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Matthew

Garden Scene

Matthew 26:30-36

Lesson audio

The last hours of Christ’s life on earth are well documented in the Gospels; for good reason – He is the Lamb of God, by whom we have salvation. From these scenes we may learn.

Mat 26:30-56 NASB After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (31) Then Jesus *said to them, "You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, 'I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.' (32) "But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee." (33) But Peter said to Him, "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away." (34) Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." (35) Peter *said to Him, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You." All the disciples said the same thing too. (36) Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." (37) And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. (38) Then He *said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me." (39) And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." (40) And He *came to the disciples and *found them sleeping, and *said to Peter, "So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? (41) "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (42) He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done." (43) Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. (44) And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. (45) Then He *came to the disciples and *said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. (46) "Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!" (47) While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. (48) Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him." (49) Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, "Hail, Rabbi!" and kissed Him. (50) And Jesus said to him, "Friend, do what you have come for." Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. (51) And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. (52) Then Jesus *said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. (53) "Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? (54) "How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?" (55) At that time Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as you would against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. (56) "But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets." Then all the disciples left Him and fled.

Intentions and Actions

How often has it happened to you? You said you would do something, and when the time came to do it, for whatever reason, you failed to deliver. If someone asks you why, you’re likely to say, “Nobody’s perfect.” Let’s examine this in more detail.

It is normal to promise

Young lovers promise each other a lifetime together; athletes promise victory – it is entirely normal for human beings to make promises. Peter is our example here. He said it, he meant it (that was Peter). Once he said it, all the other disciples chimed in. Why do we do things like this?

  • One reason is that we want to shape our future in accordance with our visions. The night is young, the wine flows freely, the girl is beautiful – it seems like just what we’ve been looking for. We capture the moment and promise to make it just like this for the rest of our lives.
  • Another reason is simply to express how we feel. When things begin to get serious, and we really don’t know what to do, we can always join with the rest of the team and say, “Me too. That’s how I feel.”
It is normal to fail. Often, miserably

Why does it happen so frequently? One very good reason is in the nature of human beings: we are both animal and spirit. The spiritual within us recognizes the good we should do; the body denies it, longing for its pleasures instead.

And what do we fail in? Isn’t it usually something really trivial? Sometimes it rises to the level of real importance, but most of the time it’s ordinary stuff. Why?

Because we’re sinners, that’s why. It is the nature of sinners that they know what they should do and don’t do it. All of us are sinners; all of us have failed at one time or another. For this Christ offers us repentance, forgiveness and salvation.

Bodily discipline

Isn’t there something we can do to prevent it? There is. It is called bodily discipline – training your earthly nature to follow after your heavenly nature. A man is a slave to whatever controls him. This means that we cannot use our emotions as an excuse for our behavior. “I just got mad and hit him” means that you hit him. Discipline yourself so that you don’t get mad.

None of us are perfect. There will be failures along the way. But because you are imitating Christ in His control, the Holy Spirit will be there to help. You can’t make yourself perfect – but you can try to do better.

The Agony in the Garden

Christ is fully human

Perhaps it never really impressed itself on you, but our Lord is fully human. He knows our pains and agonies, and nowhere is it better shown than in this garden. Observe:

  • “If it be possible” – Can you not sense the fear in Christ’s heart? It is no disgrace to be afraid; it’s your actions when afraid that count. He knows your fears.
  • He brings along a few close friends. Nothing is so human – we need a little company and moral support in trying times.
  • If you need the physical evidence – look at the sweat.
Christ is fully divine

In this most human of nights we still see the divine nature of Christ:

  • “Yet not my will” – do you see the complete obedience to the Father? He asks in His humanity; He accepts in His divinity.
  • Consider that incident with the sword. He has the power to (as we say today) cut and run. Overwhelming force is His; and here is an example of the loyalty of His disciples. He rejects the sword to embrace the Cross.
  • “How then would the Scriptures be fulfilled?” He is completely conscious that His final days have been prophesied. God will not go back on the word of His prophets.
Christ, the Lamb of God

It is remarkable: Christ shows us the Lamb of God. Consider:

  • He goes without a fight – indeed, He stops a fight before He goes.
  • He tells His disciples, “After I have been raised…” He is well aware of the power of the Resurrection. He bids His disciples to wait, so that He may indeed fulfill His mission.
  • “Get up, let’s go.” Even when the betrayer approaches, there is no thought of running away. In fact, He heads toward His betrayal.

Christ’s Care

Throughout this most important night, Christ continually exhibits his care for mankind. Here’s how:

Setting the example

Christians sometimes miss this, but Christ is our example for life. “What would Jesus do?” is the modern way of putting it; the ancients would have called it the “Imitation of Christ.” Look at the example He sets:

  • As He has for the past three years, He sets the example for His disciples that they must go to God in prayer. When most of us would be looking for a way to “get out of Dodge,” He is in prayer asking strength to accept things as they are.
  • He is also our model for dealing with fear. Bravado would say, “I’m not afraid.” Insanity would deny any reason for fear. Courage looks fear in the face, then does what God commands.
  • He is also our model of gentleness. When the disciples sleep, His rebuke is gentle. He is modest in dealing with the mob arresting Him. Such gentleness comes only from great strength.
Quoting prophecy

It may not appear to be an example of His care, but see how Christ reassures His disciples by quoting the prophecies of the Old Testament (the matter is greatly expounded in the other Gospels.)

  • “Smite the shepherd” is taken from Zechariah 13:7. It is long known as a Messianic prophecy. That’s probably not much comfort – but it is assurance that the matter is in the hands of God.
  • We can see similar assurances of this in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, to name just a couple of the more prominent Scriptures. All these were available to Christ so that He might comfort and reassure His disciples.

The lesson is plain: the Scriptures are there for us to use, in peace or in crisis. Yet another reason we should be familiar with them.

Reaching out

Jesus never forgets His mission: to seek and save the lost. He therefore reaches out to those who are now His oppressors. Consider:

  • He could simply have let Malchus[1] bleed from the wound where his ear was sliced off. But no; He heals him, even knowing that this man will be involved with Christ’s arrest.
  • See how gently He chides the mob – He was in the Temple courts all day; why not then? Then, as if to excuse them, He tells them this too was prophesied.
  • Indeed, the supreme example of his willingness to reach out to save the lost is this: He called His betrayer “friend.”

Exult, Christian, you have gained by this bargain of your enemies; what Judas sold, and what the Jews bought, belongs to you.


[1] The name is given in John’s account.

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