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Mark XXV: Dark Gethsemane - Mark 14:26-52

As we leave the upper room for the Garden of Gethsemane on Mount of Olives, Jesus tells his disciples that they will all fall way, and despite their protests, today’s text records failure after failure, making the mood of this passage one of darkness, sadness, and despair.

Working quickly through the text, we see the disciples respond to Jesus with the pride that goes before falling away in vv. 29-31. We see Jesus’ soul in utter distress in vv. 32-36. We see a triple display of the disciples’ weakness in vv. 37-42, set against the backdrop of Jesus’ Abba Father saying no to His beloved Son’s desperate request. Next, Jesus’ prophecy is fulfilled as Judas arrives to betray his teacher with a kiss in vv. 43-49, and then comes the final failure in vv. 50-52 as the disciples all flee away, with one stark example of what has happened spiritually to all of them: their faith has been stripped away by sin, and so they flee from the presence of God naked and ashamed. There is no glory here, no noble last stand, only futile gestures, broken promises, and utter shame, leaving Jesus alone, betrayed, abandoned, arrested, and on His way to death.

When you look to Jesus, though, there is hope to be seen, even in the darkness of Gethsemane. There is a way to remain faithful to God even in the middle of betrayal and abandonment and evil, which Jesus demonstrates through prayer and submission to God’s will.

In His sorrow, Jesus calls out to His Abba Father. The trouble doesn’t lead Him to doubt His relationship to God, it causes Him to depend on that relationship. Jesus draws near with a son’s confidence in the love of His Father, and He fully expresses the desires of His heart; He tells God what He wants in His humanity. God did not make man for suffering and judgment and death, and it is good and right to battle against those things in prayer. But when Jesus presents His desires to God, He also submits those desires to God. What Jesus in His human weakness desired was good; what God willed in His perfect wisdom was better. In this prayer Jesus shows us a heart that both worships the God who is able and submits to the God who knows best.

Through this prayer, Jesus is strengthened to rise up and face His betrayer and the crowd he brings with him. When the disciples see that He is going along with the arrest, they scatter like sheep, just as Jesus had foretold. But in stark contrast, the final words that Jesus speaks in Gethsemane – “Let the Scriptures be fulfilled” – perfectly capture His faithfulness to the will of His Abba Father. Jesus does not run or fight, even though He could have successfully done either. Instead, Jesus allows Himself to be taken, so that God’s Word might be kept and God’s will might be done. Although everyone else falls away, Jesus stands firm and does not shrink back. But His faithfulness comes at a terrible cost: Jesus is betrayed into the hands of sinners, and He goes to die alone.

There is not much light in the darkness of Gethsemane, but there is one glimmer of hope. When Jesus predicted this falling away back in v. 27, He followed it up in v. 28 with the promise that after He was raised up, He would go before His disciples to Galilee. It’s easy to read right over it, but it really is quite shocking: He predicts their running away and He promises to reunite with them!

What an encouragement this is for sinners like us! When you struggle to confess your sins to God, when you get caught up protesting your innocence and making grand promises of obedience only to fall flat on your face, remember this: Jesus already knows about your failures, and He stands ready to forgive you. This means that you do not need to pretend that you are better than you are. Jesus knows that you are weak, that you would rather sleep than pray, that you are terrified of death. He knows this, and that’s why He held fast to His Father’s will and prepared to drink the Cup for you, to do for you what you could never do for yourself.

Anybody else would have given up on such faithless friends, but Jesus will never leave you or forsake you. Don’t use His faithfulness as an excuse for your failings, but don’t give in to despair and think that your failings can overcome His faithfulness! The one who endured Gethsemane for you will not give up on you, so take heart and find hope even here in the darkness. Disciples of Jesus are all great sinners who often fall away, but you have an even greater Savior who remained perfectly faithful to His Father’s will, and this great Savior will never let you go.

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 by CJ Bowen