside. Someone (another nameless person who hooks Jesus up with things) let Jesus and his disciples use his garden. John 18:2 says that Jesus often went there. It was private and secluded and they spent alone time together here.
He takes Peter, James and John with him and leaves the other disciples. Why them? They are his inner three for one, but all of them had one time or another boasted in their self-confidence. We know what Peter has said, but James and John also had told him that they were willing to “drink his cup” in order to get privileged status (Mark 10:38-40).
He takes them, not to teach them a lesson, but to make sure they are in a prayerful spirit because they are blind to their own delusions of strength. Luke says in 22:40 tells us that Jesus had told all of them or at least the inner three to pray and not fall into temptation. Usually Jesus is alone praying right? So I wonder also if He took them because as fully man, He needed them with Him as “The Son of God is human enough to need support at this testing time,” though He knew ultimately He would have to face this alone.
As the four of them are walking, all of a sudden, He began to be “greatly distressed and troubled.” Mark used strong terms to describe His feelings. The two infinitives are present tense, stressing the continuation of the emotional experience…[this] suggests a feeling of terrified surprise. He’s not afraid, but He’s astonished and overwhelmed with horror. This is very unlike Jesus. He is always unflappable, calm and poised. Even in a storm, He was sleeping. What could possibly be causing this in our Savior?
The analogy that came to mind (certainly not the best) is the Final Destination movies. In each movie, you have a character who is about to do something, for example, go on a flight. All of a sudden, we see the flight take off and disaster as the plane breaks up in the sky. The audience thinks that really happened, but only to find out this was a premonition or a vision of one of the passengers about what was about to happen. As he snaps out of it, we see his heart is racing, he’s sweating profusely and he starts going crazy warning people about what is going to happen and no one believes him. Usually the character that sees the disaster lives because he is able to save himself from it (though death will follow him from now on), though he freaks out. Now multiply that feeling of disaster, horror and pain by a million, maybe more. The difference is, however, that disaster is coming toward Christ Himself. He always knew He was born to die, but now He actually tastes it.
He says the grief and the anguish is killing him. He feels like He can die right now, on the spot. Again he asks them to be alert. He is not asking them to look out for Judas or the chief priests, but the idea is to be spiritually alert and not to be tempted by indifference. Peter, James and John look at each other. They don’t know what to make of this. I picture them huddling together to pray but the day was long and the supper is settling into their stomachs and one by one they fall victim to the night.
Now Jesus is on His face. Fell is imperfect, describing the prostration as a process. First He “kneeled down” (Luke 22:41), then sank to the ground “on his face” (Matt. 26:39). “And prayed”—the imperfect tense of repeated or continued prayer. Hebrews 5:7 records that His words of prayer were uttered with “strong crying and tears,” hence were entirely audible to the three. There is urgency, agony and almost violent crying and praying. Luke tells us that the stress on Him at this point made His capillaries gorge, inflate and explode [so that] blood comes out the sweat glands. This is the maximum point of human stress. It was so bad that Luke says God sent an angel to strengthen Him. The hour is the suffering leading up to the cross was here and Jesus is in so much anguish, He wants the time to pass.
Even in this second most agonizing time ever in history (the cross being first), Jesus still calls on His Father in the most intimate way possible: “Abba”—meaning papa or Daddy, asking that intimate love to rescue Him. Wait, isn’t He God? But He is also man. This is a mystery. He is 100% deity and 100% human in one person forever. He is like us in every way, except without sin. He never stops being God and gives up His rights to His divinity in order to be our sin-bearer and bring us back to God. Right now we see Him showing us His humanity.
Ken Gire notes, “’Abba.’ And what father wouldn’t answer a request like that? ‘Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’ But on this dark night good gifts from heaven don’t come. Neither does an answer.”
Why is He asking for the cup to be removed and the hour to pass then? Is Jesus reluctant to obey God here? Absolutely not. This is the proper response of a perfectly holy person about to bear sin, guilt and judgment. John Macarthur adds, “This is the most acceptable, normal, expected response. We don’t have a perfect hatred for sin, He did. Everything in His being was repulsed by the thought of iniquity. His plea is absolutely consistent with His nature as God. He’s too pure to look on things that are sinful, can’t even behold them.”
If He doesn’t go to the cross, Satan wins, Heaven is empty, Hell is full and God’s promises are void and the Bible is false. There is no salvation. So He submits Himself to His Father’s will and He doesn’t get bread, stone, fish, eggs or a scorpion. He gets something far worse from the Father’s hand: A cup. All through the Old Testament, the cup is a picture of God’s wrath on sin (Ps. 11, 51, 75; Is. 51, Jer. 25). To drink the cup was like going to the electric chair. For every sinner for whom He died, He took that sinner’s eternal wrath. For the millions of sinners for whom He died, He took a million eternities full of wrath.
What does that feel like? It feels like divine absence. We make a big deal about Jesus’ physical pain and death, but what He was starting to taste here is worse than that. The worse thing that can happen to a person is the abandonment of God. That is what hell is. Hell is the continuation of an unbelievers life on earth. You live your life saying, “Not your will God but mine be done.” When you die, God says, “Let your will be done.” You want freedom from God? That is what you get. Forever. And what would happen if God were to truly remove his gracious, sustaining power from our lives? It would be a kind of spiritual agony and disintegration that would go on forever, since our souls are built for his love and presence.
But for us believers, look at our Savior. He starts to taste God- -abandonment for us. Up to this moment, He had fellowship with God, communion with God, the love of God and the joy of God. Now silence. No “This is my Son whom I love.” No dove descending. Heaven is shut. Keller adds, “If I were to lose the love of a friend, that would be painful. If I were to lose the love of my children or my wife, that would be infinitely more painful. The longer, deeper, and more intimate the love relationship, the more searing the pain when it is severed. But the Son’s perfect love relationship with the Father is as far beyond my love relationship with my wife as an ocean is beyond a dewdrop. And this is what he was losing.” It is, then, not so much the suffering itself that Jesus shrinks from, but rather facing abandonment by the one he has known as Abba all this time, and even more daunting, facing the wrath, the judgment of God on the cross.
Yes, the rejection of the nation of Israel was bad. Judas defecting was bad. And in the remaining verses we see the disciples sleeping. He really is alone. That was bad too. The injustice of the trials, the mocking, the spitting, the denials of Peter, the nails, the thorns, the spear, the crucifixion and the death were all bad. But to lose His Father? To see Heaven closed when He turned His face? We can’t fathom that kind of suffering for our Lord. He becomes alone—abandoned so we wouldn’t be left behind. When the first Adam came along in that Garden, God looked at him and said, “Obey and you will live,” and he didn’t do it. The second Adam, Jesus Christ, came along in a much tougher Garden, and God said, “Obey and I’ll crush you,” and he did it anyway, for you and for me. What are some lessons?
I. A Push for Genuine Prayer
Jesus is brutally honest and not repressing any feelings here in prayer and yet at the same time trusting God. The basic purpose of prayer is not to bend God’s will to mine but to mold my will into His. If Christ Himself needs to pray in the face of temptation, how much more do we need to pray? He is a model for us, but not only a model. If He was just a model, we would be crushed!
He is more than that. He is also our substitute. Remember Jesus saying, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12) The point is that God will never give us anything that will hurt us. He is a good Father who knows what’s best for us. Why?
You have to look at him and realize, “The reason I can come in prayer and know I will always be welcomed is because I will never go through what Jesus went through. Jesus Christ prayed a prayer with all of his heart and was ignored. That has never happened to anybody. Jesus Christ opened his heart in prayer and got hell. The reason I know when I come to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ my prayer galvanizes heaven is because he got hell for his prayer. I will get heaven for my prayer. I will get heaven’s attention. I will get heaven’s welcome, absolutely, because Jesus Christ was ignored.” No matter how long it’s been, how bad we fell, how far we have drifted, etc. He will not always answer our prayers the way we want it, but you can rest assured that you have access to the throne of grace always because Jesus got the throne of judgment.
I hope that quickens your heart to pray more and free you from always feeling like God is disgusted with your lack of prayer. Look at how these disciples failed to stay up even one minute in prayer. He still went to die for them.
II. Patience with People
People will hurt us, ignore us and let us down when we needed them the most. We want to cut those people off. We want them to pay for hurting us. We ignore them back. We become passive aggressive. We avoid them. We hold back on them. We start gulping down a poison drink of unforgiveness, resentment, grudges and bitterness. Anytime someone hurts us, there is a debt to be paid. Someone’s got to pay for it. You cannot have forgiveness without suffering. Either you make the perpetrator suffer or you absorb the suffering yourself. Where are you going to get the power to absorb the cost of the debt of someone’s hurt that was inflicted on you? Go to the Garden. Go to the cross.
How can we sit in this garden of Gethsemane with our fellow disciples falling asleep on Jesus and look at Jesus drinking this infinite cup of our suffering and not say, “Lord, you were so patient and forgiving in your infinite cup of suffering, I can face and forgive these smaller teacups of suffering.” When we are not forgiving and merciful and patient, it is always because we have magnified our self-absorption and minimized His selfless love for us. The fact that we have been sinned against becomes a huge bucket we wallow in and the fact that we are a sinner forgiven much becomes a small little thimble we throw away.
Keller here: “Here is a man under the most crushing weight asking his friends for a little support and finding that they have gone to sleep on him. He has been completely let down, but what does he say? Matthew records Jesus’ words: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26: 41). Isn’t that remarkable? He is giving them some credit. He says, “You let me down, but I know you mean well.” In the depths of his agony he can still find something affirming to say to his friends. There are about twenty things wrong with the disciples’ performance that night, but he finds the one or two things that are right and points them out. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13: 1).”
III. Power to Persevere
I also find it remarkable just as the Lord is submitting to the Father’s will and Jesus is about to get up from prayer, he looks over and what does he find? The disciples sleeping! Not only is He experiencing a whiff and a taste of hell totally feeling the weight of that and Satan surely is there to tempt as well, He looks to find His friends not there for Him. Utter failures. If I were Jesus, utterly alone, about to be betrayed and killed, feeling a taste of hell, forsaken by everybody and these no-good friends of mine are sleeping on me, it would have been a nice time to slowly slip away.
Jonathan Edwards in a sermon says that Jesus could have said, “Why should I, who am so great and glorious a person, infinitely more honourable than all the angels of heaven, Why should I go to plunge myself into such dreadful, amazing torments for worthless wretched worms that cannot be profitable to God, or me, and that deserve to be hated by me, and not to be loved? Why should I, who have been living from all eternity in the enjoyment of the Father’s love, go to cast myself into such a furnace for them that never can [repay] me for it? Why should I yield myself to be thus crushed by the weight of divine wrath, for them who have no love to me, and are my enemies? They do not deserve any union with me, and never did, and never will do, any thing to recommend themselves to me. What shall I be the richer for having saved a number of miserable haters of God and me, who deserve to have divine justice glorified in their destruction? Such, however, was not the language of Christ’s heart, in these circumstances; but on the contrary, his love held out, and he resolved even then, in the midst of his agony, to yield himself up to the will of God, and to take the cup and drink it.”
Some of us have given up in our walks. We are tired of our failures. We wallow in self-hate and self-pity. We wonder if God is tired of our failures too. Maybe He abandoned us? Look at Him in the Garden. Hell is raining down on Him. He had a chance to escape. His disciples are not giving Him a good reason to keep going. Yet He stayed. If He didn’t abandon His people then and the next day, He climbs on to the cross and doesn’t abandon us then either, what makes you think He will now? Do you think He’s really saying, “Gethsemane and the cross was tough, but Robin, your pity parties and failures are somethin’ else…I can’t handle it!”
Hell came down on Him and He didn’t let go of us. If that’s true, Paul is right, nothing can separate us from His love. Keller concludes, “This is the love you have been looking for all of your life. This is the only love that can’t let you down. This is bombproof love. Not friend-love, not personal acclaim, not married love, and not even romantic love— it is this love that you are after, underneath all your pursuit of those others. And if this love of active obedience is an active reality in your life, you will be a person of integrity; you will be a person of prayer; you will be kind to people who mistreat you. If you have this love you will be a little more like him. Look at him dying in the dark for you. Let it melt you into his likeness.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raising_the_Flag_on_Iwo_Jima Retrieved March 14,2014.
Talmadge, E. (2007, June 22). U.S. Seeks Marine Killed on Iwo Jima. Retrieved March 14, 2014, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/22/AR2007062200290.html.
Anyabwile, T. (2014, March 5). When Darkness Smothered Daytime. Retrieved March 14, 2014, from http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2014/03/05/when-darkness-smothered-daytime/.
Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 515). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
France, R. T. (2002). The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (p. 582). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
Hiebert, D. E. (1994). The Gospel of Mark: An Expositional Commentary (p. 415). Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press.
Stein, R. H. (2008). Mark (p. 660). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
Brooks, J. A. (1991). Mark (Vol. 23, p. 234). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Gire, Ken (2011-01-04). Moments with the Savior (Moments with the Savior Series) (p. 326). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
Hiebert, D. E. (416).
Gire, Ken (p.327).
Macarthur, J. Ibid.
Keller, Timothy (2013-07-16). The Obedient Master (Encounters with Jesus Series) (Kindle Locations 100-102). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.
Keller, Timothy. Ibid. (Kindle Locations 116-119).
Witherington, B., III. (2001). The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (p. 379). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Keller, Timothy (Kindle Location 230).
Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
Keller, Timothy (Kindle Locations 233-238).
Edwards, J. (2008). The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Vol. 2, p. 869). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
Keller, Timothy (Kindle Locations 260-264).