Series: The Week That Changed the World
Title: The Place of Crushing
It is a transliteration of an Aramaic word – “Gat-Shemanim”. Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus and first-century Jews. The word means oil press or a place of crushing. This is why the garden where the Agony of Jesus took place is called Gethsemane.
Welcome to HT, I’m CM sharing the GS that’s all about Jesus in a series on “The Week That Changed The World” and this program that’s called “The Place of Crushing”. We know the general area where Jesus prayed and where Judas betrayed his Lord with kiss. If only the olive trees could speak? A few weeks ago at the base of the Mount of Olives, I went to this stand of trees known as Gethsemane. Now, there’s a modern church and a well-kept garden, and vendors selling everything from 10 postcards for a dollar to batteries for your camera. Too many people. But across a narrow road, part of the original road that led down the Mount, across the Kidron Valley and up the steps you can still walk to the beginning torture at the chief priest’s house, there is a little walled garden – not quite an acre, but away from crowds. This was also part of the garden. And among these olive trees, some of which date back to the night that Jesus was betrayed is where I like to take people to share what our Lord prayed, to stay awake and pray ourselves and take in this place of crushing, this former area with an olive press, this Garden of Gat-Shemanim – Gethsemane.
The unnatural position made every movement painful. The lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with unrelenting anguish. The wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened. The arteries -- especially at the head and stomach -- became swollen with blood. And while each type of misery gradually increased, there was added to them a burning and raging thirst. Now death, as we all know, is the final enemy; at its approach man usually shudders. But all this physical suffering put together made the prospect of death itself seem like a delicious and exquisite release.
As you probably realize, I am talking about crucifixion.
In Matthew 26, the Last Supper is eaten, Jesus and His disciples head over to the Garden of Gethsemane. He knows what horrors await Him on the cross. He knows how cruel death by crucifixion is. After all, crosses were common sights in the Roman world. In biblical times most people witnessed this most horrible of deaths. So Jesus, knowing what crucifixion is like, does not look forward to it. The Bible says "he began to be sorrowful and troubled" (vs 37). He said to His disciples, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" (vs 38). Though Jesus hopes in God, He knows He soon will be faced with unbelievable pain and suffering. Psalm 22, 42, 43 and a host of others scriptures will be fulfilled in a matter of hours. There is more to the cross than physical pain and suffering – much, much more. There is also spiritual pain and suffering. In fact, it is fair to say that the spiritual pain and suffering is far greater, far more intense, far more terrifying than the physical pain and suffering. Jesus knows this too. The cup shows up twice in a short period of time – at the Passover meal that becomes the last supper and the cup is mentioned in this tormented prayer in the Garden. Listen to the words from Matthew 26:
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[b] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’[c]
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
What is this "cup" that Jesus is praying about? It is the cup of judgment that appears often in the Old Testament. For instance, the psalmist says,
In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs. (Ps 75:8) Or, consider the words of Jeremiah the prophet: (Jer 25:15-16) This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. (16) When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them."
We all know of the Greek philosopher Socrates. He was found guilty of neglecting the gods and of corrupting the morals of Athens' youth. He was sentenced to die by drinking a cup of poison, a cup of hemlock. In the same way, the wicked of the earth are sentenced to die by drinking from the one true Living God's cup of wrath. The cup of wrath means judgment upon sin, it means rejection by God, and someday it means hell fire.
Jesus is going to be drinking from God's cup of wrath. This means He will experience God's judgment upon sin. He will be rejected by God. He will experience the torments of hell-fire. Remember the three hours of darkness at midday? Remember the cry from the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" During those three hours Jesus experienced all the wrath and anger of God against the sin of the entire human race. During those three hours Jesus drank deeply from God's cup of wrath. No wonder Jesus is sorrowful and troubled.
Do you sense what is happening here? Jesus is struggling to be obedient. Jesus is struggling to do the will of God. Jesus is facing temptation again.
In previous times it was Satan who battled Jesus directly. In previous times it was the Devil himself who tempted Jesus. Think of Satan in the wilderness tempting Jesus after the Christ fasted for 40 days. Think of Satan tempting Jesus through the words of Peter,
(Mt 16:21-22) "Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you! You shall never suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers! You shall never be killed by them!"
Think of Satan tempting Jesus through the betrayal of Judas.
Jesus is facing temptation again. But this time Satan is not in sight at all. Because this time Jesus is tempted through His own flesh and blood. This time Jesus battles with His own weakness as a man.
Jesus Himself identifies this weakness when He says, "The spirit is willing, but the body is weak". Jesus knows what He is supposed to do so we are saved from our sins. Jesus knows He is supposed to go the way of the cross and the grave. Jesus knows He is supposed to suffer and die. Jesus even wants to do this in His spirit. In His spirit Jesus wants to be obedient to God and the plan of God. His spirit is willing. No problem there.
But the body, the flesh, is weak. Little children are attracted to food cooking on a stove. But a young child touches a hot pan only once and quickly learns to never touch again. Most children want to play with fire. But they only need to be burned once to learn they don't ever want to do that again. All of us, Christ included, instinctively want to avoid pain. None of us, Christ included, willingly embrace death.
So Jesus was torn: His spirit is willing to suffer and die but His body wants to avoid pain and suffering. His spirit is willing to submit to God's plan for our salvation but His body recoils from what awaits Him. "The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
I don't know about you, but my heart is in pain for the Lord Jesus whenever I read about His struggle for obedience in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was wrestling with the will of God. He was wrestling so hard that His sweat was like great drops of blood falling to the ground. He was "sorrowful and troubled."
I feel awful for the Lord and yet I also am glad. I am glad because Jesus said "No" to temptation. I am glad because Jesus remained the righteous mediator who is able to make us right with God. Because Jesus resisted temptation in the Garden, He went the way of the cross and the grave and I am saved from my sins.
I am also glad when I see Jesus in the Garden, because I get another glimpse of a Jesus Who is just like you and me. In the Garden, I see a Jesus Who has been tempted in every way, just as we are. In the Garden, I see a high priest who is more than able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses. It is the book of Hebrews that explains the significance of this for you and me: Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Hebrews 4:16: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Jesus knows what it is to be human. He knows our struggles. He understands our trials. He experienced first-hand that the spirit was willing to be obedient to the Lord God but the flesh keeps getting in the way. So He not only is able to help us but even wants to help us when we are tempted.
"The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Jesus is facing temptation. Jesus does battle with His own flesh and blood. Jesus battles with His own weakness as a man.
Jesus sees Judas and a large crowd armed with swords and clubs. He knows they have come to arrest Him. Yet, He meets them with a majestic confidence. He has triumphed over His struggle to be obedient.
Scripture identifies three weapons used by Jesus in His struggle to be obedient: submission, prayer, and friendship.
Jesus' first weapon is submission – submission to the will of God. Jesus' flesh does not want to suffer and die. "Yet," prays Jesus, "not as I will, but as you will" (vs 39).
From Jesus' agony and self-surrender, we learn that submission means much more than shrugging our shoulders and saying, "If I can't have it my way, let God have it His way."
"Not as I will, but as you will" is not a prayer of resignation; it is a prayer for submission. Resignation is "Yes" with a sigh and a moan. Rebellion is "No" with a shout. But submission is an "Amen!" Submission means accepting the present – not as it is mapped out in our minds but rather as it is mapped out in God's plan. Looking at Gethsemane, we learn that submission means we should be so united with God's holy purpose that we are prepared to do His will at any cost.
To be like Jesus, to avoid falling when tempted, we submit to the will of God. We become so submissive to God's holy purpose that when we are faced with temptation we are prepared to do His will at any cost.
Jesus' second weapon in His battle for obedience is prayer. Three times Jesus prays to God. Three times Jesus struggles with God in prayer. The reason is simple: unless Jesus is steeled with prayer, He will take the easy way instead of the obedient way.
What is true for Jesus is also true for us. Jesus says, "Watch and pray so you will not fall into temptation." Unless we watch and pray we will follow a life of sin instead of a life of obedience.
Do you remember what happened in December 1984? Doubled over and choking, people staggered to hospitals by the thousands, crying for help and refuge from a colorless cloud of gas that turned Bhopal, India into a tomb. Several thousand died in the accident at the Union Carbide plant, many never fully aware of what hit them.
No enemy is harder to fight than an invisible one. Believers also face an unseen adversary – Satan. He uses the weakness of our flesh to lead us into temptation and sin. Unless we watch and pray we, like the people of Bhopal, will also fall. Pray like Jesus prayed. Pray so that you pick the obedient way rather than the easy way.
Jesus' third weapon in His battle is friendship. You know Jesus had three disciples among the twelve – Peter, James, and John – to whom He became especially close. Strange as it may sound, Jesus needed the fellowship of others.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus wants and needs His three closest friends to be with Him – to help Him through His darkest hour. He wants them to support and encourage Him. He wants them to pray for Him. He wants them to keep watch with Him.
I'm afraid, though, that Jesus' three friends are not much help. Three times He returns and finds them sleeping. The three friends should be able to stay awake. After all, it is customary to stay awake late on the Passover night. They had probably stayed up late on most other Passovers all their lives. They were Jews. They knew the drill. But this time they don't. They fall asleep instead of watching and praying.
There’s an irony here. It is Jesus Who is struggling with the weakness of the flesh; yet, His spirit wins out over His flesh. On the other hand, the disciples, who are there to help Him in His struggle, are the ones whose flesh win out over their spirit.
If Jesus – Almighty God, without sin, perfect in every way, knowing all things – needs the fellowship of His companions in His struggle to be obedient we certainly do too.
The Bible commands and encourages us to seek fellowship with each other so we can grow and develop and mature as believers. The Bible commands and encourages Christian fellowship so we can support each other in our struggle for obedience. Do you have that this Easter week?
Jesus is facing temptation. Jesus does battle with His own flesh and blood. Jesus battles with His own weakness as a man. Using the weapons of submission, prayer, and friendship, Jesus triumphs over this temptation. We see that Jesus continues to follow the way of the cross and the grave, the way of suffering and death.
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