Harry Whittaker
Studies in the Gospels

211. Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1)*

Leaving the city, Jesus led the disciples down into the Kidron valley. It is worthwhile for the student to pause and consider the Biblical significance of this.

After the apostasy of the golden calf, Moses "took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire... and cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended from the mount" (Dt.9:21), that is, into the stream that flowed from the smitten rock-"and that Rock was Christ." It was a drastic precedent which Hezekiah and Josiah the reformers were glad to follow 2 Chr.29 :16; 30 :14; 2 Kgs. 23 :6).

Kidron means "black, with a strong and obvious secondary meaning: "mourning". Hence the mention of David leaving Jerusalem by the Kidron at the time of Absalom's rebellion, for he went mourning for the tragedy, barefoot and with his head covered (2 Sam.15 :23,30).

And Shimei the plotter -was warned by Solomon that if ever he chose to cross the Kidron he would thus signal the mourning for his own death (1 Kgs.2 :37;cp.also Jer.31 :40).

John's record describes the Kidron as a winter-torrent, perhaps with intention of recalling the Messianic associations of this word: "The floods of ungodly men made me afraid" (Ps.18 :4). But also: "He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head" (Ps. 110:7).


Thus Jesus came "to a place called Gethsemane" on the lower slopes of the mount of Olives. Its identification with the familiar site visited by tourists goes back to the time of Constantine (early fourth century).

The struggle for man's redemption, foretold in a garden (Gen.3 :15), was now to come to its crisis in a garden and to be finally resolved in another garden (Jn.19 :41). Both Matthew and Mark use here a word which means "a piece of land, a garden or farm'—a similar usage to that of the modern city-dweller who says: "I've got a place down in the country as well." But in the only occurrence of this Greek word in the Septuagint version it signifies "a vineyard" (1 Chr.27 :27). But Luke's word for "place" (topos; cp. Heb. maqom) also means "a holy place, a sanctuary" (as in Acts 7 :49, Gen.28 :16). Some wealthy secret sympathizer probably gave Jesus the use of the garden for his Jerusalem visits. Twenty-four hours later another rich man was to lend Jesus another garden.

The first part of the name "Gethsemane" certainly means "winepress", but strangely enough the rest of the word is Hebrew for "oil". This rather odd meaning: "Winepress of oil", may be symbolically satisfying (see, for examples, Ps. 23:5), but it is certainly not without difficulty in the literal sense. "Winepress and oil farm" (Young's Concordance) is hardly possible.

It may be that there is a connection with the Hebrew word for "appointed" (the same root as in ls.28 :25). If so, Gethsemane means "the appointed winepress," perhaps given originally in the sense of the English phrase used with such pride in modern business: "By appointment to the king", but in Jerusalem it would most likely mean "by appointment to the temple." It has even been considered possible that from the ancient olive trees now in Gethsemane came the oil for the anointing of kings and priests. There is also another Jewish tradition that it was in this vicinity where the Red Heifer was sacrificed (Num.19:3). The symbolism^ these details is marvellously apt.

It is worthwhile to observe concerning Gethsemane that "Jesus oft-times resorted thither" (Jn.)-"as was his wont" (Lk.). Yet nowhere else is this garden even alluded to. It is an instructive instance of the fragmentary incomplete nature of the gospels. (See Study 110). Also, it gives a hint to the discerning that the life of Jesus had many Gethsemanes—as also there were many "wilderness temptations," for did not the devil depart from him only "for a season" (Lk.4 :13)? Thus, out of many crises when Jesus had to crucify the flesh before it was crucified at Golgotha this Gethsemane is mentioned as the most crucial of all.

"His disciples followed him" (Lk.), but for them Gethsemane had a quite different meaning, as John's record indicates: "into the which he entered, and his disciples." The same distinction is made in Mt,17 :27; Jn.20:17.


In the garden Jesus left eight of the disciples in one place, exhorting them: "Pray that ye enter not into temptation." Hejcnew that for them, as for him, Gethsemane was to provide a supreme test, a test to be met not in their own strength (as Peter was actually to attempt; Jn.18 :10), but with the help of God.

His instruction was: "Keep on praying". It supplies the answer to temptations today, as well as then. But the counsel was soon disregarded—more through human weakness, no doubt, than through wilful neglect of their Master's word.

As on certain earlier occasions (Mk.5:37 and 9:2 and 13:3) Jesus chose to have Peter, James and John with him. The men who had shared the glory of his transfiguration were needed now, to be with him in the lowest hour of his travail. It is a fact which emphasizes not only that some disciples are nearer to their Lord than others are, but also how truly Jesus shared the weakness of human nature in his need for fellowship, solace and support in the crisis of his life. Merely by being with him they could be a help. If only, in that hour, they had added understanding and sympathy, how much greater that moral support! The Bible has no better illustration of the truth that we are "members one of another." The brother of Christ who chooses to face life without the fellowship of the rest of the family of God has not learned the first principles of Christian living.        


Before ever Jesus left them, it was evident, from the signs of strain in his face and from the tone with which he spoke that he was "sorrowful and very heavy."(Mt.26:37).

New Testament usage of the first of these words indicates that he was hurt, troubled, upset, disturbed, worried, but the answer to the question: What about? is far from easy. The occurrence of the same word in 2 Samuel 19:2 how David "grieved" for Absalom might suggest that Jesus was oppressed by his loss of Judas (cp. Ps.35 :13,14).

But the problem is made more dificult by Mark's word: "amazed". The Greek word there means precisely that: "astonished" (Mk.9 :15; 16 :5,6; Acts 3 :11). But what caused this amazement? Almost the same word comes in David's Messianic psalm: "the floods of ungodly men made me afraid" (2 Sam.22 :5 LXX; the parallel passage in Ps.18 :4LXX uses a different Greek word). Other Old Testament usage also suggests the idea of fear. But that Jesus was now over-wrought with physical fear of crucifixion may be confidently disallowed, even though at one time it was a common Jewish jibe against the Nazarene that his own disciples had described him as afraid to die. Then was it fear for his disciples in their reaction to impending events? Was it astonishment at their lack of concern or understanding regarding his own prospects, which was now creating such distress in his mind?

Jesus was not only "sorrowful"; he was also "very heavy." Again the meaning of the Greek word is not clear. One possibility is "bewildered," in the sense of not knowing what to do. This is perhaps supported by its use in one of the versions of Psalm 116 :11: "I said in my haste (RVm: alarm)”—a passage given Messianic application by Paul (2 Cor. 4 :13; Rom.3 :4). Another possible derivation is from a word meaning "satiety, loathing." This would make it equivalent to the modern slang: "fed-up'—but again, what about? His own prospects, or those of his disciples? One could wish for a clearer light in the understanding of some of these intimate details.

"My soul"

The ensuing words of Jesus suggest the former answer to this enquiry: "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Ps.42 :5LXX). His use of "soul" and not "spirit", is significant here. The distinction is not made invariably, but there are many places in the New Testament where it is clearly implied that the word "soul" means the lower nature of a man, by contrast with the Spirit, the new nature born again in Christ (e.g. Lk.12 :19,22; 1 Cor.2 :14; 15 :45; 1 Th.5 :23; Heb.4 :12; 1 Pet.l :22; Jas.3:15; Jude 19; Rev. 18:14; Studies 129,169).

Thus, Jesus' use of "soul" with reference to himself suggests the tension within him between the higher and lower natures. This was inevitable. As the Representative Man he must needs share, every day and on this day especially, the universal experience of having "a law in his members warring against the law of his mind."

"Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? (Shall I say) Father, save me from this hour? But for this cause came I to this hour" (Jn.12 :27). Chronologically these words do not belong to Gethsemane, but they are doubtless to be read as the equivalent in John's record of this Gethsemane experience.

It follows, then, that when Scripture speaks of Jesus "laying down his life (his soul)" for others, there is implied not only the forfeiting of life itself, but also the denying of all the lower inclinations and impulses of a Son of Adam.


Having separated the three disciples from the rest Jesus now proceeded to separate himself from them: "Tarry ye here, and watch with me." But the separation cannot have been very considerable; "he went a little farther." This procedure was not haphazard. The groups thus formed suggest an analogy with the sanctuary of the Lord:

High Priest
Holy of Holies
The angel of the Lord
The Shekinah Glory
The three
Holy Place
The rest of the apostles
Sanctuary court
Judas and the crowd
The world

"Watch with me"

There are other details which may present Gethsemane as a new and better Sanctuary. "His sweat as it were great drops of blood" certainly suggests the offering of the blood of sacrifice. And "watch with me" may well be the Lord's allusion to the priests "keeping the charge (or watch) of the tabernacle" (Num. 3 :28,32,38 etc; the Hebrew word has both meanings).

But on the other hand, the words "watch with me" may have been an instruction to the disciples to be like those outside the sanctuary who looked for the coming forth of the High Priest with the blessing of divine forgiveness and reconciliation.

Or again., since it was Passover—the Passover—it was not unlikely that Jesus had the Exodus commandment in mind: "It shall be a night of watching unto the Lord" (12 :42RVm). But this link only shifts the difficulty one stage further back. In what sense was Passover to be a "night of watching"? Probably the reference is to the prayers of Israel as, with loins girt, shoes on feet, and staff in hand, they awaited the divine intervention which was to mean deliverance for them all. The fact that such a manifestation of divine power had been promised did nothing to make prayer for it unnecessary (cp. Dan.9 :2,3). If such prayer was proper and needful in the prototype, how much more now that the great reality was to be their experience!

"A stone's cast"

At this time of prayer "he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast." There is meaning in both of these short phrases. One usageof the verb "withdrawn" is "to give a parting greeting" (s.w. Acts 21 :1). There is thus a hint of reluctance on the part of Jesus to leave the others—'he tore himself away from them". Even these uncomprehending disciples had it in their power to hearten their leader. Once again the Lord's essential humanity is emphasized in this unwillingness to leave them. Yet in the sanctuary of prayer there awaited him much greater resources of strength.

But why should Luke choose to describe this retreat to the place of prayer as at "about a stone's cast"? This is too indeterminate to be of value as a measure of distance. Was it intended, then, to suggest the breaking of the tables of stone (Ex.32 :19)? or was it yet another allusion to the rejection of David at the time of Absalom's rebellion (2 Sam.16 :6)? or is it meant to take the mind back to another occasion (1 Sam.17 :49) when the invincible Enemy of God's people was vanquished at "a stone's cast" by the Beloved of the Lord? (it has been plausibly suggested that Golgotha means "the skull of Goliath"!). The value of this kind of allusion (which could only come in an inspired Book!) is that it can cover such a wide variety of ideas in a mere phrase. Compare the diverse associations of the phrase: "innocent blood" (Study 218).

Intense prayer

There in the pale light of the Passover moon, at a distance from the Three, Jesus "kneeled down and prayed." Mark's record has: "he fell on the ground", and Matthew: "he fell on his face." Mark's continuous tense here may imply that Jesus kept breaking off his prayer and resuming again. (Is Ps.143 :3 relevant?) Perhaps there are indicated here three different postures appropriate to the three occasions of prayer in Gethsemane. Jesus did not pray seated, for this is the attitude becoming in a king (2 Sam.7 :18; Ps.110 :1,4); in Gethsemane he was the humble representative of the humble.

This repeated falling down in prayer before the Father is reminiscent of other great representatives of the people of God. Moses' intercessions on behalf of Israel make a moving story (Dt.9 :18,25, and note especially v.26,27,29). But the experience of Daniel provides an even more sustained likeness to the Son of God. The triple prayer in Gethsemane is matched by his prayer three times in a day (Dan.6 :10). Then follows the prolonged effort of the ruler to secure his acquittal (v.14), the sealing of the stone at the mouth of the den (v.17), the sending of the angel of the Lord to save him because "innocency was found in him" (v.22), the ultimate destruction of the enemies of the man of God (v.24) the recognition of the supremacy of God's kingdom over all human dominion (v.26), and the working of great signs and wonders in heaven and earth (v.27). Did Daniel know, as David assuredly did, that his own experience enacted beforehand "the sufferings of the Christ, and the glory that should follow"?

Mark's gospel is the only one which summarises the substance of the prayer of Jesus before giving his very words: "he prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him." Mark is also the only one to allude to this climactic ordeal of Jesus as "the hour'—a term which was used in a general sense by Jesus himself, as by all four evangelists, to describe the consummation of his sacrificial work and all the gamut of experiences, of body and spirit, which that involved (by all means consult John 7 :30; 8 :20; 12 :23,27; 17 :1; Lk.22:14,53; Mt.26:45).

But the hour of trial must be also, for Jesus, the hour of prayer. This is one of the few occasions when his use of Aramaic expressions is recorded: "Abba, Father." In the intense prayer of John 17 there is a progression: "Father ... O Father. . . holy Father. . . O righteous Father" (v.1,5,11,25). Perhaps the same was true in Gethsemane also.

"Let this cup pass from me"

The prayer became a loud cry (Heb.5 :7 implies this): "Father, all things are possible to thee ... If it be possible, let this cup pass from me." To some there is real difficulty here. Of course it is not literally true that all things are possible with God. Even the Almighty cannot make two and two into five. The words must have their proper frame of reference. They were used concerning the birth of Jesus (Lk.1 :37), and also concerning the birth, similarly miraculous, of another seed of Abraham (Gen. 18 :14 LXX). They were used of the new birth of the wealthy and unwilling (Mt.19 :26)— another miracle. But now here in Gethsemane the birth of the entire New Creation was at stake, and the Father could only return answer: "No, this is something I cannot do."

It may be taken as certain that such a prayer offered by such a Son to such a Father in such an hour of crisis would have been answered in the affirmative, if an affirmative answer had been at all possible. The fact that it was not makes inescapable the conclusion that even the Almighty could find no other way by which the redemption of the world might be brought about. Viewed in this light, Gethsemane becomes the more solemn and awe-inspiring. The Father was not able to save from death. "Even so must the Son of man be lifted up" (Jn.3 :14). But the Father was "able to save him out of death" (Heb.5 :7RVm).

Surely Jesus understood these things. Why, then, should he ever come to the point of offering such a petition? (contrast Jn.5 :30). His prayer: "All things are possible with God", quoted from the angel's words to Sarah concerning the birth of Isaac, suggests that it was the experience of that great prototype which was in his mind. If Isaac, seed of Abraham, could be saved from sacrificial death at the last moment, might not a similar deliverance be possible for Jesus, Seed of Abraham?

Helpful though this might be, the difficulty is not altogether removed, for the familiar words of Genesis 22: "God will provide Himself a Lamb ... In the mount of the Lord he will be provided" (v.8,14), must have been equally well-known to him.

That Jesus should pray: "Let this cup pass from me" is surely a clear indication that his petition, whatever its precise intention, sprang out of human weakness—a natural revulsion from the prospect of shame and suffering. This extremely difficult question is considered separately in Study 212.

The reader of the gospels has deep cause for thankfulness that there was an immediate reaction from this assertion of self-will, a reaction which must have been normal with Jesus all his life: "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." It is this which marks the difference between him and those for whom he died.

At the same time, the words emphasize his essential one-ness of nature with his brethren. His inclinations and propensities did not automatically identify themselves with the will of God. If it be not true that Jesus fully shared the fallen nature of his race, then Gethsemane was merely impressive play-acting.

Sleeping disciples

For an hour he was there on the ground before his Father. What twentieth-century disciple would spend this amount of time in this way? To how many would such a protracted exercise in prayer be congenial? Nor was it to his disciples then. When he came again to them, they were fast asleep. Why did they sleep? Was this time of prayer in Gethsemane an experience they had known on a number of former occasions, that their Master would be engrossed in prayer throughout the night whilst they slept? But even supposing this to be true, was not the present a more special occasion, when they knew Jesus to be weighed down with expectation of suffering and shame? And had he not expressly asked them to share his vigil?

Their repeated failure is explained in the gospels by: "Their eyes were very heavy." But why this weariness? This was not the drowsy aftermath of a heavy meal, but the exhaustion of worn-out men. Yet there is no hint in the gospels of any activity in the preceding 48 hours to bring them to this condition. And if they were physically tired, how much more Jesus!

So their lapse was hardly excusable, especially when it was repeated. So Jesus rebuked them—as he so often did—with a question: "Is it thus with you? Could ye not (were ye not strong enough to) watch with me one hour?" The form of the expostulation shows how glad Jesus would have been to share the fellowship of the others in his prayers (as he also is today). It is a thing to marvel at and rejoice in that the Son of God could seek support and strength in the sympathetic understanding of men of much lower calibre than himself. But he was denied it: "I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none" (Ps.69:20).

According to Mark the reproach was repeated, addressed this time specifically to Peter: "Simon, sleepest thou? couldest thou not watch one hour?" What a contrast with Annas and Caiaphas who were awake and active against Jesus the whole night through! Jesus, aware of the special dangers and temptations which would beset Peter before the night was out, would fain have him on his guard. Instead, in Gethsemane Peter denied his Master three times by sleeping before ever he opened his mouth to deny him at the high-priest's palace. Yet, only a short while before, he had declared: "With thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death" (Lk.22 :33RV). It was in pointed reminder of this that Jesus now said: "Could ye not watch with me one hour?

Flesh and Spirit         'v

He also added the needful exhortation: "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." The normal meaning of the words would be: "Pray in order that you may be so fortified by your prayers as not to fall into temptation." But there is no lack of parallels for the alternative: "Make it the subject of your prayer that you do not fall into temptation."

That the latter is not only more appropriate and meaningful but certainly correct is established by the fact that this is the Lord's third allusion in a very short time to his own pattern prayer, the others being "Abba, Father" and "Thy will be done" (v.42). Thus the Lord's Prayer was also the Lord's own prayer.

The Master's dependence on prayer in this crisis of his life and his exhortation to the same are valuable reminders to help all disciples realise that no man can overcome temptation by simply making up his mind to it. It was in this self-dependent spirit that Peter went back into the courtyard after his first denial of his Lord, and he paid for his presumption. Even in the most regenerate of disciples the same tug of war between flesh and spirit, between self and the will of God, is an almost ceaseless experience.

In recognition of this hard fact the Lord in the same breath made grateful acknowledgment of the good intention of his disciples: "Your spirit is enthusiastic (s.w. 1 Chr.29 :5,6,9,17 LXX; cp. also Gal.5:17), but the flesh is weak" (Heb.5:2). There is encouragement in this to believe that even now Jesus makes similar extenuation in heaven concerning the pathetic standards of achievement by his present-day disciples.

But now was it only with reference to the disciples that he spoke those words? It would be strange indeed if the tension of his own struggle also was not covered by them. And so "he went away the second time, and prayed," offering the same prayer and yet with variations full of significance: "O my Father, if this cup may not pass from me, except I drink it, Thy will be done." The mode of expression represents a distinct change of attitude, crystallizing out in a settled acknowledgement of the supreme wisdom of the Father: "Thy will be done." There is something wonderfully moving about this use at this time of the prayer which disciples were taught to pray, by their Teacher. Here in Gethsemane the margin between Master and disciple was at its narrowest.

Yet again, in spite of warning and exhortation the disciples slept. It may be taken as certain that they made a sincere attempt to watch and pray, as their Master bade them, but only a spirit eager to share the Holy of Holies with the Lord could have kept their minds alert that night. So "he came and found them asleep again." The distinct hint of censure in these words is somewhat compensated for by the semi-apologetic explanation: "their eyes were heavy." For this Mark has a very expressive word difficult of translation but carrying the definite implication that the disciples had not composed themselves for sleep, but had been overtaken by it involuntarily.

But if they were so exceedingly tired, what of Jesus who went without sleep all that night and through the harrowing day that followed? Never is temptation more strong or resistance to it less sure than when one is physically exhausted and weary to the limit through lack of sleep. Consideration of facts such as these— unrecorded but undoubtedly true—can add greatly to a reader's appreciation of what the sufferings of Christ involved.

Yet the Eleven, and even the chosen Three, were heedless of this. Mark's phrase: "Neither wist they what to answer him," implies some unrecorded reproach at their too easy yielding to their weariness. And it is eloquent of their shamefacedness that, apparently, even Peter had no word to say on his own behalf.

On the Day of Atonement the high priest went into the Holy of Holies three times. Is there comparison to be made with Jesus?—'He left them again, and went away, and prayed a third time."

"An angel strengthening him"

It is here that Luke's record tells of the appearing of the angel and of the Lord's sweat "as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." The two verses are put under suspicion, quite undeservedly, by a note in the margin of the Revised Version: "Many authorities omit verses 43,44," For the reassurance of readers it is necessary to emphasize that the facts hardly warrant such a comment. The "many authorities" are actually a very small minority, and the explanation of the omission by these is a simple one. It is known that in many of the early church lectionaries it was customary on the day before Good Friday to have the reading about Gethsemane from Matthew 26, with Luke 22 :43,44 interpolated for the sake of completeness. Thus it would come about that some manuscripts, influenced by this lectionary practice, would have a corresponding omission after Luke 22 :42.

But even if the Revisers (and some other modern versions) were correct in their omission, the Messianic Scriptures would make it necessary to assume the truth of this tradition: "Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had also dwelt in silence. When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up" (Ps.94 :17,18). The help of the heavenly countenance became the health of Jesus' countenance (Ps.42:5,11;43:5; a psalm applied by Jesus to himself; Mt.26 :38 quotes Ps.42 :5 LXX). In time of temptation, specially, men need fellowship. Since in this respect the disciples failed Jesus, God sent His angel.

There is also an unexpected aptness about some of the details of Daniel 10. It was in "the first month" (v.4): "I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine into my mouth" (v.3: compare the words of Jesus: "I will no more eat thereof until . . .); "my face toward the ground" (v.9); "the men that were with me saw not the vision" (v.7); "my comeliness was turned into corruption, and I retained no strength" (v.8); "O man greatly beloved ... thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words" (v.11,12); "the vision is for many days" (v.14); "O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong" (v.19): "a great Quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves" (v.7). That so many phrases should have such fitness concerning Gethsemane is, to put if mildly, remarkable.

Then what of verse 21?: "I will shew thee that which is noted in the Scripture of truth." Here is a hint of what, apart from any direct mention, could almost be taken as certain, that Jesus who had so depended on "the Scripture of truth" through all the days of his flesh would there find strength to overcome in this hour of gravest need. "My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according to thy word" (Ps.119 :28). Is anything more likely than that the angel strengthened Jesus by simply talking to him about some of the specially relevant Old Testament Scriptures concerning him?—such passages as ls.41 :8-14; 42 :l-7; 49 :l-9; 51 : 11-16. More on this in the next study.

Resemblances to the Transfiguration are also worth noting here: the prayer of Jesus, the closeness of the same three apostles, their sleep, Peter with nothing to say, the angel as the counterpart of the divine glory, and both incidents centred round "the decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem."

It has been plausibly suggested that the angel was Gabriel, the one who revealed the great Messianic prophecy of Daniel 9 and who also announced the birth of Messiah to Mary (Dan.9 :21; Lk.l :26). There is special fitness about this, for Gabriel means "the Strength, or Strong One, of God" — then who more suited to strengthen the Son of God in the hour of his need? Also, in three places certainly (Dan.8:15,16and9:21;Lk.l:26,30) and in two other places probably (Dan. 10 :12; Lk. l :13) Gabriel appears specially as the angel of answered prayer—therefore, surely in Gethsemane also, as the Father's answer to the intense and unremitting prayer of His Son.

After the temptation at the beginning of his ministry, angels ministered unto Jesus (Mt.4:11), but now the angelic aid came when the temptation was most intense—a measure of the critical nature of this experience. He is described as being "in an agony'—apparently it is the word used in those days for the restless nervousness of an athlete before the contest. So "he prayed more earnestly", literally "more stretched out," not in time but in intensity: "strong crying and tears."

Whoever witnessed this moving scene—if indeed anyone did—must have been stirred with deep emotions at this sight of a strong righteous man shrinking in tears from the path of glory which led to the grave. There is some satisfaction to be had, even in defeat, in an all-out contest of wit, skill or strength against an external adversary. But when the adversary is Self, both victory and defeat are bitter. The only way out is for "my will" to become wholly and truly "Thy will," so that Self is dead. For the disciple this is an achievement never within sight. To the end of the days of his flesh he continues as a kingdom divided against itself, and therefore he cannot stand. For Jesus only could this merging of Self into the will of the Father become an unalloyed actuality—but at what a price!: "His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground," and this on a bitterly cold night (Jn.18 :18).

"Great drops of blood"

It is important here to observe the words: "as it were". All the detailed (and utterly unbecoming) discussions about the exuding of blood in times of extreme emotional stress are wide of the mark. The words are intended to be interpretative. Luke evidently regarded this perspiration running down the face of Jesus as though it were blood, the beginning of his sacrifice. It is the writer's way of telling his reader that the crucifixion began in Gethsemane—and indeed earlier than that, for the literal translation of Luke 22 :20 is: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is being poured out for you'—even then, at the Last Supper.

This sweat "falling down to the ground" is reminiscent, perhaps by design, of the curse put on Adam who in another garden chose to put Self before God: "Cursed is the ground for thy sake ... in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." But this is not the only place. The ground brought forth thorns and thistles to Jesus—he was crowned with them. And "Thou hast brought me into the dust of death" (Ps.22 :15) is surely a deliberate echoing of: "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Even the curse on the woman is suggested: "He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied" (ls.53 :11? and compare Arts 2:24).        

Issue resolved.

There is no further sign to be seen in him of agony, wrestling or struggle. From now on he appears on the gospel page as a quiet calm serene figure. "The fight is o'er, the battle won." No more wearing tension of a mind "in a strait betwixt two." No more sweat or unwillingness to relaxinto the will of the Father. From now on "my will" as distinct from "Thy will" was a meaningless phrase.

Appropriately, then, Luke uses the word for "resurrection" to describe his "rising up from prayer'—appropriately, since, in a sense, not only did the sacrifice of Jesus take place in Gethsemane but so also did his resurrection. The one made the other inevitable.

Sleeping for sorrow?

His coming to the disciples provides a sharp contrast. Again they were sleeping—"sleeping for sorrow," says Luke, and by that very phrase he supplies another problem, for it is not usual for sorrow to make men heavy with sleep. It would be more natural to read that sorrow had kept them awake. Literally, the words are: "sleeping from the sorrow," and in this context they must surely mean: "heedless of his sorrow" (compare the earlier part of this verse: "he rose up from the prayer," i.e. coming away from prayer; the shape of the phrase is exactly the same). "Sleeping for sorrow" is not a mistranslation. Rather, it is a case of choosing between two valid translations, the one suggested here being the more normal meaning (see also in verses 41,42,43).

The reproach implied in these words of Luke came also pointedly from the lips of Jesus. According to Mark 14 :41 AV he said: "Sleep on now, and take your rest." But can he have meant this? The spirit of these words is so different from the earlier exhortations to watchfulness and prayer. Also, they appear to be immediately contradicted by: "Rise up, let us go." Modern translators cope with the problem by reading the words as two reproachful rhetorical questions: "Still sleeping? still taking your rest?" This is possible, though it is hardly the obvious way of translating the Greek words. However its correctness seems to be vouched for by Luke: "Why sleep ye? (why, indeed!). Rise, and keep on praying that ye enter not into temptation (into such temptation as has beset me)."

"It is enough (Jesus continued), the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners." Again there is difficulty in the wording, for there seems to be very inadequate reason for translating: "it is enough". Souter's Lexicon comments: "There is hardly any other example in Greek of the meaning 'it is sufficient.' "Normally the phrase would mean: "He is receiving," with reference to cash or some business transaction. It has been suggested therefore that the allusion is to Judas receiving the money from the chief priests or receiving the military force for the arrest of Jesus. There is, however, some evidence for use of this word with respect to a ship near to shore or to port (compare Mk.7 :6; Lk.7 :6;15 :20). This would make it equivalent to: "He is not far away."

Thus with the approach of the traitor the hour was come, and it found Jesus no longer distraught and prayerful that the hour might pass from him, but now calm and assured. With composure he could now contemplate his betrayal "into the hands of sinners'—hands consecrated for the offering of sacrifice (Lev.8 :27) but which were now to be defiled with the blood of the only perfect sacrifice.

But these chief priests, and the soldiers with them, were of negligible importance to Jesus, compared with Judas, the apostle turned traitor In the eyes of Jesus a disciple lost was (and is) of far more consequence than scores of wilful enemies: "Rise, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand'—and he moved forward to meet the one who chose to betray him with a kiss.

Notes: Mk. 14:32-42

Amazed—at the disciples' lack of understanding of his difficult situation?
Sorrowful unto death surely implies no let-up in suffering from that hour until he died next day.
Was this prayer heard by Mark? See Study 215.

Abba, Father. This combination of Aramaic and Greek may express intensity of feeling or strong emphasis; cp. Rev.9:11; 12:9; 1:7; 19:1, 5.

This cup. John's gospel assumes this detail; 18:11.
Heavy. Consider Is.24:20 (where one version uses the same word), and with it 53 :6.
The third time, in prayer also (Mt.); cp. 2 Cor. 12 :8

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