The Hour Has Come
A sermon on Mark 14:26-52 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA 8/6/00
Why did Jesus allow himself to be arrested, tried, condemned, and executed? If He is God, and thus able to do whatever He desires, why did Jesus choose to go to the cross?
Last week, as we considered the first 25 verses of Mark 14, we saw Jesus not as the victim of circumstances, but as the one in control. He understands what the chief priests, Judas, and Mary of Bethany are doing; He arranges the details for his last supper in the upper room; He knows Judas is going to betray him, and permits Judas to fulfill that plan; He institutes the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, so that we might have this wonderful picture of the new covenant, of our feeding on Jesus, and thus having His life within us.
Today we consider verses 26 to 52 of this chapter, which includes Mark’s account of Jesus’ struggles in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the garden, Jesus himself asks: “Is there any other way? Is this really necessary?” And then Jesus, still in control, allows himself to be arrested.
Jesus is in control. He strongly desires not to go through the agony ahead of Him. But He chooses to do so. Why?
Hebrews 12:2 answers this question in part:
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame
“For the joy set before him.” Jesus went to the cross, because doing so gave Him great joy. That is interesting – but in a sense, it just pushes the question back a level. We know that Jesus dreaded going to the cross, from the accounts of what happened in the garden. What gave Him so much joy that he despised the shame and suffering of the cross?
You might be thinking, “He was looking forward to the joy of sitting at the right hand of God the Father – that’s the next phrase in Hebrews 12:2.” But if that were the only joy set before Him, why did He ever leave heaven and become a man? Remember, Jesus knew all along that he had come to die. At the time of the incarnation, Jesus knew He would become a man and die on the cross. So while the prospect of returning to His rightful place at God’s right hand undoubtedly gave Jesus joy, this could not be the only joy set. So what other joy was set before Jesus as He went to the cross?
I’m not going to answer that question now. Think about it; ponder it as we look at the first part of this passage. Ask yourself: What was the primary motivation for Jesus choosing the way of the cross? And then ask yourself: Is this my primary motivation also?
We’ll consider this passage in three parts:
Verses 26-31: The Choice of the Disciples
Verses 32-42: The Choice of Jesus (here we’ll answer the question about the joy set before him)
Verses 43-52: Choices Have Consequences
26 And after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus *said to them, "You will all fall away, because it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP SHALL BE SCATTERED.’ 28 "But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee." 29 But Peter said to Him, "Even though all may fall away, yet I will not." 30 And Jesus *said to him, "Truly I say to you, that you yourself this very night, before a cock crows twice, shall three times deny Me." 31 But Peter kept saying insistently, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" And they all were saying the same thing, too.
Recall Jesus has just instituted the Lord’s Supper, picturing our feeding on him, getting life from him, our depending upon His life within us, our valuing Him above all else. He also has prophesied that one of the Twelve would betray Him, and each one responds, “Is it I?” Most still do not know who the betrayer is; though Judas has left the group, John tells us some of the disciples think Judas had gone out to buy food for the next day’s feast, or to give something to the poor.
So in the first part of the evening, Jesus has caused the disciples to question their loyalty to Him, while at same time giving them this picture of deep intimacy with Him.
But now Jesus questions their loyalty even more deeply: One of the Twelve will betray Him, but all of the twelve will desert him. As with the betrayal, Jesus says this is prophesied in Scripture, planned by God long ago – even though they are responsible and accountable.
Did you notice what else Jesus said? “After I am raised I will go ahead of you into Galilee” Every time He prophesies about His death, He also prophesies about the resurrection; every time he mentions the event that brings despair, he mentions the event that brings hope. Jesus says: “You will be scattered, and I will die: but I will arise, and I will gather you to myself, in Galilee.” But since the disciples don’t really believe His prophesy about His death, they don’t hear the message of hope. We see this after his death: there is no evidence that they are looking forward to the resurrection. And here, they focus not on the good news, but on what they understand to be an accusation: they are disloyal, weak; they are deserters.
This is too much. They are thinking, “We are the inner circle; we’ve confessed Jesus as Savior and Messiah. Time and again people have fallen away from following Jesus, but we have stuck with him through good times and bad. There is no way we would desert Jesus now!”
So Peter speaks out, in a sense for the whole group, even while he exalts himself above the others: “All these other guys might desert you, but not me!” Jesus responds: “You’re stronger than the rest, Peter? I tell you the truth: this very night you will not only desert me but also deny that you even know me. That’s how strong you are.”
Peter cannot believe that Jesus says this: “You’re wrong! You don’t know me! I’m loyal! I’m strong! I’m your most faithful follower! Just watch me! I’ll fight to the death! Deny you? Never!” And the other disciples think and say the same.
Have you ever promised something, being completely confident you could carry out the promise, and then blown it?
Many of us have done that on important matters; let me tell you a story, though, about a minor issue. I was about fourteen, vacationing with my family. We were leaving our hotel, in transit to another location, when my father saw something he wanted to photograph. He removed the telephoto lens from the camera, and gave it to me, saying, “Here, Coty, hold this lens. Be very careful with it; your arms are pretty full.” I assured him I could hold the lens; then about 10 seconds after he gave it to me I dropped it. I just dropped it. He looked at me, unbelieving. I thought I held the lens securely, but I blew it.
What are disciples depending on? Why are they so confident? Because of God’s promises? Because of the life of Jesus within them as represented by the cup they drank? No. Their confidence is in the their own power. The biblical expression for this is “confidence in the flesh.” Confidence in my abilities, my goodness, my will. So this is the choice of the disciples: To depend on the flesh.
We’ll see the result of that choice shortly: The passage, though, first turns to Jesus’ choice.
32 ¶ And they *came to a place named Gethsemane; and He *said to His disciples, "Sit here until I have prayed." 33 And He *took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He *said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch." 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground, and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt."
37 And He *came and *found them sleeping, and *said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 "Keep watching and praying, that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." 39 And again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. 41 And He *came the third time, and *said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 "Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!"
The disciples go to the Mount of Olives, a hill outside the walls of Jerusalem, overlooking the city. This evidently is one of Jesus’ favorite places. Jesus leads them to Gethsemane, which means “olive press,” a place where olives were crushed until every last drop of oil was squeezed from them. Jesus leaves eight of the disciples at the garden entrance, taking Peter, James, John with him – and He shares with these three intimate friends His deep perplexity.
Do you remember Jesus’ temptation at the beginning of His ministry? Satan tempts Jesus to:
And Luke concludes his account of the temptation with these words : Satan “departed from Him until an opportune time.”
This is the last and greatest of those opportune times. Satan tempts him: “Avoid the cross! Think of the physical pain! Think of the mocking, the disgrace, the shame!”
But what Jesus had to go through is much worse than physical pain and shame. As terrible as those would be, that type of pain and suffering has been shared by many others in human history. But what Jesus faced was much worse. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says this: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.” To be sin! Jesus on the cross takes all the punishment required for every sin ever committed by you and me and all believers through the centuries! So Satan tempts Jesus: “Think of God’s hatred for that sin! God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. He will hate you! You will be separated from Him! You have to bear all that!”
Now, even early in His ministry Jesus knew what kind of death He would suffer, and that He would die for the sins of the world (John 3). Nevertheless, when faced with the actual event, He is surprised, perplexed, overwhelmed.
Have you ever experienced something like this? You know what’s going to happen; you anticipate it; you prepare yourself for it; but then, when you actually have to face it, you are overwhelmed. Several of you men here this morning felt something similar when, as soldiers, you faced combat for the first time. Many of you women, facing childbirth for the first time, also experienced this feeling. You know the battle or the birth is coming; you’ve spent months preparing; but you can still feel overwhelmed, surprised, and confused when the event arrives.
In this condition, Jesus bares His soul to His three most intimate companions, and asks for help. Imagine! The King of Kings asking for help! He tells them “Be alert! Keep watch! Help me here! Prepare yourselves for the attack on you!”
“Keep watch,” you may recall, is the same command Jesus gives three times in last few verses of chapter 13. There, Jesus tells the story of the master of the house going away, leaving instructions for the servants to keep watch and guard the house until his return. They, the disciples, will have to keep watch while their master, Jesus, goes away for years and years. Now He asks them to watch for only one hour. Can they do it?
Jesus goes a short distance way, and falls face first on the ground, praying. The author of Hebrews gives us some more details:
He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death (Hebrews 5:7)
The hour has come; Jesus asks if the hour might pass without his suffering: “Abba! Daddy! Father! You love me! And you are all-powerful! You can do anything you want! Look what I have to go through? Is it really necessary? Is there no other way? Take this suffering away from me!”
Jesus faces real pain. Real suffering. Real distress. Have you ever felt something similar?
Jesus faced even more than you or I will ever face: Hebrews 4:15 tells us:
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
There is no sin in crying out to God. There is no sin in distress. There is no sin in perplexity. Jesus is confused and surprised, but He does not question God’s goodness or His love. Instead, He submits to God’s will: “Yet not my will but yours – Do what you know is best.” He expressed confidence, in the midst of the trial, that God’s will is right and good.
So we’ve come back to the question I raised at the beginning: Why did Jesus go forward with this? We see here how much Jesus dreaded the cross. Why did he choose to die?
John answers the question most clearly for us. Although John’s gospel does not include an account of Jesus in Gethsemane, he does relate Jesus’ inner troubles:
And Jesus *answered them, saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. . . . 27 "Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 "Father, glorify Thy name." There came therefore a voice out of heaven: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." (John 12:23, 27, 28 NASB)
Jesus chooses to suffer and die on the cross, receiving the penalty for our sins, so that God might be glorified. This is the joy set before him: That God would display His character.
Jesus despised the shame of the cross, because he focused His eyes on the joy of God being glorified. Through His death, the character of God is displayed as it could be in no other way. God’s love, God’s justice, God’s patience, God’s power, God’s supremacy – all these are on display in the plan of redemption.
Do you see? The plan of salvation fundamentally is God-centered, not man-centered. From the very beginning, God designed this plan to show what He is like.
Let’s return to the Garden: Jesus returns to the disciples. They are not alert. They are not praying for Him or even for themselves. Instead they sleep. So Jesus speaks to Peter, the one most confident in his own abilities:
"Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 "Keep watching and praying, that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Jesus says, “How do you think you will be able to keep watch after I’m gone if you can’t keep watch for even one hour now! Your flesh is weak! Remember that! Don’t depend on it! Instead, pray! Live out the Lord’s Supper – feed on me, on God, on His power! – That’s what I’m doing!”
Jesus prays three times, and each time returns to find the disciples sleeping. When He returns the last time, it is too late for a reprimand; there is no longer the opportunity to pray:
The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 "Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!"
The Hour has come. After the first sin, God promised redemption to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Now, the final stage of the drama of redemption begins at the Garden of Gethsemane. All of human history points to this moment. And the disciples have not prepared themselves.
Do you see the contrast between the choices of Jesus and the disciples? The disciples choose to depend on themselves, on their flesh. And what is Jesus’ choice? Jesus throws Himself on the mercy of God, and depends on the power of God to accomplish God’s will. Now we’ll see the consequences of those choices.
43 ¶ And immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, *came up, accompanied by a multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, "Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him, and lead Him away under guard." 45 And after coming, he immediately went to Him, saying, "Rabbi!" and kissed Him. 46 And they laid hands on Him, and seized Him. 47 But a certain one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as against a robber? 49 "Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has happened that the Scriptures might be fulfilled." 50 And they all left Him and fled. 51 And a certain young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they *seized him. 52 But he left the linen sheet behind, and escaped naked.
Judas arrives with a mob, heavily armed. Remember, they are outside the city; the only light is that of the moon. So that they know, in the dark, who to seize, Judas has arranged to kiss Jesus as a sign. He approaches Jesus, and kisses him tenderly – indeed, Mark uses an intensive use of the word “to kiss,” a form used elsewhere of the father of the prodigal son kissing him upon his return, and used of the Ephesian elders kissing Paul when he departs from them the last time. Furthermore, in Greek the word “kiss” is phileo, the same word that means “brotherly love.” Judas commits this horrible deed with the symbol of deep affection and love.
There is much we could say here about this passage, but let us focus only on the consequences of the different choices of Jesus and the disciples.
What happens to these disciples, so confident in their ability to remain loyal, so willing to die for their master? One of them – Peter, as we find out in the book of John – thinks, “OK, now’s my chance! I’ll show Jesus how loyal I am!” He swings his sword wildly, managing only to cut of the ear of the high priest’s servant. We read in other accounts that Jesus heals the ear and reprimands Peter. Then, as they face their own surprise and perplexity at the betrayal of Judas; as they see the mob with clubs, and contemplate what it really would mean for them to die with Jesus – they all run away. They’re gone. Out of there. They flee to safety.
What about Jesus? Here in front of the mob there is no sign of worry, surprise, distress, or perplexity. Jesus is confident. He is in control. Indeed, He turns the focus onto the fears and worries of the chief priests: “You’ve seen me every day; why do you arrest me here, at night, away from the city? Why did you go to all this trouble of getting one of my inner circle to lead you out here?” As we saw at the beginning of this chapter, the only reason is the fear of sparking a riot in the city. But Jesus knows all this is in accordance with God’s plan; it happens this way so that “the scriptures might be fulfilled.”
The prayers in garden had their effect; God comforts Jesus and prepares Him for the horrible task ahead. So Jesus, the only man born without sinful flesh, cannot depend on His flesh to face the trial ahead of Him; instead He humbles Himself before God and receives God’s strength. The disciples, with much weaker, sinful flesh, choose to depend on themselves, and fail utterly.
Question: Did Jesus have to pray in order to make it through the arrest, trial, beatings, and crucifixion? We must be careful here, but I believe the answer is yes. Jesus the man had to depend on God’s power to enable Him to endure the way ahead. If that was the case for Jesus – what about you?
Brian Morgan, one of my former pastors in California, says this is a recent sermon:
Without dependent prayer that clings to God, we will have only the flesh to draw on. In that event it doesn’t matter which choice is made, to fight or flee; the ultimate outcome, abject failure, ha already been predetermined.
So Jesus moves forward toward the cross because of the joy set before Him, the joy of knowing that God will be glorified, that all creation will see God for who He is at the cross. Do you see how this perspective casts light on the events related here?
We will not succeed when we step out in our own power, in the flesh, as Peter and the disciples tried to do. If we did succeed, we would get the glory, not God. And so God, concerned with the honor of His name, will only enable us to succeed when we actively depend on Him.
When we do depend on Him, living by faith, devoted to prayer, staying alert, humbling ourselves before Him, does life become easy? No. We will face dangers, persecutions, difficulties, and perplexity – but we will glorify God.
Consider the implications of this, in two ways:
First, implications for how we present the gospel.
How do you explain the gospel? Frequently we’ll say something like this: “God loves you. But you have a sin problem that separates you from God. God will solve that sin problem and bring you to Himself if you repent and believe in Jesus. Your problem will be solved.”
Now, there is truth in that description of the gospel. But do you see how that leaves out the central point, the heart of the gospel? The whole point of the plan of redemption is to glorify God, to show to all creation -- angels, demons, powers, principalities, man – to show to all creation what God is like, and to create a people for Himself who will glorify and praise Him forever.
How do we present this practically? In the tract rack in the foyer, you’ll find this gem: Quest for Joy. This presents the gospel in a way that puts central focus on the glory of God. Please pick one up, read it over, and share it with others.
Implications for how we live:
Jesus says, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” That is as true for us as it was for the disciples. We cannot depend on the flesh, on our own abilities, to accomplish anything lasting. We must depend on God, on the power of Christ living within us, to accomplish God’s purposes. What does this mean practically, from day to day? How do we tap into God’s grace?
God chooses to work through the living and active power of His word to change us. In each challenging situation, and on a regular basis, we then need to submit ourselves actively to Him, humbling ourselves through prayer, preparing for the battles ahead. And through baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we are privileged to act out the truths of the gospel, making these truths real for us in a new way.
When will your hour come? When will you be faced with perplexity, seeming to see your life fall apart around you? This will happen; so be alert! Will you then step out in the flesh, swinging your sword like Peter, hopelessly, in futility? Or will you draw on God’s strength to accomplish His purposes, feeding on Him, glorifying him?
This sermon was preached at Community Bible Church in Williamstown, MA on 8/6/00. Ray Stedman's sermon on the passage was very helpful. Brian Morgan's two sermons on this section are excellent; they are not yet available on the web, but can be ordered as catalog numbers 1140 and 1141 by calling 408-366-6690, or visiting the PBCC web site..
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