We study through books of the Bible here at the Village Chapel, and that has not changed. We’re going to continue our study of Matthew this morning, what we call “The King and His Kingdom.” If you need a paper copy to follow along with, just raise your hand and someone shall deliver it forthwith.
Boy, it’s good to be back with you guys. We missed you. For those of you that were here while we were in Israel, we really missed you and it’s good to be back with you. And for those of you that were on the journey, I’m sure, like me, you’re wanting to go to bed about five o’clock in the afternoon and get up at two in the morning and all sorts of weird things going on. But it was such a joy to share the trip together. It was a whirlwind.
It’s like getting sprayed with a fire hose of information all day long for a week. And then you go back to the hotel room, eat dinner, scoop your brains back into a little backpack and then you go out and do it again the next day. And I tend to think that some of the fruit of that trip ends up just as we reflect as we get back home. And it seems like that that’s when some of it hits home about what we experienced, what we saw, what we learned, what we felt.
I know for our family, one of the continued blessings out of that trip is you just read your Bible differently. We saw an awful lot of sites that are called traditional places or traditional sites where certain things may or may not have happened. But then there’s specific places like the southern steps of the temple, the pool at Bethesda, places where we know specific miracles happened, Jesus was here at this specific point, and it’s an amazing thing to come back, be reading a passage in the Bible and go, “Oh yeah, now I know exactly what that place looks like, what it’s like during the heat of the day, what it’s like during the cold night because the desert doesn’t hold the heat in it.” It’s just a wonderful trip. We are glad to be back with you.
The next three weeks before Easter, and I’ve got to say what a sweet little gift of the Holy Spirit it’s been that we’re able to line up the passage of Matthew of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. We’re really grateful for that. But gosh, the next three weeks are going to be pretty sober and intense, because it’s all dealing with that last 24 hours after the Passover meal on Thursday night, up until the crucifixion and the burial of Jesus. So, it’s going to be a lot and heavy, as it ought to be, but I think there’s much that we can take from it.
I was able to listen to Scotty’s sermon from a couple of weeks ago on the Passover meal and the Lord’s Supper and he did a great job. It was really lovely to listen to it. And the fact I’ve been thinking and reflecting on, is the fact that Jesus invited the disciples to the table that night knowing ahead of time that Judas was going to betray him, that Peter would deny him, that all the disciples would abandon him and that he would go to the cross, and yet he invites them to the table. And it’s the same thing with us. He knows us completely and loves us fully and invites us into his presence and invites us to the table. And man, that is a lovely thing, isn’t it? It is just beautiful.
Studying this passage that we’re going to go through today, I’ve been moved more than ever by the work of the cross, if I can call it that, that’s accomplished in the garden on this night. I just have not ever quite looked at it in that light before, but there’s part of the work of the cross that was done on Thursday night. And I’m calling our study this week, “Jesus in the Garden,” and I ran across a couple of quotes that are not slides. One of them said, “Gethsemane is where he died, the cross is just the evidence,” if that makes sense to you. This is where he turns over everything to the Father. And there was another commentary that said, “In the garden we get to watch the Lion of Judah become the Lamb of God.”
Frederick Dale Bruner says in his commentary on Matthew that
“the Heidelberg Catechism question 44 asks and then answers this pointed question in the Apostles’ Creed. And here’s from the Catechism: “Why is there added, ‘He descended into hell?'” And the answer is, “That in my severest tribulations, I may be assured that Christ my Lord has redeemed me from hellish anxieties and torment by the unspeakable anguish, pains and terrors which He suffered in His soul both on the cross and before. In no other place do we see the before of Jesus suffering as clearly as we do at Gethsemane.”–Frederick Dale Bruner
So, in the garden, Jesus fully experiences his humanity. As he enters this time of anguish, he knows what’s coming, he’s facing torture and death on the cross and there’s apprehension there, but that’s not what is at the heart of his anguish. The gravest thing he is facing is the separation of fellowship with the Father and the Spirit that he’s enjoyed from eternity before time up till now. And in his humanity, he’s enjoyed that fellowship every day of his life, and he’s facing the separation, the cutting off of that fellowship on the cross. Bruner also says, “Gethsemane’s emotions do not shame Jesus’ humanity; they prove it.”
They tell us that Jesus drank our cup ‘to the lees’ (to the very last drop), that he was really one of us, that he knew what it was to suffer. Pastor Tommy and I were talking about this passage and, man, he made a great point that what we’re really talking about is two gardens, right? Because here in this garden, Jesus accomplishes in the garden and on the cross by being obedient to the Father, by submitting his will to the Father’s will. He’s reversing the curse of what Adam did in the Garden of Eden, right? Adam chose his own will and rejected God. And here in this garden, Jesus is doing the opposite. Romans 5:18-19 tell us that, “Therefore as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification in life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience, the many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience, the many will be made righteous.”
Thank you, Jesus, for that, for being the new Adam. Well, let’s pray church and then let’s read our text.
Lord, we come to you and just ask humbly that you would open our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to you, to your truth. What we know not, teach us. What we have not, give us. What we are not, make us. We love you, Lord, and we lift this up in Jesus’ name. Amen.
So, we’re in Matthew Chapter 6, starting in verse 30. I’m reading out of the ESV and there’s a lot of text here, so I’m going to fly and I’ll try my hardest to not over-comment too much.
Verse 30 (this is such a great passage): “When they had sung a hymn,” this is after the Passover meal, “They went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter answered him, ‘Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you this very night before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all the disciples said the same.”
It’s quite a hike from the upper room in Jerusalem down the Kidron Valley and over to the Mount of Olives. It would have been dark, would have been cold. They would have seen campfires on the hills, because as Scotty told us, there’s probably about three million pilgrims surrounding the outside of Jerusalem during Holy Week before Passover. So, they would have seen these campfires, but they sing a hymn, they go up. And when Jesus tells them that they’re all going to fall away, I don’t think there’s a judgmental tone to what he’s saying, because he’s quoting Zechariah 13:7, which says this very thing: “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.”
What he’s telling them is this is all according to plan. We are sticking to the mission. And I hate to say this guys, but this is what’s going to happen. Peter being Peter, immediately was like, “Not me. Nope, I’m not going to do that.” And so, Jesus says, “Bro, truly listen to me, Peter. Not only are you going to fall away, you’re going to deny me this night three times before you hear the rooster crowing.” And all of the disciples echo what Peter’s saying, “I’ll die for you.”
Verse 36: “Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray,’ and taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. And then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch with me.'”
I love that Peter, James and John went with Jesus, because they’ve seen him on the Mount of Transfiguration. They’ve seen his divinity displayed. They’ve been with him when he raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead. They’ve seen his authority over life and death, and now they are sharing in his humanity, in his deep anguish. And so much of this journey for him, he is going to be alone. I mean, from this night forward until the resurrection, he’s really on his own and yet he’s craving that friendship, that companionship with them.
Verse 39: “And going a little further, he fell on his face and prayed saying, ‘My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’ And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour?'” Peter, you said you’d be willing to die for me. Can’t you even stay awake for an hour? “‘Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ And again, he came and found them sleeping for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand and the son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See my betrayer is at hand.'”
I love the difference in the prayers. The first prayer he starts off, first off, he says, in all these prayers, “My Father.” Pater, Abba, daddy, and in the first prayer he is saying, “If it’s possible, can this cup pass from me?” And he still says, “Nevertheless, your will not mine be done.” Then there’s a nuance different the second and third prayers, he says, “If this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” So, he’s still praying and seeking to know what God’s plan is, but he’s changed to where he is saying, ‘Okay, if this can’t pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ He has a posture of submission to the Father’s will here. And when he says here in verse 46, “See, the hours at hand and the son of man is betrayed into the hand of sinners.” He’s saying, ‘Okay, we’re on mission. The next phase is about to start. Let’s be on our way.’
Verse 47: “While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man, seize him.’ And he came up to Jesus at once and said, ‘Greetings, rabbi.'” Notice that Mary always calls Jesus, “My Lord.” Judas always calls him, “Rabbi.” There’s a distance in their relationship. “And he kissed him. And Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you came to do.'” Jesus says this because of the path to the cross. Do what you came to do, Jesus knowing that this is all part of the plan. Well, “Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus,” verse 50, “and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father and he will at once send me more than 12 legions of angels? But how then should the scriptures be fulfilled that it must be so?'”
So, even though the disciple is not named nor the servant that gets his ear cut off, in John’s gospel, he kind of rats Peter out because he says that it’s Peter and the name of the servant of the high priest is Malchus. And I’ve heard it said, and I tend to believe this, that Peter might have been a great fisherman, but he was probably not very good with a sword and he was probably intending to kill the guy and just kind of a lame attempt and ended up cutting off the guy’s ear. And two things happened here. I love that Jesus’ heart is to heal. I don’t think it says this in this passage, but it says it in one of the other gospels that Jesus immediately heals the servant. In the midst of all of this anguish and torment knowing what’s coming, that’s Jesus’ heart: it’s still to heal and make whole.
And Jesus’ comment to Peter, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father and he will at once send more than 12 legions of angels?” So, a legion in Roman military terms was like 5,600 to 6,000 soldiers plus officers plus cavalry. So, what Jesus is saying here is at the snap of a finger, I could have over 70,000 angels here. Not your cute little coffee cup angels, right? These are strong and mighty angels that could defend me that some people with swords and clubs could not stand against.
And I love this because for just a second we see Jesus revealing his true power and his true authority. We see it at different times in the gospels. We saw it when he calmed the wind and the waves and the storm on the sea of Galilee, where the disciples were so frightened they said, “Who is this that controls the wind and the waves?” (Matthew 8:23-27). We saw his authority there. We see his authority when he raises people from the dead. Jairus’s daughter, Lazarus. And we see it here when he explains, ‘Don’t you know that I have all of this power and authority at my fingertips, but I’m not going to use it because how then should the scriptures be fulfilled?’ Jesus is willing not to do anything in his defense, because he is resolutely sticking to the mission.
Verse 55: “Well, at that hour Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Have you come out as against a robber with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching and you did not seize me.’ But all this has taken place that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. And then all the disciples left him and fled.”
Verse 57: “Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered.” So, as we read this passage, what you’ve got to know is that the chief priests, the elders, the Sanhedrin, they desperately want to get rid of Jesus. They can’t execute him themselves, because as the Romans have come in and occupied the country, they will allow the local people to practice politics, they’ll allow them to practice religion, but the Romans retain the power of capital punishment. They know execution and it’s their ballgame. So, Caiaphas and all of the scribes and elders and Sanhedrin, they know they can’t put Jesus to death. So, what they want to do is find any testimony, false or true, anything that they can turn Jesus over to the Romans and say, ‘Look, he’s fomenting rebellion and sedition, talking against Caesar.’ Anything that they can turn Jesus into the Romans so they can get the Romans to execute Jesus.
Verse 57: “Those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest and going inside, he sat with the guards to see the end. Now, the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward.” So, even though they were open to the idea of any testimony, false or true, which is totally going against the ninth commandment, you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor, they still couldn’t find credible witnesses to put a story together until at last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I’m able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days,'” which is misquoting Jesus, but they said it nonetheless. “And the high priests stood up and said, ‘Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?’ But Jesus remained silent.” When you have real authority, you can do that. “The high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so, but I tell you from now on you will see the son of man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.'” What Jesus has done in this response is telling Caiaphas that indeed he considers himself to be on the same par as sitting at the right hand of power, meaning sitting at the right hand of God, being equal to God and able to judge all of mankind.
Well, then the high priest tore his robes, which is something you would only do in utter outrage, because in Leviticus the priest are commanded not to tear their clothing. So, “The high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?’ And they answered, ‘He deserves death.’ Then they spit in his face and struck him and some slapped him saying, ‘Prophesy to us, you Christ. Who is it that struck you?'”
Verse 69: “Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard,” and I’ve got to say, out of all of the disciples, Peter’s the one that has displayed courage. He’s the one that got out of the boat and walked towards Jesus. He’s the one at Caesarea Philippi that had the courage to say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). He’s the one that had the courage to draw a sword and try and defend Jesus in the garden. And even though it’s at a distance, he’s the one who had the courage to follow Jesus to Caiaphas house. So, he has displayed some courage here.
He “was sitting outside in the courtyard and a servant girl,” probably a teenage slave girl, “came up to him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the Galilean.’ But he denied it before them all saying, ‘I do not know what you mean.’” I think he was basically trying to push it aside saying, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand.’ And then when he went out to the entrance,” he’s moving further and further away from Jesus here, “Another servant girl saw him and she said to the bystander, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ And again, he denied it with an oath. ‘I do not know the man.’ And after a little while, the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.'”
Since they were from the north, from Galilee, they would’ve had a different accent than those in Jerusalem. Well, “Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know the man.’ And immediately the rooster crowed and Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.”
And I’ve got to tell you guys, I think Peter was so in the moment that he didn’t even think about what he was doing until he heard the rooster crow and then it all came tumbling back and he remembered, and he goes out and weeps bitterly. And fortunately that is not the end of the story, and we’ll talk about that in a second. What a text.
Friends, what a thing God has done for us in the garden, on the cross, in the empty tomb. What a thing Jesus has done for us. John Piper says,
“This is the center of the gospel. This is what the Garden of Gethsemane and Good Friday are all about, that God has done astonishing and costly things to draw us near.”–John Piper
What God has done is astonishing. He has done everything—literally everything—to draw us near. He has run after us with a relentless pursuit of grace that literally will stop at nothing to rescue and redeem us.
Three things have stuck out to me in this passage that I’d like to point out. And the first is that in this passage we see Jesus prays with a posture of obedience. We often preface the Lord’s prayer with the statement, “The prayer that our Lord taught us to pray.” But I’ve got to tell you guys, I think in this passage, he’s teaching us how to pray by modeling this posture, he’s in such anguish. He falls on his face saying, “My Father,” he states his desire to avoid the cup. He’s in anguish knowing what lies ahead. And he’s saying, ‘Dad, is there any other way?’
And yet his deepest desire is to do the will of his Father. Hebrews 5:8 tells us he learned obedience through what he suffered. Michael Green says in The Bible Speaks Today:
“The prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane shows that we can be close to God, live a holy life and pray with faith, earnestness, and expectancy,” (Jesus did all of those things) “and yet not get what we ask for. It is a profound mystery before which we must bow… Jesus prayed with a clear objective, which all of his humanity longed for; but above even that he wanted God the Father’s will to be done. For prayer is not seeking to manipulate God. It is opening up to God. It is welcoming, the ‘good, pleasing and perfect will,’ of God… Prayer seeks to surrender to the will of God.”–Michael Green, The Bible Speaks Today
Man, how are we approaching God in prayer? How do I approach God in prayer? How do you guys approach God in prayer? What is our posture? Are we opening up to God, telling him our heart, surrendering our will to Him? He’s worthy of our trust. He is always good. As it says in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, “He is not safe, but he is good.” Jesus firmly knows this, even in the face of the cross he prays with a posture of obedience.
That brings me to the second thing that stands out in this passage. Jesus fully and firmly trusts in God’s sovereignty. Every so often we read in our creedal statement the providence of God from the Heidelberg Catechism, which states, I’m going to read an abbreviated part of it. “Providence is the almighty and ever-present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that all things in fact come to us not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.” And then it finishes with this, “We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature will separate us from his love.”
This is how Jesus lived his whole life. Because Jesus trusted his Father, he could submit to his Father’s will in the garden. Over and over again in this passage and in the whole Gospel of Matthew, we hear the phrase, “It was fulfilled in scripture,” or, “So that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Jesus trusted his Father implicitly, right? And he knew his Scripture intimately, and he held Scripture in the same regard as the word of that Father who he loved and trusted implicitly. Therefore, he could trust in the sovereignty of God in every circumstance, and he could trust in regarding the fulfillment of scripture, trusting in God’s hand, in God’s sovereignty, God is in control even of the events in the garden. And that’s why Jesus gently reminded his disciples that he could call on an army of angels, but he chose not to in order to fulfill scripture.
Theologian A.W. Pink says this in his book, The Sovereignty of God:
“Nothing in all the vast universe can come to pass other than God has eternally purposed. Here is a foundation of faith. Here is a resting place for the intellect. Here is an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast. It is not blind fate, unbridled evil, man or devil, but the Lord Almighty who is ruling the world, ruling it according to his own good pleasure and for his own eternal glory.”–A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God
Man, are we leaning on that foundation? Are we resting in that place this morning? Are we anchoring our soul to that truth?
The last thing that stood out to me from this passage is how fully and completely Jesus forgives. At face value that last verse of Chapter 26 is just depressing. “Peter went out and wept bitterly.” That sounds like the end of a really heavy chapter in an amazing story. But it’s not the end of the story, is it? Because we know in John’s gospel, he talks about when John and Peter hear of the news that the tomb is empty, they race to the tomb. And John brags a little bit that he beats Peter to the tomb, and yet Peter, not caring a whit about custom or law or anything, just charges headlong in to see for himself that the tomb is empty. And then a week or so later, they’re out fishing back home on the north coast of Galilee doing what they do, just going back to work. And it’s been a miserable night of fishing. So, we read they didn’t catch a thing. And then just as dawn is breaking over the eastern slopes on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, they hear someone from the shore calling them, ‘Hey, did you guys catch any fish?’ And they probably kind of mumbled, ‘No,’ kind of swore under the breath and they couldn’t see who it was yet. And we were actually in a very close place called The Primacy of Peter (located in Tabgha) to commemorate this whole passage. And I remember it was shortly after dawn and I was looking out at the Sea of Galilee and the way the sun was shining and thinking, “Yeah, the sun was probably in their eyes and they couldn’t see who was calling them.”
Well, so they tell him they didn’t catch any fish. He says, ‘Let your nets down on the other side of the boat.’ And we read that it’s so full of fish, they can’t pull it up. John puts two and two together and says, “It’s the Lord!” And then Peter just pulls off his t-shirt and jumps headlong into the sea and swims to shore because there’s Jesus. And I just can’t imagine everything that’s running through his mind. Having denied Jesus at the very moment when he’s on trial, feeling like he has screwed up, messed up so deeply, so completely that there’s no hope for him. And there’s Jesus standing on the shore and we know the beautiful end of this passage, how after they eat breakfast, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” And Peter responds each time, ‘Well, if you do, feed my sheep, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.’ And I think it is no coincidence that Peter denies Jesus three times. Jesus restores Peter, forgives him, for each of those times. ‘Do you love me?’ ‘Yes.’ As deep as Peter’s denial went, Jesus’ forgiveness and restoration went further still. And friends, that’s how he deals with us when we come to him.
I read a Malcolm Guite quote, the fellow from England that was here, the poet last fall and spoke. I read a quote of his on Twitter yesterday and he said,
“We need to know that there’s no place so dark, no situation so seemingly hopeless that cannot be opened to the light of Christ for rescue and redemption. Our sins are many, his mercy is more.”–Malcolm Guite
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished upon us.”Ephesians 1:7
He lavishes his grace upon us you guys. He’s not stingy with grace or forgiveness. It is full. It is complete. It covers all our sin. His grace is sufficient for us.
Watchman Nee says it like this:
“Because the Lord Jesus died on the cross, I have received forgiveness of sins. Because the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, I have received new life. Because the Lord Jesus has been exalted to the right hand or the Father, I have received the outpoured spirit. All is because of him, nothing is because of me.”–Watchman Nee
Amen. So, friends, I don’t know where each and every one of us is this morning, where we are in our walk of faith, what our circumstances are like. Things might be firing on all cylinders and you’re just coasting along. And boy, praise God for that. But you also might be walking through the valley of the shadow right now, and I just want you to know, wherever your path is winding this morning, there’s prints in the dust ahead of you on that path.
N.T. Wright puts it this way, I’ve just got two little slides left:
“When we ourselves find the ground giving way between our feet, as sooner or later we shall, Gethsemane is where to go. That is where we find that the Lord of the world, the one to whom is now committed all authority, has been there before us.”–N.T. Wright, Matthew for Everyone
He has been there before us. We are not alone. He’s been there ahead of us. He’s been there because of us. He has been there in our place. And I’ll close with this quote from Spurgeon:
“The whole of the punishment of His people was distilled into one cup; no mortal lip might give it so much as a solitary sip when. He put it to his own lips, it was so bitter, he well nigh spurned it: ‘Let this cup pass from me.’ But his love for his own people was so strong that he took the cup in both hands at that one tremendous draught of love, He drank damnation dry.”–C.H. Spurgeon
Amen. Let’s pray, church.
Jesus, thank you for drinking the cup dry for us. Thank you for the work you did in the garden and on the cross. Thank you for showing us how to be obedient to the Father, how to trust in His loving and sovereign hand. Thank you for the restoration of Peter that is such a good example of how you will forgive and restore each and every one of us who asks. So grateful for you, for your obedience, for your death, and for your life. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Edited for reading.