Key Verse: 22:42
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
In today’s passage Jesus prays on the Mount of Olives right before his arrest and trial. Prayer is our spiritual breath. Most men of God were men of prayers. Jesus teaches us how to overcome temptations and obey the will of God through his prayer on the Mount of Olives. Though Jesus is the Son of God, he was also fully human. In his humanness, he needed to pray. In his agony, he prayed until he submitted to the will of God. It was the time of the devil’s temptation. Through prayer, Jesus triumphed over his suffering and the devil. He was ready to obey the will of God. But his disciples did not pray. So they depended on their human loyalty. As a result, they failed miserably, especially Peter. Today let’s learn from Jesus how to pray so that we may submit ourselves to the will of God. May God bless us to prepare our summer ministry with prayers!
PART I YET NOT MY WILL, YOURS BE DONE (39-46).
Look at verse 39. “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.” Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives is called the Gethsemane Prayer in Mark. The Mount of Olives was Jesus’ favorite spot to pray. As he mentioned before, Jesus’ crucifixion and death were drawing near. Gethsemane was Satan’s hour, power and darkness. His enemies were plotting diligently against him. His disciples had revealed their immaturity and lack of spiritual quality. One of the Twelve was going to betray him and one of the top disciples was going to deny him three times. Nevertheless, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives as usual to pray. In the hour of depression and anguish, we go to our Bible teacher or shepherd who can strengthen our faith. In the moment of difficult decision hour, Jesus went to his Father to pray. Through prayer, Jesus received God’s strength to do his work. Through prayer, Jesus received God’s love in his heart. Through prayer, Jesus confirmed to the will of God.
Look at verse 40. “On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’” Though Jesus was facing the most difficult hour of his life, he concerned about the spiritual condition of his disciples. So he warned them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” Not only did Jesus pray, but he also encouraged his disciples to pray. Their prayer topic was simple---that they would not fall into temptation. The devil would sift them like wheat. This is more than a trial. Satan is trying to lead them to defeat. There is a danger for them to deny Jesus, a very real danger. Jesus knew that the devil was prowling like a lion to devour his disciples. They needed God’s help through prayer. So Jesus encouraged them to pray that they might not fall into temptation. Prayer will protect them from unfaithfulness and will encourage them to faithfulness and perseverance. Only by prayer, we can remain faithful to our mission and persevere under any kinds of trials.
Look at verse 41. “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed....” He prepares to pray and kneels in humility before the Father. Kneeling is a symbol of humility before the presence of God. It is forever beautiful that Jesus knelt down before the Father. Even at the moment of his passion, he maintained humble reverence for the Father God. It is comforting when we see people to be knelt down to pray before God.
Then Jesus began to pray, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me....” Jesus called God “Father.” Jesus, as an obedient son, honored God. Jesus did not doubt God’s love in the hour of agony. And Jesus trusted the love of God for him. Jesus shows us how to come to God with humble reverence and absolute trust in the love of God. We can come to God by kneeling down and calling God “Father.” Then Jesus made his request, “...if you are willing, take this cup from me....” Usually, the cup refers to the victory or glory in this world like the “World Cup.” But the “cup” here refers to his suffering and death at the hands of sinful men. Jesus had been predicting his suffering, death and resurrection to his disciples for a long time, and repeatedly (9:22; 9:44; 18:31-33). Jesus was resolute and steadfast throughout his journey to Jerusalem to face these events (9:51). Yet, when the moment came, Jesus revealed his agony as he faced death. Jesus did not want to suffer and die. So Jesus prayed that his Father might take the cup from him.
The prayer in Gethsemane is exceptional in every way. Jesus prayed always in conformity with the will of God. To pray in conformity with God’s will was the life of Christ. But in Gethsemane his praying was against the declared will of God. The heavy burden of the world’s sin was upon Jesus. The pressure was so heavy upon him, the cup was so bitter that the flesh cried out for relief. He prayed to change God’s plan. Jesus was open and honest in prayer. He was seeking one time relief from the impending sufferings. However, he prayed not in revolt against the will of God but in submission to that will. We can pray against God’s will, as Moses did to enter the Promised Land, as Paul did about the thorn in flesh, as David did for his doomed child, as Hezekiah did to live. Sometimes, we go through darkest moment of our life and feel like walking in the shadow of death. Sometimes, we feel like taking up the burden of sin no more. We pray that God may remove our cup of suffering and rejection. However, it must all be the prayer of submission.
Look at verse 42 again. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Both before and after the request, Jesus subjected himself to God’s will. Jesus enclosed his request to remove the cup between the words “if you are willing,” and “yours will be done.” To Jesus, it was most important to submit his own will to the will of God. Jesus submitted his human desire to live to the will of God. Many people say, “If it is God’s will, I will obey his will.” But when God’s will is revealed, they say, “That’s not God’s will. It is not the right time. I have to excuse the will of God this time.” But Jesus was willing to give his life to obey God’s will.
Jesus humbly expressed his willingness to obey God, even regarding his death. God heard his cry and answered him right away (Heb 5:7). God dispatched an angel and helped him. Look at verse 43. “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” The angel must have given Jesus extra spiritual energy. But more than that, the angel must have confirmed that it was God’s good and pleasing will for Jesus to die on the cross for the sin of the world. Jesus knew how to listen to God. Jesus did not pray again for God to take the cup from him. Here we learn God’s way of helping us. God did not remove Jesus’ cup of suffering. Rather, he strengthened Jesus to take the cup. Christ was made perfect in Gethsemane, not by prayer, but by the suffering. Hebrews 2:10 says, “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” The cup could not pass because the suffering must go on and yield its fruit of perfection. God purifies and perfects our faith through many sufferings. Suffering has meaning and purpose in our life. When we see sheep’s suffering, we would like to remove their cup of sufferings. We sympathize with their human sufferings and would like to take up their crosses. When we see children to struggle with their own homework, we are tempted to do their homework. But that does not help sheep or children. We have to strengthen their faith to take up their crosses and follow Jesus. It is important to make an environment for them to become stronger in faith.
Look at verse 44. “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Jesus embraced the coming ordeal with no deviation. This was the cause of great anguish in Jesus’ soul. Event by event, he digested Judas’ betrayal, his arrest, Peter’s denial, the trials, the mocking and torture, the condemnation, the pain and shame of crucifixion, and finally death itself. With God’s help in prayer, Jesus subdued his human desire completely. Jesus decided to obey the will of God absolutely. His struggle to do so was so intense that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
From Jesus, we learn how to pray. Prayer begins with coming to God and presenting our requests to him. Prayer progresses with listening to God’s answer with willing submission. The essence of prayer is to deny our human desires by God’s help. Prayer results in a decision to obey God’s will. Do you feel that your cross is too heavy for you to bear? Come to God’s presence and pray earnestly. God will give you strength. We pray for America to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. In addition, we must each struggle in prayer to obey the will of God personally. Some pray to obey God’s calling as overseas missionaries. Some pray to pioneer one campus. Some pray to study hard and feed five sheep. May God help each of us listen to his voice and obey his will through earnest prayer, like Jesus did.
When Jesus rose from prayer and went back to his disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. After the Last Supper, they began to sense the reality that was fast approaching. Their dreams of an earthly messianic kingdom would not be fulfilled. Instead, hardship and suffering awaited them. Most of all, Jesus was leaving them. It was too much for them to bear. They became very sorrowful. Jesus had told them to pray, but they were not used to struggling in prayer. They could only wrestle with sorrow until they were exhausted. Then they closed their eyes and slept. Many of us are like this. When we must struggle in prayer, we escape by sleeping, watching television or eating excessively. How did Jesus help his disciples? Look at verse 46. “‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’” Temptation is real when we try to follow Jesus. Temptation comes in different forms like addiction of the video games, love of money, pleasure-seeking or in self-centeredness. Let’s listen to Jesus’ words and pray. E.M. Bounds wrote a book “The Classic Collection on Prayer.” He rose at 4 A.M. each day and never tired in his Bible study. He listed many men of prayers like Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Hezekiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Samuel, Daniel, and Paul. Four young men and women will be baptized today. They decided to follow Jesus. God’s will be done in their lives.
PART II BETRAYAL AND ARREST (47-53).
Jesus’ arrest is told in three steps. First is the exchange with Judas. Second, the approach of the arresting band produces a reaction from the disciples. Finally, Jesus rebukes the disciple, heals the man, and rebukes the arresting party. While Jesus was still speaking to his disciples, a crowd came up to them. The man leading the crowd was Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve. Judas is identified as one of the Twelve in order to magnify the horror of his act. Historically, the betrayal sometimes happens from within the ranks. King David was betrayed by his own son Absalom. Julius Caesar was betrayed by Brutus. Jesus was betrayed by one of the Twelve. Judas intends to kiss Jesus, normally means to love. Judas was a hypocrite in his kiss. He did not betray Jesus openly. He tried to disguise his betrayal with a kiss, the symbol of affection. But Jesus exposed Judas’ action for what it was. Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Jesus was not emotionally upset. Jesus saw this from God’s point of view. Judas was not merely betraying his master, his teacher, or his friend; he was betraying the Son of Man, the promised Messiah (Dan 7:13-14). Jesus said, “Woe to that man.” (22:22) Judas had the apostolic position but he abandoned his position and betrayed Jesus. He killed himself in the end instead of repenting of his sins. His destiny is the fiery lake of hell.
Then Jesus’ followers realized what was happening. They said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear (49-50). When the disciples were not spiritually prepared, all they could do was to react to the situation. They made things worse, not better. Suppose their act of passion ignited a violent sword battle and all the disciples were killed. Who would preach the gospel to the ends of the earth after Jesus’ resurrection? Without prayer, the disciples were nothing but reactionaries.
Look at verse 51. “But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.” Jesus did not want the disciples to come to his defense through physical force. Jesus took charge of the situation, primarily to protect his disciples. He stopped their act of passion. He also healed the man whose ear had been cut off. Jesus was different than his disciples. Jesus had the spiritual power and authority to rule over the situation, even while being arrested. In contrast to the use of force and the threatening attitude of those who arrest him, Jesus exercised compassion, healing the ear of a wounded enemy. Jesus came into this world to demonstrate God’s love. How could he love his enemies and care about his disciples in this time of agony? It came from prayer. His prayer prepared him to meet his enemies with calm and resolution.
Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour---when darkness reigns” (52-53). Jesus made it very clear to everyone that he was not leading a rebellion. Jesus did not allow his messianic ministry to be misunderstood in such a way. Jesus was a Bible teacher and a shepherd for his people. He taught the word of God publicly and openly. He had no hidden agenda. The religious leaders could find no fault with Jesus. They were driven by the power of darkness, the devil. And for an hour, darkness reigned---with God’s permission. The Jewish leadership is a symbol of darkness.
When Jesus prepared himself with prayer, he could face the ordeal of his arrest with wisdom and strength. He was not a victim; he ruled over the situation. Although Jesus was arrested by the religious leaders, Jesus was the true victor in the sight of God and men. Events that seem to make him a passive figure of fate actually reflect his compassionate, submissive activity for God.
PART III PETER DENIES JESUS THREE TIMES (54-62).
This passage highlights Peter who declared to die for Jesus. We find Peter in ourselves as we follow Jesus. The religious leaders seized Jesus and led him away to the house of the high priest (54a). Jesus, the holy Son of God, was arrested like a criminal and led away to captivity. Yet it was God’s will. Isaiah 53:7-8 say, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.” Jesus was arrested and led away in our place, for our sins.
Let’s examine the progression of spiritual failure in following Jesus. Peter followed at a distance (54b). His following Jesus shows that he has a strong human attachment to Jesus. At the same time, fear was growing in his heart. He could not just let Jesus go. At the same time, he could not follow too closely. Following Jesus at a distance was the exact expression of his human dilemma. When we follow Jesus at a distance, we create a room for Satan to enter into our heart. When two cars travel together in 95, the best strategy to go together is not to make any distance between two cars. If we make a room, another car will come into the gap and two cars will be separated. When we follow Jesus at a distance, Satan intervenes and we may lose Jesus. We need a full commitment in our relationship with Jesus. Peter was not spiritually prepared for the events that were taking place. When the high priest’s people had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them (55). Peter lacked spiritual discernment. He was surrounded with the enemies and his faith was weakened. In our spiritual battle, we must be surrounded by our spiritual friends and coworkers who care about our spiritual growth.
The pressure falls on Peter here. The intimidator is not a high priest or a ruler, but a little servant girl. A servant girl saw Peter seated there, his face revealed by the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. He denied his relationship with Jesus. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. He denied his identity. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Peter tried to follow Jesus to the end but he ended up denying him three times. Peter was humiliated and challenged from all sides and finally crumbled under the strain. He yielded to temptation because he did not pray and loved his life more than Jesus. His human loyalty ended when his life was in danger. Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter (56-61a). Though Jesus did not say a word to Peter, his eyes spoke to Peter’s soul. They said, “I knew you were going to do this. It is because you did not pray. You did not listen carefully to my words. Now you must shed many tears over your failure. But you will turn back. You will become a spiritual man. You will become a shepherd for my people.” Then Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times” (61b). It is good for Peter to remember the word of Jesus. It is important for us to remember Jesus’ word in the hour of trial and temptations. Peter realized that he did not listen to the word of Jesus. So he had failed miserably. He went outside and wept bitterly (62). His cry was the sign of repentance. It was most painful for Peter. But it was used by God to help him grow as a useful man in God’s history. There is no failure in God. Peter’s mistakes made him grow in Jesus’ word.
In this passage we learn how to pray from Jesus. Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” Jesus prayed that God’s will be done. Jesus believed that God’s will was best. Some of us face the time of setting our future life direction after graduation. Some of us must decide who to marry. Whatever our situation may be, let’s learn from Jesus that God’s will is best. As we recite the Lord’s Prayer, let’s pray that God’s will be done in our life. Let’s listen to God in prayer until we can obey his will from our hearts. I pray that we all may come to our personal Mount of Olives each morning and keel down to pray until God’s kingdom may come to all American students. May God bless each of us to become warriors of prayer in this generation! Let’s read the key verse 22:42