In The Garden – Matthew 26:31-46

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Faith Bible Church, NY

June 25, 1995

In The Garden

Matthew 26:31-46

Jesus is both 100% God and 100% man. In this morning’s sermon we will see both His deity and humanity clearly displayed. In His deity He compassionately foretells the disciples again what was going to occur and gave them hope by telling them where to meet Him after He was raised from the dead. In His humanity we find Him praying in a manner not seen before and in doing so, He presents a model of prayer to us. Turn to Matthew 26.

Two weeks ago we examined the nature of Passover and how Jesus turned that ancient religious ceremony into the ordinance of Communion or the Lord’s Supper. The elements that had been a reminder of God removing Israel from its bondage in Egypt became a reminder of God breaking the bondage of sin for the believer through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice when He became the final Passover Lamb.

This morning we pick up the narrative after Jesus and the disciples have finished the Passover Meal. Judas has already left to do his dastardly dead of betraying Jesus by letting the Chief Priests know where they can arrest Jesus privately. John records that before they had left the Upper Room where they had held the Passover meal, Jesus had spent quite sometime instructing them. He told them He would be preparing a place for them in heaven. He told them about the coming of the Holy Spirit and the work that He would do. He taught them about the necessity of remaining in close fellowship with Him. He was the vine, they were the branches. He taught them about the importance of working together and loving each other because the world would hate them because of Him. He told them again that He would be crucified in just a little while, and Jesus prayed for them.

Verse 30 tells us that then after singing a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is directly across the Kendron Valley from the Temple. They would have left Jerusalem through the East gate and crossed the valley to the Mount of Olives. By the light of the full moon they would have seen that the brook there would have been running from the Spring rains, but stained crimson from all the lambs slain that day in the temple above them. As they made their way to the Mount of Olives Jesus again reminded them of what was soon to come.


Verse 31, The Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

The disciples were having a hard enough time believing that Jesus was really going to die. John 16 records that only a few minutes before they were still confused about it though Jesus had already told them many times in very plain language. Now they are told that they would all fall away (skandalizw – “stumble”, not apostalizw – apostatize). They would stumble and fall into sin and be inconsistent with their faith, but they were not rejecting their faith. Out of fear they would run away from Jesus, but they would not remain away. And this would happen that very night.

Jesus says this will happen in fulfillment of Zechariah 13:7. The disciples would have never understood this if Jesus had not lifted the veil to reveal its meaning. Jesus would die at the hands of men and they would be responsible for His murder, but it was really the Father Himself that was striking down His own Son. Isaiah 53 tells us that the Lord caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him (vs. 6). The Lord was pleased to crust Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering (vs. 10). Romans 8:32 adding that God “spared not His own son.”

Jesus the shepherd would be struck down, and the sheep would be scattered. But the scattering would not be for long. Jesus added specific instruction about where they were to meet Him after the resurrection. “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

This is another demonstration of Jesus’ omniscience an attribute of His deity. He told them before hand what was going to occur. He would be struck down, they would fall away, He would be raised from the dead and would meet them in Galilee.


We would think Peter would have learned by now to take the Lord at His word and not challenge Him. But Peter makes yet another boastful reply to Jesus.

Verse 33, “But Peter answered and said to Him, “Even through all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.”

This is quite a boastful statement. Both the words and the grammatical structure show that Peter has a swelled head resulting in disbelief, arrogance, and showing disdain for the other disciples. Jesus said that all of them including Peter would fall away. Peter says in effect, “No I’m not, lord. These other guys might do that, but not me.”

The Lord now teaches Peter an important lesson. It is not wise to argue with someone who is omniscient. Jesus tells Peter that his boasting would be in vain. Verse 34, Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a cock crows, you shall deny Me three times.” Jesus demonstrates His deity again and tells Peter what the future would hold for him, and Jesus is very detailed. The reference to the cock crowing was the time that a rooster would normally begin to crow, between 3 and 4 a.m. Notice that Jesus introduces this prediction by saying, “Truly I say to you.” This adds emphasis to what Jesus is saying. Jesus tells Peter that not only is he going to fall away, but that very night long before sunrise he will deny knowing the Lord three times.

Jesus knew Peter’s heart better than Peter, just as God know our hearts better than we do. We can be as boastful as we want about all the great things we are going to do, but it only goes to prove how self-deceived we are when we fail to live up to our claims. Peter continued in his arrogance. Vs 35, “Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.

Peter’s boastfulness rubbed off on the others. Peter refused to believe what Jesus had just told him and the others joined in because it sounded so good to make such a statement of loyalty. I am sure that they were all sincere and meant what they said, but sincerity never excuses sin. Think about it. Jesus had just told them all what they were going to do and they refused to believe it. They thought themselves better, stronger, wiser, more committed and courageous than they actually were. They should have known how weak and fearful they could be since they had demonstrated those characteristics many times before, but their pride would not allow such a thing. Jesus said it. They denied it. Jesus did not correct them again because it would not belong before they would learn the great lesson of humility the hard way. Our reliance must be on God Himself, not in ourselves.


This whole discussion went along as they traveled to the Mount of Olives. In verse 3 6 we find they arrive to the place Jesus had intended and makes preparation to pray. Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me. And He went a little beyond them,a nd fell on His face and prayed…”

Space in Jerusalem was too important to allow for gardens, so many people would plant gardens outside the city. The Mount of Olives contained several such gardens. The garden of Gethsemane was either a place owned by some friend of Jesus or a place open to the public, but probably the former. We find that Jesus would often come to this place (John 18:2) while He was in Jerusalem to get away from the crowds and have quiet place to rest or pray or teach His disciples.

Gethsemane means “oil press”, and it probably was the location of an olive press during the olive season. It would have been surrounded by a stone fence much like is common around here, because the soil there is very rocky too. At the entrance to the Gethsemane, Jesus tells the disciples to sit while He would go farther into the garden to pray. The word pray here is in its intense form. This would not be His normal time of prayer, but an intense time of baring Himself before the Father.

Leaving eight of the disciples at the gate, Jesus then takes proud, boastful Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, farther in to the Garden. Peter, James, and John formed Jesus’ inner circle. They were given special attention by the Lord. They were present when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. They were with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. They are chosen again here to learn an important lesson.

Even as Jesus was entering into the time of His greatest sorrow, He was giving of Himself. Jesus took Peter, James and John along for their benefit, not His own. It would have been great if they would have been there for Jesus benefit. If they would do what Jesus tells them: to remain and keep watch with Him, but Jesus knew what they would do and He wanted them to learn the lesson. They had been boastful about how committed to Jesus they were. They would now learn how weak they really were. Godliness begins with humility because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). They needed to learn that temptation must be faced with a strong confidence in God, not in themselves.

Jesus’ confidence was in the Father. Even at this point when He was distressed and, as verse 38 says, His soul was “deeply grieved, to the point of death.” The word “deeply” here carries the meaning of “surround,” when get our word “periphery” from it. Jesus was encompassed by grief and surrounded by sorrow. So much so that it was “to the point of death.” Just as extreme fear or anger can kill, someone so can sorrow. I can recall the phrase, “grieved to death,” and “grieved himself into the grave” being used. What was the source of Jesus grief? Several things.

First, there was the disappointment over disciples that were proud and stubborn and did not learn their lessons easily. They had refused to believe what He had just told them. In just a few hours they would abandon Him. Peter would verbally deny Him three times.

Next, there was sorrow over the coming reject He would receive by men the next day. Grief over those He had ministered too who would call out for His death.

There was grief over the temptation He was now facing and for which He had come to pray about. This would be the most severe temptation He had ever faced, as the weakness of His humanity would be pushed to the limit in facing an undeserved death. There was sorrow over the effect of sin that brings death on mankind. This grief had already been expressed when Jesus wept just before He raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus knew Lazarus was not going to stay dead, so He did not weep because He was separated by death from His friend. Jesus wept because of sin’s curse on man brings death. Something He would soon face Himself.

Primarily there was anguish over bearing man’s sin and the ramifications of that act. Sin is a reproach to God. Habakkuk 1:13 says, “Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, and Thou can not look on wickedness with favor.” Yet Jesus would have to bear its full reproach in Himself when as 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “He mad Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” And in that time of sin bearing Jesus would have to bear a loneliness we can not comprehend. How can one member of the triune Godhead be forsaken by another, and yet that happens on the cross when Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Jesus who is God in human flesh, the Son who is face to face with the Father, is grieved over the anguish He will face when He bears man’s sin and the Father turns His face away.

Jesus goes on a little father into the garden and then in the intensity of the moment, falls on His face and begins to pray.


“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Jesus always addressed God as his Father, but this is the first occasion in which He heightened that intimacy by calling out, “My Father.” Mark adds that Jesus also used the term “abba” which is equivalent to us saying, “daddy.”

The petition comes out of His humanity. He does not want to go through with this if there is any other way possible to accomplish God’s purpose. There is raw humanity here, the cry of a soul in anguish. The intensity of emotion here is incredible. Luke records that an angel had come to strengthen Him, and again that points to His humanity. God does not need to be strengthened, and an angel could not do it if He did, but man does and an angel can do that. Luke goes on to say that after the angel came that Jesus “being in agony… was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” We have all seen someone’s face turn red, either blushing or more extreme in anger. Under strong emotion the capillaries in the skin swell and the increased blood turns the face red. Under the extreme stress Jesus was under these capillaries burst and the blood mingled with the sweat.

While we identify with emotion and pouring out our hearts, I don’t think anyone else has done that to the degree Jesus has here. I wonder sometimes if this event is what the writer of Hebrews is referring to in Hebrews 12:4 when he says, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” Yet we do identify with His humanity and the cry of His soul for another way even if we have not experienced it to the degree Jesus has.

There is another element here that we do not identify with so easily, and that is Jesus’ control of His will. Jesus’ petition is real. His emotions are displayed, and yet He is in control. He is going to submit Himself to the Father’s will regardless of what it will cost Him personally. We refer this theologically as being impeccable. Even in human frailty, Jesus’ will is so strong and committed to do what is good and right before God that He cannot be conquered by any temptation to evil no matter how great to go against God’s perfect will. No fault can be found in Him. Jesus was perfect submission to the Father.

That is actually the same way for us to overcome any temptation. We do not overcome temptation by “rebuking Satan” or “casting out demons” as some in the modern “spiritual warfare” movement suggest. We do not overcome temptation by gritting our teeth and pushing our way through it. We overcome temptation by submission to the Father’s will. Until we come to the point where we actually believe that His way is best and submit to Him, we will be susceptible to the temptation to do it our own way. Here we find Jesus in His humanity expressing fully the emotion of His heart that He wanted there to be some other way to make atonement for man’s sin. Yet, Jesus fully submits Himself to the Father’s will knowing that His way was best. Jesus wanted the Father’s will, not His own to be done. Are we willing to pray the same way when we face temptation? Or are we more like the disciples?


Verses 40-41 tells us of the sleeping disciples. And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Jesus goes back to where Peter, James, and John were and He finds them sleeping. Jesus specifically addresses Peter who had been so proud and boastful only a few minutes before about all He would do for Christ. Peter who said he was ready to die for Christ could not even stay awake to pray. Jesus command for them to keep watching and praying that they may not enter temptation was another reminder of what they would be facing.

The fact that the disciples were sleeping shows again that they did not believe what Jesus had said about His being crucified and their falling away. If they had believed that, they would have been diligent in their prayers. The apprehension about what was coming would have infused them with emotional energy. Instead, they do not believe Jesus. It is not that they were rejecting what Jesus said so much as not wanting to believe it. Sleep can also be a means of escape from things we do not want to deal with. I am sure all of us can remember times when there were things we had to deal with that were so overwhelming and so unpleasant that we just wanted to put them out of mind. Exhausted from thinking about them, we find refuge in sleep. Luke 22:45 records that they were indeed “sleeping from sorrow.” But this does not excuse them. Jesus reminds them again to watch and pray.


Verse 42, He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done.” Jesus left Peter, James, and John again and went away to pray. Again He petitions the Father concerning the coming ordeal. It was a common Jewish idiom to use a cup and drinking it as a figure of fully undergoing an experience. Again we find that Jesus’ resolve is to drink from that cup if there was no other way. He wanted the Father’s will to be done above all else.

But again we see the resolve of Jesus even when under such extreme emotional turmoil to do the Father’s will rather than what His human nature wants to avoid: The Father’s will, not His own.


The disciples on the other hand are continuing as they had before. Verse 43, “And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.” They do not heed Jesus command to watch and pray with the result that the lateness of the hour and the weariness of the day take their toll, their eyes become heavy and the fall back asleep.


Verse 44 tells us, “And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.” The extent of Jesus’ turmoil over bearing man’s sin is seen in that He prays about it a third time. It is not death that brings about these petitions. Jesus knows that He will be raised on the third day. Death is not what concerns Him. It is the agony that He will go through when He bears man’s sin, and when a separation occurs between the Father and the Son, when He who is Holy is made sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.


Jesus’ prayers were intense and they prepared Him for the hour at hand. Look at verse 45, Then He came to the disciples, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

Jesus does not retreat in the least from what is now facing Him. He has prayed about it. He is assured this is the Father’s will. He is ready and so He goes back to the disciples who are still sleeping. He would have let them continue to rest but He knows that Judas would now be on his way. He wakes the disciples so that they may all go out to meet the traitor, the chief priests and the soldiers that have come to arrest Him. No retreat, only going forward to do the Father’s will. Hebrews 12:2 says that “For the joy set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame.” Jesus knew that the final result of all that He was about to go through would bring joy both to men and to Himself as man’s redeemer.

There is quite a contrast here between Jesus and the disciples. Jesus was going through the much greater trial, yet He triumphed over it. The disciples by comparison would endure very little, yet they failed. The difference was humility resulting in submission to God.

The disciples were proud and boastful in their self-confidence. That opened the door to a lack of vigilance leading to failure to recognize the temptation before them and so they fell. We are subject to the same. We think we can handle things on our own so we slack off in our spiritual duties. We let our Bibles lay on the shelf. Our prayer life degenerates to a quick thank-you before a meal. Personal time with the Lord in meditating on His word and will in our lives is fleeting or non-existent. We sin and forget about it instead of confessing it. We set ourselves up to fall. We short circuit the power God has given us, and we are overcome by sin.

Jesus on the other hand demonstrates the way to overcome sin. He is God and man and He knew the weakness of His humanity. He comes before the Father, prays through the matter, and is strengthened in His resolve to do the Father’s will above all else. Jesus’ confidence is in the Father, not Himself. He is morally and spiritually vigilant rather than indifferent or complacent. He resists temptation and is obedient to God rather than rebel in sin.

If Jesus had the need to pray in such a manner then how much more do we? We will only be victorious in our fight against sin if we follow His example and in believing God rather than our own wisdom seek out and do His will rather than our own. Walking in humility in His Spirit rather than proudly in our flesh.

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