This class also includes parallel passage Luke 22:39-46.
Our Savior’s Sorrow: The Pressure of Testing
Matthew 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42; Luke 22:39–46
Matthew Lesson #170
July 23, 2017
“Father, we’re so thankful we have Your Word, that You have revealed to us who You are. You have revealed to us who we are as human beings: to understand that we are created in Your image and likeness, that we were created for a purpose. And that is to glorify You, to serve You as rulers over this planet and to glorify You.
“Father, we pray that as we study Your Word, we may come to understand more fully who we are, because since original creation there has been the fall and we have sinned. So we have to deal with the fact that sin deeply and profoundly has impacted this image-ness: it has corrupted us. The only solution is redemption—forgiveness by faith alone in Christ alone; trusting in Him for our salvation.
“Father, we pray that as we study today we come to a greater challenge of understanding of who we are as human beings, and the testing process that You use to refine us, to mature us, and to bring us closer to the image of Christ in this life.
“We pray this in His name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 26:31. We will have a bit of a review. What we are looking at this morning is the sorrow of our Savior when He is in the Garden of Gethsemane. There’s so much in this section to talk about, to understand what is going on in this particular episode because there’s a lot going on.
To understand the things that are being taught, implied and brought out in terms of just understanding the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I think this is a passage that brings a lot of confusion for a lot of people because on the one hand, we understand that Jesus Christ is the perfect God-man, and on the other hand we see this deeply personal portrait here of the struggle in His own soul with these emotions that are present in this time just prior to His arrest.
This all connects back to understanding the purpose and the role of testing. We’re going to begin this morning—we’re certainly not going to get through this, there’s just so much here. It’s so rarely taught, and very little is brought out and really developed from this episode, so I want to take some time to look at this.
Now the context, which we looked at last time, is after the completion of the observance of the last Seder known as the Last Supper, the Passover meal that Jesus celebrated with His disciples on the night before He went to the Cross. They completed the Passover meal. He then was engaged in a time of teaching and instruction.
We don’t get that in the synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. That’s brought out more by John in his Gospel, John 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17. All take place either just prior to the departure from the Upper Room or along the way from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane—that’s the context.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke skipped the Upper Room Discourse, which is what that’s called, and just go straight to His time at the Garden of Gethsemane. In the context that we looked at last time, we looked at the parallel passages quite extensively.
In Luke 22:24 we realized that after Jesus has identified Judas as the one who will betray Jesus, the only account of this is in Luke. He tells us that once again the disciples get involved in an argument amongst themselves as to who’s going to be the greatest in the Kingdom.
I took us back to some of these previous discussions that they had had where the Lord is teaching them about the importance of humility, that they have to learn that it’s about God’s plan. It’s not about their plan, it’s not about who’s great in the Kingdom. That they have to learn what it means to set aside their personal agenda: it’s not about them, it’s about the Lord.
This is the challenge that’s once again before them, but they still don’t get it. They still don’t get the fact that this is all about God’s plan. So they are going to get an object lesson this very night when they get to Gethsemane, as the Lord Himself is going to wrestle and struggle with this same issue dealing with submission to the plan of the Father.
This has an important role in our understanding of the role of testing in the life of the believer. It helps us to understand more about the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is going to help us understand some things about emotion that we’re often pretty confused about when it comes to the Scripture. All of this is very, very important.
Last time, as we examined the biblical teaching on this, I took us back to one of these previous episodes that had occurred chronologically just about a week or two before. That is covered in Matthew 20. At the end of this long series of events where the focus has been on teaching the apostles about having this kind of humility that was like a child because the child was not important in that culture, was not significant. They were to be like a child; they would realize it wasn’t about them, it was about the Lord.
Even at the end of that whole discussion, you have Salome, typical Jewish mother, coming to Jesus and saying, “Well, what about my two boys? Shouldn’t they sit one on Your right hand and one on Your left when you come into Your Kingdom?”
After she says that Jesus then turns to them and He makes the statement and asked this question. Matthew 20:22, “You don’t know what you ask.” He turns to James and John, who were the two sons—Zebedee’s the father, Salome is the mother—that are actually cousins of Jesus. He says, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
In Matthew 20:23 He says to them, “You will indeed drink my cup and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.”
This is important; we’re going to come back to it. We have to work through some of these terms here. What is this “drinking of the cup?” Because whatever it is for Jesus, it’s going to also be true for James and John and the other disciples. He says, “You will indeed drink my cup.”
So we have to ask this question: what does the cup represent? Also, there is a correlation in this baptism, this identification that takes place with Christ on the Cross for our sins, but we will get into all of that as we go along.
We see that as we come into the episode in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is praying, “My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” He has prayed, “Let this cup pass from Me.” So what exactly does that mean?
To understand what Jesus is praying in the garden, we have to understand this whole metaphor of the cup. So let’s go back, pick up a couple of threads that I was teaching on last Sunday morning in this section, and then we will be able to put this together.
What we must understand as we get into this is that the language that Matthew uses and Mark uses and Luke uses to describe what is going on here is very important. And it’s a language that is used to describe things that are profoundly and significantly emotional. In fact, when we look at the three keywords that are used between Matthew 26 and Mark 14, we discover that there are just limitations to our language trying to express how profound and deep this struggle is that Jesus is facing on the Cross.
Because He is anticipating a level of suffering, of personal suffering that will take place during those three hours on the Cross when He is identified with our sin. What we see is that as the God-man is going to be made sin for us, that this is going to have a profound impact on Him, and He is going to suffer tremendously.
We can each think about times in our lives when we had just agonized over circumstances. Maybe we go through a time of job loss. Maybe it’s a time of death. Maybe it’s for some people, something related to relationships with marriages or something of that nature. Something that is deeply and profoundly personal.
Yet when we think about how that affected us, and affected some people even to the point where they are on the verge of suicide, that that is nothing, nothing when we compare it to the level of the suffering that our Lord is experiencing as He anticipates what will take place the next day, when He is on the Cross.
This is the context that shapes what takes place when He is in the Garden of Gethsemane. As we look at that and look at these terms, we are going understand, I hope, more clearly just the nature of what it means to be human, and especially the role of emotions in our humanity.
Let’s go back to look at the context a little bit, pick up Matthew 26:31, as they’ve had this argument already amongst themselves as to who’s going to be great in the Kingdom, then Jesus warns them that all of them will stumble that night.
In Matthew 26:31, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ ”
We discussed this quote last time and the details there. What I want to focus on today is what builds from this into the next section, that when we have passages related to stumbling, those passages either relate to salvation: that is, there are some who stumbled. The Pharisees stumbled over the gospel that Jesus was the Messiah, and that He had come to provide redemption for Israel and for the world.
Stumbling can relate to salvation or phase 1. Phase 2 is what happens after salvation, and that is spiritual growth. Stumbling also refers to what happens in the believer’s life as they face certain circumstances, situations, and testing when they stumble and fail in their spiritual life.
Salvation is always based in faith in Christ and so those who stumble at the gospel refused to believe in Jesus as their Savior. But in the spiritual life, the test is whether or not we’re going to apply the Word of God to our lives through God the Holy Spirit.
What we see in this situation, of course—this is before the Church Age, so they don’t have the Holy Spirit—but they are going to stumble. They are going to be challenged in terms of their loyalty and their faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ. They’re all going to fail, and they are going to fail miserably.
As I pointed out last time, their restoration is foreshadowed by what Jesus says in Matthew 26:32: that after the resurrection, He will see them in Galilee. There will be a failure, but it will be followed by forgiveness and restoration to ministry.
In the midst of this statement, He says to Peter that he will, in terms of his stumbling, and Peter reacts as Peter does in his usual stubbornness. He refuses to believe that he would be one to stumble. Sometimes that’s true of us. We think that as we’re walking with the Lord that we just would not be capable of certain kinds of failure. Yet we’re no different from any of these disciples.
We’re all capable of any kind of failure. We’re all capable of monumental failure, and we’re all capable of the same sort of arrogance that characterized Peter and the other disciples in their reaction to the Lord. On the one hand, they want to be loyal, they believe they’re loyal. They believe Jesus is Who He is, but then when the challenges of life occur and testing or temptation occurs, we often are no different from them and we fail. Maybe not so magnificent in our failure, but we fail.
Peter answers Jesus and he says, Matthew 26:33 “ ‘… Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.’ ”
This is important because this provides a backdrop to what happens in Matthew 26:36–46. Matthew is drawing our attention to see a contrast between Peter’s statement here, that he will not stumble. It’s absurd, he thinks, to think that he will stumble, and it’s a contrast with what actually happens not only in Matthew 26:36–46, but what will happen when Peter does deny the Lord in Matthew 26:69–75.
Peter says, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”
What I’ve put here in the lower boxes, the verb is the same, it’s SKANDALIZO. The only difference is it shifts from a third person plural to a first person singular. And it has the idea of someone who’s moving forward and they trip and fall over something. As I pointed out that can either be the gospel or it can be spiritual growth.
What is most significant in understanding this is this first little “if” that it begins with. He says, “Even if,” and he uses what’s called a first class condition in the Greek. In English when we express a condition, we just say “if,” if this, if that, and we have to infer from the context what the speaker is saying. But in Greek there were four different ways to express this kind of condition, and that tells us something.
We have an “if” where we say “if” and the first part of that sentence called the protasis, the condition, we assume it’s to be true. For example, when Satan was tempting Jesus in the wilderness, he said, “If you are the Son of God,” and he uses a first-class condition because he knows that Jesus is the Son of God.
Here Peter is using it, and he says, “Even if all are made to stumble,” so he’s assuming the truth of the statement for debate’s sake. He says, “Okay, assuming you’re correct—that all are made to stumble—even if that’s true, and everybody else stumbles, I won’t stumble.”
That’s how he expresses it; he’s adamant about this. He uses this word in the Greek, this adverb OUDEPOTE, which means “never, ever.” It’s a very strong word and it’s the vocabulary to completely reject the idea that this is possible. He says, “I will never ever be made to stumble.” This isn’t going to happen to me. It may happen to others, but it’s not going to happen to me.
Matthew 26:34, Jesus looked at him and He said, “ ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ ” The omniscient, omnipotent Lord tells him, “No, you’re wrong. You’re going to deny Me three times tonight before the cock crows.”
Peter, showing his arrogance isn’t willing to listen to what Jesus says and in Matthew 26:35 Peter says, “ ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.’ And so said all the disciples.” They are just little echo chambers, and they’re saying, “Yea, that’s right! Me too! We’ll die for You!”
When Peter says this, he changes up the great grammatical construction a little bit and he uses a different way of expressing “if.” This is a third class condition; he is saying, “I may not go this far, but even if it does go this far,” because a third class condition is maybe it will, maybe it won’t.
First-class condition was “if” and it’s assumed to be true. Second class is “if” and it’s not assumed to be true, it won’t happen. So in a third class condition, he is just saying, well, even if it does go that far, I will not deny You.
This time he uses a different grammatical construction, and in Greek, a double negative is a way of expressing something as impossible. He uses two different words for “no,” OU and ME, and he puts those together and he’s basically saying, “Well, even if it goes that far and I have to die with You, it will be impossible for me to deny You.”
He is just adamant that he won’t deny the Lord. He states it very, very strongly. This sets the stage for what is going to happen during the time that Jesus is praying in the garden.
Remember, it’s Peter, James, and John who were up on the Mount of Transfiguration. They’re the inner circle; it’s James and John whose Mama Salome said, “Who is going to sit on your right and left hand?” This is the inner circle: these are the ones. And it’s Peter who said, “I will never, ever deny You”, and the others echoed him.
It’s just going to be about an hour or two later, and Jesus says, “Y’all watch; y’all are My personal guard. You watch, and I’m gonna go pray.” He comes back and not only do they not deny Him, but they fall asleep. They can’t stay awake long enough to not stumble because they just fall asleep on Him. This happens three times.
So here these guys are, “We will never deny You, we’re with You all the way.” They can’t even stay awake to be with Him the whole way, and it just shows that the failure and the flaws and the incapability of man in the flesh to do what we want to do. That’s why at the conclusion of this, Jesus is going to say that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. We are incapable, and many times we will fail. So throughout this whole episode, we see examples of God’s grace.
Now whenever we talk about denying the Lord, this isn’t a denial of the gospel. This isn’t a denial that will cause a loss of salvation. But even as believers we can deny Him. This takes us to a very important passage in 2 Timothy 2; you might turn with me there as I continue to talk about Matthew 26.
There are two major things that go on in this passage from Matthew 26:36–46. The first is the agony of our Savior. As the author, Matthew, has been writing, his focus is to talk about the King in the Kingdom. But here he is going to talk about the suffering of the King, the Son of Man, in terms of fulfilling His mission to deal with sin and to pay the penalty for sin, and that He who knew no sin is going to be made sin for us.
He is going to take our place that the righteousness of God would be found in Him. So this section, Matthew 26:36–46, focuses first of all on the agony of the Savior, but secondly on the failure of the disciples. Matthew is specifically a gospel that focuses on discipleship, and it’s going to end with the command from Jesus to the disciples to go and make disciples.
Remember the term disciple is not a synonym for being a believer. A believer is someone who trusts in the gospel: at that instant they’re regenerate, at that instant they receive the imputation of righteousness and are declared righteous and are declared just. At that instant that they believe in the gospel, they have eternal life that can never be taken from them.
They are born again, so they are a spiritual infant, a spiritual baby, and the issue at that point is whether or not that baby is going to grow or whether that baby is going to be starved to death. A lot of what happens today is there are a lot of spiritual babies in a lot of churches that are starving to death because they’re not being fed.
Whether or not you’re really fed and you grow is partially your responsibility in terms of your volition. That’s the challenge of discipleship. Are you willing to be a student of the Lord Jesus Christ and grow to spiritual maturity? It’s not inevitable, it’s not going to happen just because God has a plan for your life. It happens because you as a believer decide as the disciples did to follow Jesus. That’s discipleship.
The first decision is are you going to be a believer in Christ and have eternal life? The second decision is are you going to be a disciple and grow to spiritual maturity? That is a day-by-day decision that every one of us has to face. In our best moments we want to be a disciple, we want to fully serve the Lord. But the reality is we struggle with our own sin nature, and it’s a corrupt nature and often we fail. But we’re met with grace and forgiveness and grace always provides the solution.
Sometimes there are those of us that will deny the Lord. We can deny Him different ways. You can deny Him passively by just not taking a stand for the truth. You can deny Him passively by just not putting doctrine first, putting the study of God’s Word first, putting the application of God’s Word first.
You have to have doctrine, which is teaching. It’s the instruction of God’s Word. That’s what happens Sunday morning, Tuesday night, Thursday night, and anytime you get on the Internet and listen, podcast, whatever. That is when you receive the instruction of God’s Word. But the instruction of God’s Word is not an end in itself; it is the beginning.
That’s why when Paul is talking in 2 Timothy 3:16, he says all Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable—valuable—for what? Teaching, doctrine. Doctrine was the word that the King James used: it is instruction. We are to learn what the Word of God teaches, then we go on to apply: that’s the process of spiritual growth.
When we don’t take time to read the Word, to learn the Word, to study the Word, to go in depth in the Word. When we don’t take the time, that is one form of denying the Lord: that’s a passive form. Then there’s the active form, which is what Peter experienced when he is asked, “Well, weren’t you a follower of Jesus?” And he says, “No, not me!” Three times “Not me.”
We learn about grace when we get over to 2 Timothy 2, and that talks about denial as well. In 2 Timothy 2:11–13 Paul says to Timothy, “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”
Now everybody understood that, right? Let’s break this down. Notice I have inserted a superscript there by each of the “Ifs” that’s a first-class condition—“if” and the condition is assumed to be true, “for if we died with Him [and we did].”
When did we die with Christ? Romans 6:3–4, when we believe Jesus died on the Cross for our sins, at that instant we are identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. We’re identified with Him. We die with Him. The old man, Paul says, is dead. We’re now a new creature in Christ.
So every believer dies with Jesus at the instant they trust in Christ as Savior. That’s our identification with Him. That’s the baptism by the Holy Spirit. If we died with Him we shall also live with Him. The precondition for eternal life is to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior. When you do you’re identified with His death, burial, and resurrection. You receive eternal life and you’re going to live with Him. That applies to everyone who is a believer in Jesus Christ.
Then we go from phase 1 salvation—or justification—to phase 2, which is spiritual growth. “If we endure”—first-class condition, assuming that we will endure—“we shall also reign with Him”. That is, if you grow and mature as a believer, if you endure in the Christian life, then as a result of your ongoing spiritual growth and obedience, there are going to be rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
There will be gold, silver and precious stones produced in your life; that’s a metaphor for spiritual works produced by the Holy Spirit that have eternal value. On that basis, we will be rewarded and serve with Him in the Kingdom, ruling and reigning with Him.
This next stanza says “If we endure”—assuming that we do—“then we shall reign with Him.” We will have rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and we will reign with Him in His Kingdom,
But not everyone’s going to endure. There are many believers who fall by the wayside. There are many believers who just don’t stick with it. They get distracted by the cares and concerns of life and the details of life, and they are not willing to put the study and application of God’s Word into practice in their life.
So career takes precedence. Now sometimes everybody’s job gets in the way, and that’s the way it is, but they let their career become the priority as opposed to spiritual life. They don’t order their lives around spiritual growth, and that’s what has to happen. We have to order our lives around the priority, which is to serve the Lord in this life.
So those that either deny Him passively or they deny Him actively by failing to grow, He will deny us. That’s what takes place at the Judgment Seat of Christ. That doesn’t mean that we lose salvation. It is that we’re denied rewards. According to 1 Corinthians 3:12 and following, there are going to be those who show up at the Judgment Seat of Christ, who have all of their works burned up and nothing remains.
There is no gold, silver, or precious stones, yet they enter Heaven as through fire. There’s nothing that came from their life that has eternal value or significance: they failed to grow. By their life they denied the Savior that bought them. Even though they are still believers, they will be denied rewards.
The next stanza comes in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless …” It’s not, “If we are unbelievers,” it is, “If we are faithless,” again, if there is no growth, “He remains faithful …” He’s the One who keeps us saved. He’s the One who provides for us. He’s the One who keeps us in His hand, in His grip, so that we can never lose our salvation. If we are faithless, He remains faithful.
He cannot deny Himself. He will not let us go. We can’t lose our salvation. We may not have rewards. We may not reign with Him in the Kingdom, but we will nevertheless have eternal life and be with Him.
This is the background.
We have to come to understand the importance that we do stumble, like Peter and the other disciples, but there is forgiveness and there is restoration. The idea is to endure, to keep going forward, and to keep growing. This denial that will take place by the disciples when they stumble is not something that causes a loss of salvation, but it is a failure in their spiritual life, and they will be forgiven.
Now that we understand this context, as Matthew explained it, then he says the next thing that happens, as Matthew typically does as we’ve studied, he says, “Then—which indicates that chronological progression of events—“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’ ”
He’s going to go—I think it’s Luke that says—a stone’s throw away. So He’s going to go about 30 feet or so away, where He will have a measure of privacy. There He is going to face His challenge by prayer, by taking it to the Lord in prayer and struggling in prayer with the circumstances.
Let’s take a little look at some pictures here, give us an idea of what’s gone on. This is a current wall that was built by Suleiman in the 1600s, and it’s pretty close to the same area where the wall was on the temple. This is the Kidron Valley that runs through here, and down here you have olive trees. Off to the left of this picture goes this slope up the Mount of Olives, and it’s just covered from olive trees all along the slope, and that’s how it was at the time of Christ.
The Garden of Gethsemane is an area within that mass of olive trees on Gethsemane. So that disciples would’ve come down. If you go around the corner here you go up Mount Zion into what would’ve been outside the walls of the temple, but the city of Jerusalem at that time. So they probably walked about 1/2 a mile from somewhere up there where they had observed the last Seder.
And they came to the Garden of Gethsemane.
This is an area that’s walled off and you can still see a lot of the younger olive trees that are there.
But there are some olive trees—as you can see this one is quite old, quite large—and it’s probably somewhere around [I doubt that it goes back to the time of Christ, but it goes back] probably 1,200–1,500 years.
The term “Gethsemane” means an olive press, so you have this olive grove there, and when they would harvest the olives, they had a press right there where they would press the olives to make olive oil.
Now that’s a very interesting process and the imagery is important, because just as the olives are pressed and under high pressure to release the oil, so Jesus is going to come under intense pressure during this time in Gethsemane. So there’s a picture of this going on here.
Now in an olive press, you have basically two different things that are going on. First of all, you have this wheel, and they attach a donkey to one end, and he walks in circles around this centerpiece, and this wheel goes around and you put the olives in the depression here, and this mashes the olives.
You just imagine what that would feel like if you put your hand under that wheel, and what that would do to your hand. But this isn’t the main process. This just creates the olive mash, and then they take all of that and they put that in something like a burlap bag, and then they put that into the olive press itself.
There’s a stone here and that bag is placed here in this depression in the middle. And these channels here on the side are where the olive oil will come out. Then you have this long horizontal bar here—the lumber, the tree trunk. In this case it has basically three or four different vertical supports there that hold a weight.
So you would start off with one weight, and this lowers the bar, and this flat press here comes down on the olives, and that produces your first squeeze. That’s virgin olive oil. That’s how that takes place. Then you add more weight and you get your second release, and then your third release. The first release is your best. This is the imagery of Gethsemane: that it is a place where pressure takes place, and this is exactly what is happening with our Lord.
I want to take you to two passages as backgrounds to understand this. The interpretation we get of this by the writer of Hebrews.
Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses …” This is a way of saying He can sympathize with our weaknesses, because He “was in all points tempted”—or tested—“as we are, yet without sin.”
The word there is the verb PEIRAZO. The noun form is PEIRASMOS, which we will see in just a minute as well.
So the idea there is this testing of the Lord Jesus Christ in His humanity. He is tested in every category of testing. The word PEIRAZO or PEIRASMOS—sometimes it’s translated temptation, sometimes testing. Testing is something that is objective, something that is presented to you. A temptation often carries the idea of an intersubjective attraction to something.
If any of you have ever tried to diet or to stop some bad habit—maybe smoking or something else—I like to use diet. If you are consistent on your diet and have eaten correctly and you just had a healthy meal and your appetite has been satiated, then if somebody comes in and offers you some ice cream or chocolate cake, then you may not be attracted to it. You’re full, you’re satisfied. It’s easy to say no.
But if it’s been three or four hours since you should’ve had a meal and you come home and the only thing that’s in the refrigerator is a piece of chocolate cake. Now there’s something inside of you that is drawing you to eat that piece of cake. That’s the subjective aspect, and it’s hard for you to say, “Nah, I’m not going to have it,” because you’re really hungry. But if you’re not hungry it’s really easy to say no.
Jesus doesn’t have that internal hunger that we experience in temptation because He doesn’t have a sin nature. But there’s still the objective testing—the offer of that which would be an enticement to sin. This is what happens in the desert when He is tested by Satan, those three times, and it’s what’s happening in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Going through the test and the pressure of the test is not sinful. It’s what you do with it is whether or not it’s going to be sin. Jesus is going through the testing at this time and He’s categorically been tested throughout His life, but one of the most intense tests comes here at the end of His public ministry.
In Hebrews 2:10 we’re told that “it was fitting for Him”—that is, God the Father—“for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory …” That’s us; that is the firstborn sons in the body of Christ. The Father’s plan is to bring us to glory, to maturity, to be this company of believers who will rule and reign with the Messiah in the Kingdom.
So it’s fitting for Him “… in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation”—now who’s that? That’s Jesus—“to make the captain of their salvation perfect”—TELEIOS doesn’t mean perfect; it means mature. To make Him mature how?—“through sufferings.”
The testing that Jesus is experiencing in the Garden of Gethsemane, the pressure that He is under here as He anticipates being made sin the next day on our behalf is intense. And this is probably the highest test that He experienced in His life.
In Matthew 26:37 and in the parallel Mark 14:32–33, we’re told how this impacted Jesus emotionally. Now that’s something we don’t always think about. Somehow we think that Jesus is just all rational. But He’s a human being; He has emotions just like we do. And this gives us a profound picture of His emotions as the perfect sinless God-man.
That’s important because sometimes we think that if you have these emotions you’ve already sinned. Having these emotions is obviously not sin because Jesus had these emotions. It’s what you do with it. Let’s look at it.
Three words are used in these two passages. Matthew 26:37, “Jesus took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.” These are intense words.
Mark says it this way, “Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ And He took Peter, James and John with Him and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed.”
The words “deeply distressed” are the same in both passages, but “sorrowful” and “troubled” are two different words that indicate the intensity of the emotion.
Luke 22:39–42 tells us, “Coming out,”—that is, out from the upper room—“He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into—what?—temptation.’ ”
See, this is the noun form of the verb that we saw in Hebrews: it’s PEIRASMOS. “… that you may not enter into temptation. And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done.’ ”
Jesus is praying in His perfect humanity, “Lord I really don’t want to do this.” Now we’re going to come back and talk more about this because that really needs to be thoroughly understood, but He is saying in his Humanity, “I don’t want to do this. This is not attractive.
“This not is not something that’s going to make Me feel good.” That’s the struggle. We see this picture of the struggle that takes place in that process of testing, and He doesn’t sin. How does He handle it? He handles it through prayer and constant dependence on the Lord’s provision.
In Matthew 26:37, when it says He began to be sorrowful, that’s the Greek word LUPEO, which is the same word that Paul uses over in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 that at the time of death we grieve, but not like those who have no hope. So there’s a difference between the sorrow an unbeliever has and the sorrow a believer has, but they both have sorrow.
There are a lot of Christians that say, “You know, if I’m walking with the Lord, I’m going to have the joy of the Lord, and I’m not going to be sad or depressed or discouraged,” and that’s just blasphemy. That’s just heresy, and it’s going to create all kinds of unrealistic expectations about living the Christian life.
Jesus is sorrowful, and that word means to grieve, to be sad, to be sorrowful, and the word that’s connected to it is the word ADEMONEO, translated deeply distressed, and it means to be under a heavy burden. He is way down. He is feeling the weight of what is about to happen. Just like you and I do when we face certain issues and situations in life, we just get weighed down by them. Feeling that weight is not sin. That’s reality of living in a sinful world. It’s what we do with it that’s important.
This word LUPEO is used in the Septuagint in passages such as Psalm 42:5–6, which many think is at least a background to what’s going on in the Garden of Gethsemane, and at least a type of the Messiah, where David says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” There’s the word LUPEO, why are you grieving, why are you sad, why do you feel this way? “And why are you disquieted within me?” What’s the solution? “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”
That’s how we work through the emotion. The emotion is not the sin until we say, “You know, I’m just going to wallow in it. I’m just going to let that dictate what I do and that’s going to be my excuse for all the other sin.”
Psalm 42:6, “O my God, my soul is cast down within me;”—I’m feeling sorrowful, but he’s turning to God for the solution—“therefore I will remember You”—he says—“from the land of the Jordan, from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar.”
In Mark 14:33 he uses that same word ADEMONEO on the right, but he uses a different word “troubled.” It’s the word EKTHAMBEO, which means to be moved to a relatively intense emotional state because of something causing great surprise or perplexity.
Jesus isn’t facing a surprise or perplexity, but He is facing an intense situation where He is going to be made sin on our behalf the next day. The righteous Second Person of the Trinity is going to receive the imputation of our sin the next day. And this is something that in His righteousness He shrinks back from, because He is perfectly holy and righteous.
Isaiah 53:3–4 relates to this, that “Jesus is despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” We can relate to that. What we have to relate to is His solution and not our solution. “And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”
Jesus in the garden provides a profound pattern for us. We don’t turn to the psychology of Freud and we don’t turn to the modern psychology of all the different solutions that man comes up with on the basis of his limited empiricism. What we have to do is look at the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s not this psychology of modern man. It’s biblical psychology. The word “psychology” means a study of the soul. What the Bible gives us is an accurate picture of how God created the soul and how it’s impacted by the adversities of life.
Next time we’re going to come back and get into this more to understand how to face those adversities that put this pressure on our soul. Because nobody, no human being ever faced the kind of pressure on their soul that Jesus did. Nobody ever experienced it like Jesus did. If He can handle it through the Word and the provision of God’s grace, so can we. We have to take this apart and really come to understand what’s happening here in Gethsemane.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to look at this passage and to come to understand something that is often confusing for us, something that challenges us because there’s certain misconceptions and false presuppositions brought to understanding ideas about emotion.
“Father, we need to understand this. We need to come to understand how the Lord Jesus Christ faced and handled this and how You strengthened Him just as You will strengthen us in the midst of testing, in the midst of the pressures of life.
“Father, we pray that if anyone is listening to this message and is not sure if they are going to spend eternity in Heaven, that they would take this opportunity to make that certain, that they would trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.
“Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” We know that He is the only way and that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.”
“Father, we pray that You would make that clear to those who need it and that they would believe and trust in Jesus alone for their salvation.
“And Father, we pray that the rest of us would be challenged to endure and persevere in our Christian life, to take up the challenge to be disciples and to grow and mature, and to learn how to face the challenges, the adversities, of life that we may glorify You both now and in eternity.
“Father, we pray these things in Christ’s name, amen.”