Matthew 26:36-46 Part 2


In the Gospel of John we find a number of things that Jesus said which are generally accepted as coming in between the institution of the New Covenant meal and Gethsemane.  Included in those things is the soon to come suffering, affliction and persecution of the disciples (and the rest of the Church), the coming and work of Holy Spirit and Jesus’ high priestly prayer (the prayer of intercession).

And in His prayer Jesus asks the Father to “keep” these whom He has kept while He was with them (and those who would come after them).

And it is against that backdrop of security in the risen Christ (by the grace of God) that we now find our Lord exhorting His disciples to “watch” and pray.  But because of the disabling inabilities of this depraved fleshly existence. The disciples slept instead.  And they were completely entrapped in the suffering and death of Christ – disowning Him… denying they even knew Him.  And so Jesus Christ died “isolated” as was prophesied; the disciples (and His other followers… the remnant) being scattered like sheep.

Along with some exhortations concerning a few of the “entrapments” of today’s world order, that was about all we had time for last Lord’s Day.

So today we return to the text itself for a closer look at it; and then, with some help from those who have come before us, we’ll try to understand something of the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ in Gethsemane.  That presents a formidable and awesome task for us.

Jesus and His eleven disciples have made their way from the upper room of the house, through the city, out the gate and down the side of Mt. Zion, crossing the brook Kedron in the valley; and then they started up the side of the Mount of Olives.  And, as was His practice, Jesus turned off to the side and entered into a grove of ancient olive trees.  And, as the name of this area implies, all the devices needed for the extracting of oil from the olives were probably located here at one location or another.

As verse thirty-six says,


“Then Jesus comes with them into an area called Gethsemane.”


In the whole history of the Church, the very name of this place, because of what happened here, has been spoken with reverence.  People have approached this passage with awe and fear… and rightly so.  Gethsemane is a word that represents a mighty event; and the very sound of the word is evocative.  And as long as we don’t cross over that line into the pagan “musterion” (mysterious), we would be stone cold in our hearts if we weren’t “shaken” by what is revealed here.

Therefore the word “Gethsemane” is revered in the Christian community.  And I don’t think it accidental that the meaning of the word – “oil press” – and its necessary function in the procurement of the oil, is in some ways indicative of that which is brought to bear upon our Lord in this place.

But upon entering this area, as the text implies, Jesus probably has a certain “spot” in the grove that He’s been in before and chosen as most suitable to His needs.  But first He tells His disciples to


“stay here; when I go forth there I will pray.”


But He only leaves eight of them there, as verse thirty-seven says (probably at an accessible entrance on the fringe of the grove).  But He takes three of them (Peter, James and John) and begins walking further into the trees.  Why He separated them, and why He separated them like this, is open only to speculation.  Maybe the “two or three witnesses” to what is about to occur is all that He wishes to be with Him… I don’t know.

But then, having taken those three, Matthew says,


“He began to be vexed and to sorrow.”


I hope I’ve chosen these two English words appropriately… we’ll be coming back to them later; and maybe we’ll be able to have some insight into them.  One thing is certain:  there are no illustrations that can help us with them.

All we can do is define them, and then proclaim what is happening, and pray that the Spirit of Christ will give us ears to hear and a soft heart… for, as Isaiah says, “He was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief….”

The vexation of Christ.  Here He began to be vexed, pained, afflicted… aggrieved.  And He “sorrowed”.  The vexation is passive; the sorrow is active, and carries with it the idea of “separation”.

Matthew is very careful to say that “He began to be vexed and to sorrow….”  And considering all that Christ has been through, and the fact that He has known from the beginning what was to come upon Him (because He prophesied it Himself to His disciples), why, then, does Matthew say “He began to be vexed and to sorrow”?  What is the source of His vexation and sorrowing, and why is it now just beginning?

And in verse thirty-eight He turns to His three disciples and tells them abut it!


“My soul is exceedingly vexed (or aggrieved) unto death,” He says.


The word “exceedingly vexed” is placed forward in the Greek sentence… intensifying it even more.

And I said before, I’ll have something to say about this later… as much as I can.  But this isn’t related to His “physical” suffering per se, although that may not be excluded.  But there’s much more.  The very “person” … the “self” (that’s what the word psuche means – very often translated “soul”) the Christ of God, Himself, is being intensely vexed unto death.  And it all “begins” at this point of going further into the grove with His three disciples.

We can fear it; and we can wonder at it.  But can we gain knowledge and understanding of it?

He orders His three disciples to stay at a given location further in the grove, and to “be watching” (continuous action) with Him.  And as we heard last Lord’s Day the command to “watch” isn’t for protection against robbers, or looking out for the soldiers to come; but to “be watching” in order to keep themselves from (skandalizo) entrapment!

Our Lord would be watching, and praying; and He would not be entrapped by what was befalling Him.  He would submit – all the way to “abandonment” on the cross.  But His disciples, having been told to “watch”, did not watch.  And they were entrapped in His suffering and death – disowning Him; and they were scattered as sheep.


“Stay.  Remain here and watch with Me,” He said.


“And having gone on a little, (verse thirty-nine) (maybe a few yards away… certainly not out of earshot of Peter and James and John), He fell on His face praying.”


The writer to the Hebrews, in chapter five, fills this out some for us by saying that Jesus was offering prayer, with strong crying and tears, unto Him Who was able to save Him from death.


“And though He were a Son,” the writer says, “yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And being perfected He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them who obey Him….”


So, (as that writer expands this scene for us) within the hearing of His disciples, Jesus, terribly aggrieved, threw Himself face down upon the ground and began to cry loudly and to pray unto the Father.

Consider the contrast here for a moment… the contrast in His demeanor.  Less than an hour before He had been as He always was… He was before His disciples, serving as “Head” of His house at Passover; instituting the New Covenant Meal; disciplined, controlled, dignified; leading, exhorting, confronting, teaching, instructing; eating, singing, praying….

But take a close look now.  The contrast is remarkable.  The disciples had never before seen Him this way.  He was before the Father – in the sense in which the prophet prophesies in Psalm twenty-two.  He says, in part:


“Our fathers trusted in Thee.  They trusted, and Thou didst deliver them.  They cried unto Thee, and were delivered; they trusted in Thee, and were not shamed.  But I, I am a worm, and no man….”


Why?  What is it that has begun?  What has caused this contrast?

“My Father,” He says.  Before, He has always said, simply, “Father”.  And He has taught His disciples to pray, “our Father”.  Now, for the first time, He says “My Father”.  Why?  What difference has occurred?  What changes are there?

The explanations run all the way across the spectrum.  But mostly they have to do with the “human” nature of Christ as opposed to His “divine” nature!  And the different arguments and remarks turn on the suffering of Christ in His “human” nature only!  But it is unfathomable that anyone might argue that way!

All suppositions of human nature versus divine nature have to be destroyed.  This is not just His supposed human nature in suffering here… as if the fear and anguish of physical and emotional torture have vexed Him to this degree!  If our Lord Jesus Christ was aggrieved to such a state as we see Him here because of the suffering of His human nature only, then the martyrs who have died since then with serenity offer Him a very unfavorable comparison.

So the response to those kinds of explanations must be “No! No way!”  This is not just the human son in a condition of extreme vexation over what is soon to come; but this is God the Son being “aggrieved” unto death!  Again, we’ll try our best later to approach these things.

Now, just one word about what we see here in our Lord Jesus Christ before the Father.  There is no hint of insubordination in Him, and His position is, as the psalmist says, as a “worm” of a man on the ground; there is spontaneous loud crying and tears; and the words which come out of His mouth glorify the Person and Will of the Father (we’ll look at those in a minute).

But I wonder sometimes at the pride and arrogance and insubordination of men and women and children who, considering the explicit pattern of our Lord before His Father, refuse to subjugate themselves and cast themselves before Him and beg for mercy as His servants… preferring a more “genteel” or “restrained” petition in time of need.  But if our prideful independence constrains us from begging for mercy at the feet of Almighty God, then there must be a defiant rebel in there who won’t admit to his place.

Now.  Here’s what Jesus says to God the Father (second half, verse thirty-nine):


“If it is possible” (or, if it can be), pass this cup from Me; nevertheless not as I will but as You.”


I’ll leave the reference to “the cup” until later; but the point needs to be made that there is no hint of “turning” or “indecision” or “choice” in these words.  The focus of His statement isn’t the possibility of His being set free from that which is befalling Him; but it is Jesus’ placing Himself at the complete disposal of His Father!  He leaves it in His Father’s hands… if there were to be any other way, the Father would certainly avail Himself of it!  If such a possibility existed, His Father would do it.

But, it had already begun.

“Nevertheless”, He says… however desperate He is to avoid this abhorrent thing that has “begun”, it is the will of the Father.  And the will of His Father is unquestionable.  “Not My will, but Yours.”

In verse forty He then comes back to the disciples and finds them sleeping.  And He says to Peter (and this is in the plural, so it’s for all of them),


“So were you (plural) not able to watch with Me one hour?”


The implication is, of course, that the disciples will be entrapped in His suffering and death… just as He told Peter (less than an hour ago).  Peter and the others had committed to dying with Jesus if need be… only a short time before!  And yet they can’t watch and pray in order to “keep” themselves from entrapment!

So He continues, verse forty-one,


“Be watching and praying that you might not enter into ‘proving’.”


That word has to do with the Refiner’s fire and burning away the “dross”.  It’s the fire of testing and “proving”.  Will one become snared and trapped during proving or will he remain faithful and obedient as our Lord does?  “Watch, and pray,” he says.  During proving there is, on the one hand, a “ready” or “willing” spirit; but, on the other hand, there is “helpless” flesh.  So “Be watching and praying that you might not enter into ‘proving’.”

So then Jesus goes back to the same spot, and, as Mark’s Gospel says, He prayed essentially the same prayer.  Matthew does record a few differences… especially Jesus mentioning “drinking” the cup.  Once again, that will be saved for later, because we still have to go back and answer, as best we can, all those questions we asked.  And “the cup”, and His “drinking the cup”, and the fact that what has “begun” won’t pass except He drink it, will all have to wait.

The second time He comes back to the disciples He finds them asleep once again.  This time He says nothing to them, which is indicative of what Matthew writes in verse forty-three.  Matthew says,


“for there were of them those whose eyes had been made heavy.”


That last word is a Greek participle written in the perfect tense and the passive voice.  Their eyes had been made heavy; and for that reason they were still in a state of sleep!  So Jesus said nothing to them; He just recognized it for what it was, and turned to watch and pray the third time… His isolation being made complete!

So He goes back to His spot for the third time in full compliance to His Father’s will, and He prays essentially the same prayer again, according to verse forty-four:


“Not as I will, but as You.”


And having prayed the third time (and there’s a pattern here, isn’t there?  Remember that Paul prayed three times for the removal of the “thorn in his flesh”.) but having finished the third prayer unto His Father, He now goes back to the sleeping disciples and awakens them with these “knowing” words:


“Do you sleep now and rest yourselves?”


He knows that that which has “begun” is continuing, and that there are to be none at His side.  All will disown Him and depart from Him and be scattered; and He will be isolated and alone to be tortured and murdered at the hands of His enemies.


The “hour has neared” He says (perfect tense… it has been coming, and now it is here), and the Son of Man is delivered (present tense, passive voice… it is happening right now) into sinner’s hands.”


And it’s preceded with that very important little word “lo” which Matthew always uses in critical prophetic fulfillment.


“Arouse yourselves” He says to the sleepy disciples, “let’s be going.  Lo, the one delivering Me has neared” (perfect tense – he has been in process of coming, and now he is here).


Judas is here, and he is delivering Jesus Christ into sinner’s hands.

It “began”; and it continues.  But now we see Jesus’ bold commands to His disciples, and His willful placing Himself in the hands of those who would kill Him.  And the questions still remain:  what is it that has “begun”?  “He began to be vexed and to sorrow.”  Next Lord’s Day the “source” and “reason” for His extreme “vexation “even unto death”.