As the Lord spoke and the disciples listened they crossed over the Kidron and came to the garden of Gethsemane. Gethsemane means the “oil-presses.” They were no doubt, among the olive trees, and perhaps there were there presses cut in the rock where the oil was squeezed from the olive berries by rolling them with a heavy stone. It was still night; the Passover moon was full and cast dark shadows among the trees. The disciples were heavy with sleep. Even Peter and James and John were sleeping, but the Lord a little distance from them was in most earnest prayer. How little they could understand the Lord’s great trials!
He knew what was coming so soon: how He would be taken and cruelly treated and crucified; how He must feel only forgiveness and kindness for those who did it. When we are in trouble we say the prayer. The Lord prayed three times, and so earnestly that His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Then He was calm again and strong.
He roused the disciples from their sleep, and as they looked up towards the city they saw coming down the hillside from the gate a band of soldiers with swords and staves and torches. Judas was showing them the way. The disciples would have fought to protect their Master, but He healed a servant of the high priest whom Peter wounded with a sword, and let Himself be bound and led away, up the hill into the city. The disciples fled, but John and Peter followed afar off.
And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him. And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.
And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying,Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely. And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him. And they laid their hands on him, and took him. And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled. And they all forsook him, and fled.—Mark XIV, 32-50.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Gethsemane >> Oil press; the oil press is associated with a state of severe temptation, in which there was a crushing and laying down of natural life and a bringing forth of the pure oil of the Divine love
A garden >> Suggests the laying down of life, that a higher life may arise
The Lord prayed three times, while the disciples slept >> The extremity of the trial into which the disciples could not enter with Him
Sleep of the disciples >> Dullness and indifference to the deep things of spiritual life
“Sleep on now, and take your rest,” >> The peaceful trust which we may have in the protecting power gained in the Lord’s victories; we need not know the depth of evil that He saves us from.
A kiss >> A token of love
The kiss of Judas >> The token of love for the sake of selfish gain
The Lord prayed that “the cup” might pass from Him >> He prayed that the experience of temptation may pass
The night and darkness in which the trial in Gethsemane and the betrayal of the Lord took place >> State of spiritual darkness
The lanterns and torches in the hands of those who came to take the Lord >> The false thoughts which lead to the doing of evil, even to betraying and fighting against the Lord
The weapons in the hands of Judas’ men >> The false thoughts and denials with which they accuse and argue against the Lord
The sword in Peter’s hand >> The truth which exposes and condemns the wickedness of those who deny and betray the Lord
The Lord tells Peter to put up his sword >> The Lord does not condemn or compel by force of reasoning even those who are against Him; this would destroy their power to listen to Him willingly and obey Him freely
The cutting off of the servant’s ear >> Violence to free obedience
Lord rebuked Peter and healed the wound >> The sword of truth is a right thing to have, but we must be careful that we do not use it to condemn harshly, and to take away the willingness of men to hear and to obey
THE LAYING DOWN THE LIFE.
BUT the time was come. They knew not what was meant by laying down the selflife to live from God. He alone knew. He alone must overcome the accumulated love of self of the whole human race, resisting in Him the desire for the Divine life. He must meet it and overcome it, for Himself and for men, and be Himself the Divine Presence with them, or men would never know that such a change was possible. Except for Him it would neither be possible nor conceivable. But after it was accomplished in Him, He said that He would be with them again on the plane of good conduct, where the work must begin in them.
With sincerity, and all unconscious of the self that is in it, the first natural Christian faith believes that it will be equal to any test of disciple ship. The Lord knows what is within, and what it must pass through, for He Himself has experienced it.
To the place of the oil-press He went, where the olives were crushed that the pure oil might flow freely. For so would He yield His human thought and effort and desire, that the love of God for men might flow forth from Him without limitation or impediment.
All the disciples went with Him to the garden; three went with Him a little further, even into the state of sorrow and heaviness ; but He went alone a little further still, and in lowliest prostration, the flesh shrinking and sweating great drops of blood under the conflict, He prayed three times that if the cup might not pass except He drank it, the Father’s will might still be done. All this was densely obscure to the disciples. It was deep beyond their knowledge. They could give no help. But the conflict paused, and He told them they could rest. He was quiet, no longer struggling, but with a Divine majesty of self-submission ready to lay down the life of self.
Judas is here the love of gain to self from the holy good and truth of the Divine in the Lord. The chief priests are the same in the Jewish Church ; the elders are the doctrines of evil life agreeing therewith ; the great multitude are the subordinate evil loves and teachings ; the swords and staves are their principles of falsity and evil. The kiss is the token of recognition and affection, here for advantage to self. The defence with the sword is by the faith which has so much of self in it that it presently would deny the Lord. And because it expresses the spirit of condemnation and not the love of saving, itself is condemned. The Lord would not pray that the angels might protect Him, or the Divine Omnipotence. He would fulfil the Scriptures, and Himself lay down the life of self, that in Him the Divine love of saving might dwell with men in fulness.
He seemed to them a thief because He was taking from them the kingdom they loved. Truly they themselves were thieves and robbers, in taking the holy things of God to themselves. They had made the Father’s house a den of thieves ; but He sat daily there, teaching of the Heavenly Father, and they could not condemn Him, because the common people loved it. To them it was the Bread of Life.
But now the love of self was to have its way, and He was to meet it by laying down absolutely His own love of self. He was going too deep for the disciples to follow. He alone knew the meaning of the Scriptures of the prophets. He must fulfil it alone. Afterward from afar off men would slowly follow Him.
False witnesses accused Him of saying,” I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.” It was false because it was they who had destroyed the truth of God, and would destroy the temple of His body. His part was to restore the Divine Truth, and to build the Divine Human which should be the Tabernacle of God with men for ever.
Even so no evil could be shown in the charge; but it suggested the real issue between them that their pride of holiness must give place to the Father’s Presence in Him. This issue the high priest now was determined to force; and he said: “I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” “Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said; nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” This was blasphemy to them, for it was the destruction of their claim to be the church of God.
In following so closely the application to the Jewish Church, we nevertheless may have in mind the deeper application to the tendency of human nature to appropriate to self the holy good and the holy truth of the Divine Presence in the Lord. This tendency He Himself was meeting at that very time, and overcoming by the total surrender of the self-life, for no possible gain to self, present or future, but for the Divine end of saving men.
The patient submission to buffeting and spitting, is significant of the humiliation of the self, and the prevalence of the Divine love of saving.
The faith of the Christian Church was not equal to this strain. The apostles through all their lives never lost the hope and expectation of sitting upon thrones in heaven, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The church has never met and overcome the tendency to use holy good and holy truth for advantage to self ; but on the contrary has been overcome and destroyed by it.
That this would be so, was represented by Peter’s denial of the Lord. The discernment of this root of evil, the repentance of the church, and the hope of a deeper, more humble acknowledgment of the Lord, are represented by the bitter weeping. (Author: John Worchester, 1898. Matthew’s Gospel.)
Pictures: James Tissot —-Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum