Matthew 26:40-55- Jesus In The Garden Of Gethsemane
We will begin our study today starting with Matthew 26:40. "And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep." He'd been praying for one hour concerning one theme. “Lord, Father, don't let my fellowship with you be broken. Is there some other way out of it?” And so he found the disciples sleeping and he said, "What? Could you not watch one hour with me? Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak.” And His flesh was weak as well. That's why he needed to pray. He had come in our flesh. And he needed strength that would come only through prayer and he told them, you've got the same flesh. And you can have strength only if you pray. You can be willing, the spirit is willing. You can say, oh, I'll never deny you, but unless you pray and get strength, you will deny him. And so they slept, but he didn't sleep. He continued to pray.
Again the second time, he went and prayed, saying: "My Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, thy will be done And he cometh again and findeth them sleeping: for their eyes were heavy. And leaving them, he went again: and he prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word." This teaches us that there's nothing wrong in praying for the same thing with the same words three times or 30 times if it comes from my heart, if it's not a meaningless repetition, if it's not mere words spoken without faith or without burden. He prayed three times. The burden was so great.
And it was a long prayer meeting. The first time itself, it was one hour. "Then he cometh to his disciples, and saith to them: Sleep ye now and take your rest; behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go: behold he is at hand that will betray me." He had warned them, be careful, watch and pray. Temptation is going to come, but they didn't take it seriously. Keep watching and praying, he said in verse 41, that you may not enter into temptation, that you may not fall when temptation comes, but that you can be strong. He prayed and he became strong. He prayed and he was willing to give up that most precious thing, a fellowship with the father in order to find a way by which he could save us and bring us into fellowship with the father.
In verse 47 we find ourselves in the garden of Gethsemane just after Jesus had finished his time of prayer. And while he was still speaking to his disciples, Peter, James and John, who were sleeping, woke them up.
Behold Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the ancients of the people. And he that betrayed him, gave them a sign, saying: Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he, hold him fast And forthwith coming to Jesus, he said: Hail, Rabbi. And he kissed him." It's very interesting to note that these Roman soldiers needed somebody to identify Jesus at night. He was not easily identifiable. Of course in the daytime it would be different. They could recognize his face.
But they did not want to capture him during the daytime because the people would raise an uproar. They wanted to capture him at night, but he was not easily identifiable at night because he was just like other men. All these pictures of Jesus are a deception. Jesus became a man just like the rest of us, so completely identified with us, that he was unrecognizable from other men in the darkness. His identification was so thorough and complete. The purity he had was seen in his heart, that was totally clean and good and pure. And that is where the real glory lay in him. And that is where the real glory lies even in his disciples today, those who follow him.
And so Judas comes to Jesus and betrays him with a kiss. And Jesus', immediate reaction to this one who was betraying him, this one to whom he had been so good for three and a half years, this one whom he had not exposed for three and a half years, this one concerning whom he had not backed bitten to the other 11. This one to whom he had been so faithful, this one who had cheated him of his money for so many years and concerning which he had never complained. This one to whom Jesus had been so good! And when he comes to betray Jesus, What is Jesus' spontaneous reaction? It is as a friend.
And then we see the tremendous depth of love, that was in Jesus even for Judas Iscariot. He said, "Friend, wherefore art thou come?"
“Then they came up, and laid hands on Jesus, and held him.”
The love of God is different from human love in this sense: Human love needs the response to continue loving.
Human love loves those who love in return. Human love fades and disappears when it is confronted with evil and hatred in return. But God's love is unchanging. It's not affected by the response. It doesn't matter how people behave towards God. God still continues to love them.
We cannot understand the depths of God's love until we see how he loves his enemies. It was when Adam fell in the garden of Eden and man became an enemy of God, that we could see the greatest manifestation of God's love in that he sent his son to die for us on the cross. Even while we were enemies, God reconciled us to himself through the death of his son. That is divine love. Anything less than this is human love. Very often when Christians speak about love, they're only referring to human love. When they say they love one another, what they mean is we love those who love us in return. That's human.
Divine love can love when there is no love returned.
Not only that, it can love when hatred is returned for it's slow love. We can say that we see the greatness and the depth of Jesus' love in his attitude towards Judas Iscariot at this time. His attitude toward an enemy who was betraying him after all the good that he had done to him. He calls him friend. Jesus' attitude was still, you're my friend. You're welcome to come back, even though you betrayed me. The pity is that Judas didn't come back to him. And there's a lesson that we can learn, for we shall also face similar experiences on earth. People betraying us, denying us, returning our good with evil, being ungrateful for all the good that we've done to them and for them. And people can be evil to us without any cause at all. When we feel the desire within to get revenge for the evil done to us.
We read further, "And behold one of them that were with Jesus", and we know that was Peter, "stretching forth his hand, drew out his sword: and striking the servant of the high priest, cut off his ear." Jesus had warn Peter to watch and pray, verse 41, otherwise he would fall into temptation, and now that temptation came, and Peter fell.
Instead of reacting in a divine way, he reacted in a human way. That is what it means to fall into temptation.
That when your tempted, you react like a child of Adam and not a child of God, then you have fallen. The children of Adam will hit back when they're hit. And that's exactly what Peter did. He took out his sword and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.
But Jesus with the same flesh that Peter had watched and prayed. He said to Peter, "Put up again thy sword into its place: for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and he will give me presently more than twelve legions of angels? How then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that so it must be done?" Jesus was saying, I don't need you to defend me. There are 72,000 angels in heaven whom the Father that we'll put at my disposal. If I just ask him. If I even now, say, father save me from these people, he will send 72,000 angels to defend me and they will wipe out these Roman soldiers. It's not because I'm not able to defend myself, it's because I don't want to defend myself. Jesus said, I want to fulfill through the scriptures. It's more important for me to fulfill the word of God, then it is to escape suffering. Here's a little attitude that we see in Jesus in verses 53 and 54. "It's more important for me to fulfill God's word than to escape suffering."
Now we can examine ourselves and see if that's our attitude to the word of God. Is it more important for us to obey God's word or is it more important for us to escape personal discomfort and suffering?
Here is the test of our discipleship.
When it comes to personal discomfort and personal inconvenience and personal suffering, are we still willing to follow God's word, and obey it whatever the costs? Or do we seek defense? Do we seek to defend ourselves?
Will we pray that God would send his angels or the equivalent of that, to protect us from people who hurt us. In the Old Testament, God sent angels to protect his people. We read one angel came and wiped out a whole army of Assyria in Hezekiah's time. But in the new covenant, those who follow Jesus are not protected from these enemies. God allows his children to be killed because thereby he manifests a greater glory of those who are faithful unto death. Jesus says, "be faithful unto death and I'll give you a crown of life." We read from another scripture that Jesus healed the ear of this man whos ear was cut off by Peter. And there we see Jesus' attitude. to see the depth of his love you have to become his enemy. You have to become Jesus' enemy in order to see the depth of his love. And these people who hated him and wanted to capture him and destroy him, saw the greatness of his love that he would heal that ear that was cut off in anger by one of his disciples.
Then Jesus said to the multitudes in verse 55, "You are come out as it were to a robber with swords and clubs to apprehend me. I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you laid not hands on me." They thought he was going to fight and his disciples would fight and defend him against them. But he was not interested in that.
We know that Jesus did tell the disciples in Luke chapter 22 to take a sword with them and that's where Peter misunderstood what the Lord meant. Jesus had told them in Luke 22:36-38 after the Lord table, the last supper, "Then said he unto them:...he that hath not, let him sell his coat, and buy a sword. But they said: Lord, behold here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough." But what were those swords for? Not to fight and hurt others. But if people come to hurt you, to protect yourself but not to hurt them in return. We can protect ourselves if people come to hurt us, but we're not to hurt them in return. That's what we see here. We don't have to stand defenseless. We can protect ourselves. It's a question of what the sword is used for. And so then Jesus said to the multitudes, "I'm not going to defend myself, neither are my disciples. Now all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then the disciples all leaving him, fled."