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MARK 14:32-52
Series:  The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Forty Four 

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
March 24, 2019

This morning we are at Mark 14:32-52.  Please follow along as I read for us as we come together before God’s word.


And they went to a place called Gethsemane.  And He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”


And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.  And He said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.  Remain here and watch.”


And going a little farther, He fell on the ground and prayed that, if possible, the hour might pass from Him.  And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You.  Remove this cup from Me.  Yet not what I will, but what You will.”


And He came and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep?  Could you not watch for one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”


And again He went away and prayed, saying the same words.  And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer Him.


And He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?  It is enough; the hour has come.  The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, My betrayer is at hand.”


And immediately, while He was speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.  Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man.  Seize Him and lead Him away under guard.”


And when he came, he went up to Him at once and said, “Rabbi!”  And he kissed Him.


And they laid hands on Him and seized Him.  But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.


And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture Me?  Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me.  But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 


And they all left Him and fled.  And a young man followed Him, within nothing but a linen cloth about his body.  And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.


[Prayer at Gethsemane]


Last Sunday, when we last left Jesus and the disciples, we saw them share the Passover meal together.


During the meal Jesus had talked about betrayal.  Which grieved the disciples to think that any of them would betray Jesus or that Jesus Himself would even think that any of them would betray Him. 


During that meal Jesus had recast the symbols of the bread and wine - applied those symbols to Himself and His coming sacrificial death on their behalf - on our behalf. 


Then they’d sung one or more of the Hallel Psalms.  Psalms that praised God for His faithful ongoing presence in the lives of His people.  God’s love and blessings.


With those thoughts and images and Jesus’ teaching and the words of the Psalm ringing in their ears - Jesus and the disciples had made their way out of Jerusalem - down through the Kidron Valley - and to the western slope of the Mount of Olives.


Where Jesus predicts that in what’s coming - all of the disciples - not just some - but all of them - in weakness - in fear - all of them are going to disgracefully fall away from Jesus - deny Him.


Jesus quotes God speaking through the prophet Zechariah to describe the when and what of that:  “I will strike the shepherd - the bait of Jesus being struck - and the sheep will be scattered” - running from the shepherd - falling away.  (Zechariah 13:7)


The disciples emphatically argued with Jesus that He was wrong.  That even if it meant death they’d still be “all in” with Jesus.  And Jesus, in response, just nails it with the how and when that Peter is going to stumble into betrayal.


But, Jesus also predicts that after His death He will rise and be with them in Galilee.  There is hope.


Coming to verse 32 - Mark tells us - picking up the account where we left off - they came to a place called Gethsemane.  Gethsemane which means “oil press.”  Which is one way to make olive oil - pressing olives.  Which is why the Mount of Olives is called the Mount of Olives.  Because there were a lot of olive trees and people pressing olives and making olive oil.


John - in his gospel account - tells us that in the midst of all those trees and presses there was a garden.  And Jesus and the disciples entered into that garden.  Which we know - from reading John’s gospel - that was a place that Jesus and the disciples had been to before.


Today - if we were to go to this same basic location - what we would find there is a Roman Catholic Church with a lot of tourists and a small grove of olive trees that’s been preserved in a kind of garden. 


These are not the trees that were there when Jesus was there.  These trees are at best about 400 years old.  But - if you look at the way the trees are growing - with shoots coming out of them - the roots - what these trees are growing from may be related to what was around in Jesus’ day.


In either case, looking at this we can imagine - somewhat - what that might have been like back then.  Minus the tourists.  At night - with those gnarled trees and the shadows in the moonlight - with all the talk about betrayal.  Even though they’d been there before - perhaps it was a tad foreboding.


Mark tells us - when they entered into the Garden - Jesus told 8 of the disciples to sit there - probably at the entrance to the garden.  Then Jesus took His inner circle of Peter, James, and John farther into the garden towards where He would enter into prayer.


As the move farther into the garden Jesus began to feel greatly distressed and troubled.  A more literal translation would be terrified and disorientated.


Jesus tells them that at the soul level - which is how Scripture describes that part of us that’s how we react to things mentally and volitionally and emotionally.  Jesus - in His mind, will, and emotions is very sorrowful - grieved.


The English isn’t strong enough to carry the full impact of what Jesus is describing.  Jesus - as He goes farther into the garden is gripped by a consuming crushing agony - a deep horror - a great anguish - a disorientating terror at the core of His mind, will, and emotions.

The sheer torment of all that is so powerful - so pronounced - that in His humanity - Jesus actually draws near to the experience of death.


After telling Peter, James, and John to remain close by and to watch - to be vigilant for what is inevitably coming.  Jesus moves farther into the garden and staggers to the ground.  The Greek verb is in the imperfect.  Meaning Jesus that as Jesus rises from the ground Jesus continues to fall to the ground.  So crushing is what He feels that Jesus cannot even remain on His feet.


Which is an image of Jesus that is shocking for us.  Is it not?


Thinking about the Jesus that we’ve been following since January of last year - His ministry and message.  Seeing that unfold in Mark’s gospel account.  Walking with Jesus through those three exciting years of ministry.


We’ve seen Jesus touch the sick and bring healing.  Demonstrating His authority over disease.


We’ve seen Jesus command demons to leave and they have - even testifying of Who He is.  Jesus demonstrating His authority over Satan and forces of evil.


We’ve seen Jesus calm a raging sea and commanding wind to cease - and it does.  Jesus demonstrating His authority over His creation.


Jesus Who speaks and teaches huge throngs of people with the authority of God.  Jesus demonstrating that He is the Word made flesh - dwelling among us.


Jesus Who has confronted and called out religious establishment and the greatest religious minds of the nation without the slightest hint of being intimidated.  Jesus demonstrating His authority over the spiritual leadership of the nation and His authority to call the nation to repentance toward God and belief in Him.


Jesus Who has entered Jerusalem in triumph - at whip point driven sellers and money changers from the temple.  Jesus announcing His being the Messiah and His authority over the nation and the Temple. 


Jesus Who has the audacity to forgive sin.  And the authority to do so,  Because Jesus is THE God in the flesh and blood of our humanity.


What we’ve seen for three years and as Jesus has entered into this final week of ministry is Jesus Who has been consistently confident - bold - brave - unswerving - undeterred - assured - authoritative - fearless - unfailing - controlled - poised - steady.  Even in the tears He shed at the tomb of Lazarus.  Even as He considered the lostness of God’s people.


But here - in the Garden - in Gethsemane - is a Jesus that is shocking to us.  Vulnerable.  Tormented.  Struggling.  Who staggers to the ground in agony.  Why?


It’s not like Jesus is surprised by all this.  This has been what He’s been moving towards since day 1 - before and since He’s entered humanity.

He’s discussed His death with His disciples - even His betrayal.  That all has been something He’s been teaching about and preparing them for.


And it’s not like He’s trying to avoid what’s coming.  Jesus has been leading the charge into Jerusalem.  And now down to the Garden.  With no trace of hesitation.


The people following Jesus have been afraid.  But not Jesus.


So what’s up?


Jesus - here in Gethsemane - Jesus is beginning to confront - as never before - the agony of the cross that will go beyond any physical suffering He will go through.


Notice what Jesus specifically prays for - repeatedly - for over an hour - in agony - sweating blood:  “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You.  Remove this cup from Me.  Yet not what I will, but what You will.”


“Remove this cup from Me.”


In Scripture the cup is a metaphor - a word picture - of the very real wrath of God.  Isaiah and Jeremiah describe that cup as being in the hand of God.  They write that those who drink from it will stagger.  Jeremiah says that it will make them crazy.  (Isaiah 51:17-23; Jeremiah 25:15-18)


C.J. Mahaney describes it this way:  “This cup contains the full vehemence and fierceness of God’s holy wrath poured out against all sin, and we discover in Scripture that it’s intended for all of sinful humanity to drink.  It’s your cup…and mine.”  (1)


No wonder those who drink from that cup - who even contemplate drinking from that cup - they stagger.  The full wrath of the Holy Almighty Sovereign God concentrated in one cup.


That’s why.


In that moment - in Gethsemane - Jesus - in His humanity -  is brought face-to-face with the abhorrent - terrifying - unimaginable reality of bearing our sin and becoming the object of God’s focused full and furious - poured out of that cup -  wrath.  Staggering.


We hear Jesus crying out:  “Abba, Father.”  Jesus comes to Gethsemane looking for Heaven - for being with His Father before the betrayal.  He’s looking for Heaven and what He finds is Hell.  It is the anticipation of what Jesus will cry out on the cross:  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”  (Mark 15:34)


Are we feeling Jesus?  What staggers Him is not the rejection of the disciples and their denials.  Not their inability to stay awake and keep watch.  It’s not the rejection of the nation.  It’s not the physical pain - the torture - the process of being crucified.


What staggers Jesus is infinitely and unimaginably worse.  It is the agony of being forsaken - abandoned - by His Father Who is holy and will separate Himself from His Son Who will bear our sin upon Himself.


That’s what the cup means to Jesus.


Three times Jesus appeals to His Father.  “Is there not some other way?  Can not the cup be removed?”  And yet, there is no other way.


What’s here is the only place Scripture records the Son struggling with the will of the Father.  In His humanity Jesus struggles with the temptation to self preservation.  To avoid the cross.  To avoid the personal injustice of bearing the wrath of God for the guilt of the world’s sin.  Is there no alternative?


In that struggle we’re brought back to another Garden.  To Eden and Adam and another struggle of wills.  To obey God or to obey self.  We’re brought back to the wilderness - to Satan 3 times tempting the Son with alternatives to the ministry that lays ahead.  And here in the Garden the temptation is just as real.  If not way more intense.


Let’s be clear.  Jesus does not need to go to the cross for us.  Jesus has every right - in Gethsemane - to turn toward me and you - to say to us:  “You’re responsible for this.  It’s your sin.  It’s your cup.  You drink it.”


There is no moral imperative that requires God to sacrifice His Son for us.  God would be no more or no less God - no more or no less righteous and holy - if God allowed us to suffer eternal punishment - being tormented forever - for our sin or just “poofed” away all of creation and us with it.

God does not need to redeem us.  To rescue us.  To restore us or to renew us.  God does not need to save us.


So, why not just avoid the whole thing.  Except - for reasons known only to God - God chooses to love us.  And only in God’s unconditional love for us and through the Son’s unreserved obedience has our salvation been secured. 


Unlike the first Adam in Eden.  Jesus - thank God - Jesus chooses to obey the will of the Father and to drink the cup.


Jesus prays, “Yet not what I will, but what You will.”


C.J. Mahaney again:  “Jesus freely takes it [the cup] Himself...so that  from the cross He can look down at you and me, whisper our names, and say, ‘I drain this cup for you—for you who have lived in defiance of Me, who have hated Me, who have opposed Me.  I drink it all...for you.’” (2)


Luke - in his gospel record - Luke records that God sent an angel to strengthen Jesus.  Not to remove the cup.  But to encourage and empower Him for the road of obedience ahead.  (Luke 22:43)


When Jesus emerges from prayer He is no longer staggering but composed and ready.  It is enough; the hour has come.  The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, My betrayer is at hand.”


The only explanation for the change is obedience.  The choice to commit to obedience and what the Father supplies to the Son as Jesus moves forward following the will of His Father.


Verse 43 brings us to the Arrest at Gethsemane.


And immediately - just as Jesus is ordering His disciples to get up and witness His betrayal - while He was speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 


The chief priest, scribes, and elders made up the… Sanhedrin.  Which was kind of like the US Supreme Court and the US Congress and the Vatican all rolled into one and run by the Mafia.  It was the highest governing body in Israel and final authority on matters religious and on what might effect Israel’s relationship with Rome.


It was made up of politically polarized groups who clearly agreed on one thing.  They hated Jesus.  They saw Jesus as a threat to their carefully constructed little sacred secular world.  And they were working to take Jesus… down and… out.  Quietly and permanently.  Their agreement with Judas was what had enabled them to put their plan into action.


As Jesus is waking up the disciples, Judas arrives with a small army made up of Roman soldiers and their commander, elite temple guards representing the Sanhedrin, and the high priest’s servant Malchus who is probably near the front of the crowd.


Ahead of all of them is Judas who’s leading them to a location that he knows is frequented by Jesus.  To the silence and isolation of Gethsemane - at a time and to a place away from the crowd in Jerusalem.  Convenient for the arrest. 


They come with swords and clubs.  Swords meaning daggers and large knives.  Clubs meaning a weapon made out of wood.   Another probable meaning is “stocks” - like handcuffs.  Along with the swords and clubs they’ve come to arrest and restrain Jesus - by force if necessary.


Judas gives the pre-arranged sign identifying Jesus - kissing Jesus. 


What would have been according to custom - a middle eastern greeting common for men.  A kind of air kiss on either cheek.  Very respectful and not out of the ordinary.  Especially between a disciple and his master.  Nothing that would have aroused suspicion or opened the door to an armed conflict.


And Judas has arranged for Jesus to be seized and led away “under guard.”  “under guard” translates a word that has the idea of security - safety.  Judas arranges for Jesus to be arrested and put into protected custody.


Judas could have approached Jesus and called out:  “Jesus!  Rabbi!  What a surprise!”  Or just shout out:  “Here He is!  Seize Him.”


But the kiss gives us an indication of Judas’ heart - his deceit.  Avoiding armed conflict and assuring that Jesus would be safely delivered to the Sanhedrin so Judas will be paid his blood money. 

Then as the troops grab Jesus, Peter takes out His sword and slices off the right ear of Malchus. 


Luke records that in the upper room - as they’re getting ready to leave - the disciples asked Jesus if having only two swords would be enough.  (Luke 22:38)  The devotion is commendable but totally misses Jesus - His ministry and message.


And Peter, once again, exemplifies that.  Acting perhaps for the others - Peter once again acting impulsively - doing his best to live up to his oath not to deny Jesus - even if it means death.  Peter’s timing and means of devotion are misguided, brutal and nearly fatal. 


Then Jesus asks what is a rhetorical question:  “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture Me?  Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. 


The question is crafted to shame and point out the absurdity of what they’re doing.  Using swords and clubs to arrest Jesus like He’s some kind of robber.  The word in Greek has the idea someone who hides in the hills - like a bandit - who pillages travelers.


Jesus has been in the temple every day.  Not hiding in the hills.  They could have arrested Jesus in the temple but they feared the crowds.  What it would mean for the Sanhedrin to answer to the paparazzi for their actions.  So they’re slinking around in the dark with secrecy and signs.


Luke records that as they’re seizing Jesus - Jesus touches Malchus’ ear and heals him. (Luke 22:51)  Imagine - they’ve come to arrest God with swords and clubs by stealth at night.


For the highest legislative and spiritual body of the nation - it’s just ridiculous foolishness.  Shameful and absurd.


Verse 49 - Jesus - in contrast - Jesus says:  But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 


Just last week - on the way to Jerusalem - Jesus had told His disciples:  “...the Son of Man came...to give His life as a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:45b)


The injustice actually validates Jesus’ claim - points to His true identity.  He is the Messiah.  He is the fulfillment of what God spoke through His Old Testament prophets.  This is coming down according to the will of God.  And whatever temptations or struggles Jesus has faced they are resolved.  The time has come.  This is why I have come.  May it be so according to the will of God.


What is in contrast to the deceit of Judas - the misguided devotion of the disciples - even the fear and tactics of the Sanhedrin - in the chaos of the arrest at Gethsemane - what is in contrast to all of that - is the consummate peace of Jesus obediently following the will of God.


[Naked at Gethsemane]  Going on - verse 50.


And they all [the disciples] left Him and fled.

“Fled” translates a Greek word that means that they all... ran away.  Without looking back, they ran - scattered - as Jesus said.  As God said, through the prophet Zechariah.  (Zechariah 13:7)


Mark alone tells us that there was a young man who was also there.


And a young man followed Him [Jesus], within nothing but a linen cloth about his body.  And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.


In the midst of the chaos - the stealth and kissing and torches and swords and clubs and stocks and ear slicing - was a young boy.  Literally - the Greek word indicates that he was a teenager.


A young boy who’s not with the Romans.  He wasn’t representing the Sanhedrin.  He wasn’t with the disciples.


Mark clues us in - telling us that he was wearing only a line cloth about his body.


The word in Greek indicates that it was a very expensive fine linen cloth.  The kind of cloth that was used to wrap dead bodies.  It could have been a bed sheet.  Probably was.  It was most probably something that he threw around himself last minute as he went to follow Jesus and the others down the slope to Gethsemane.


And Mark tells us that when those that had come to arrest Jesus tried to seize the boy - apparently they only grabbed the cloth - which got torn off of him as the boy got free and he ran away naked.

So, who is this teenager and why does Mark alone record this for us?  The most reasonable explanation is that Mark is writing about Mark.  It is a Stan Lee cameo appearance. 


John Mark who was the son of a wealthy women - Mary.  In whose home some have speculated - reasonably - that that was where Jesus had his Passover meal. 


Mark who may have been awakened by Jesus and the disciples leaving and he threw the sheet on to follow and see what was happening.  Maybe he woke up hearing Judas and the troops go by.  Threw the sheet on and went to warn Jesus.


Those are all reasonable explanations.


That Mark inserts himself here is significant - letting us know that he was there.  An eyewitness of what went down.  What’s written here actually took place.


And Mark is admitting his own weakness and fear - his own faithlessness and failure.  Mark also ran.


Processing all that.


Stand for 5 minutes in some busy place - and just watch people - faces tense with worry - lives burdened with the anxiety - the nervousness of our modern society. 


Or just go silent for 5 minutes and listen to the dialogue in your own head.  We live with our fears and we struggle with our own inadequacy. 


Judas failed miserably.  We get that.  Peter and the others - when they finally woke up - they blustered and then ran.  Mark ran.  They could have chosen to stay.  To remain with Jesus.  But they ran. 


We are no different.


It has been said that, “If you have peace when everyone around you is in panic, maybe you don’t understand the problem.” (3)


What we need to be impressed by is that Jesus - way beyond what’s coming down around Him and at Him.  Way beyond what anyone else is understanding here - Jesus understands the problem.  Jesus gets the circumstances and the implications.  Jesus knows where all this is going.  Jesus alone gets it.  And Jesus alone - centered on the will of the Father - Jesus alone is at peace.


Peace that Jesus offers to each of us in our times of chaos, inadequacy, and failure.


Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  (John 14:27).


How often have we missed out on that peace because we’ve been focused everywhere else but on Jesus and what it means for us to heart-level obediently follow the will of God?





1. C.J. Mahaney, Living The Cross Centered Life (New York, NY, Multnomah - Crown Publishing Group, 2006), page 80

2. C.J. Mahaney, Living The Cross Centered Life (New York, NY, Multnomah - Crown Publishing Group, 2006), page 82

3. David L. McKenna, The Communicator’s Commentary:  Mark (Waco, TX, Word Books, 1982), page 298


Series references:

Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).

Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2:  Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.