Harmony of the Gospels


(24) The Grief of Gethsemane

Scripture: Matthew 26:30, 36-46; Mark 14:26, 32-42 (Focal Passage); Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1

Tom Lowe


Location: Mount of Olives
Date: Thursday-Friday of Jesus’ Final Week

O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.--Psalm 42:6



This passage is the narrative of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane and the apostles apparent lack of concern for His current needs. They slept while He prayed.

And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. (Mark 14:26)
And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:30)
And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. (Luke 22:39)

And when they had sung an hymn. Jesus closed His Upper Room discourse with the singing of a hymn. Although He was in the midst of his enemies and knew that His suffering and death were near, he did not fear them and omit the singing of psalms. They probably sang a hymn from a section known as the  [1]Great Hallel—Psalms 113–118. Singing was routinely included in the Passover celebrations. It was the Hebrew’s custom to sing the first two (Psalms 113-114) before the meal, and the remaining four (Psalms 115-118) after, to conclude the evening observance. Such verses as  [2]Psalm 118:6-7, 17-18, 22-24 gain added significance on Jesus’ lips just before His suffering and death.

They went out into the  [3]mount of Olives. At the conclusion of Christ’s meal and after giving final instructions to the disciples (the Upper Room Discourse), Jesus left the Upper Room, passed over the narrow ravine of the brook  [4]Kidron and into the Garden of Gethsemane.

t was now near bedtime, but our Lord Jesus had His mind on His suffering, so much, that He would not go to the Temple or to His bed to sleep. It must have shocked His disciples when Jesus took them outside since the Israelites were forbidden to go out of their houses the night that they ate the Passover, because they feared the sword of the destroying angel ( [5]Exodus 12:22-23).

Luke wrote, “and his disciples also followed him.” There were now only 11, since Judas left earlier to meet with the priests to make the arrangements for the betrayal.

And they came to a place which was named   [6]Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. (Mark 14:32)
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. ( Matthew 26:36)

And they came to a place which was named  Gethsemane. It was Thursday night running into Friday morning and the garden was still dark. It was a special place of prayer and privacy for the Lord. Jesus often went there to pray, and the disciples, including the betrayer, of course, knew this.

When Jesus went to Gethsemane, on this occasion, there were two things He wanted. He wanted human fellowship and He wanted God’s fellowship. “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18).

In Jerusalem, there were no gardens. The city was too crowded, and there was a strange law that the city’s sacred soil could not be polluted with manure for any type of garden. But some of the rich and well-to-do people owned private gardens out on the Mount of Olives where they came to rest and enjoy the quiet and the beautiful scenery. Jesus must have had some wealthy friend who gave Him the privilege of using his garden at night. Our Lord never spent a night inside the city of Jerusalem. He went out to this place or to Bethany.

And he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. After entering Gethsemane, Jesus told eight of the eleven disciples to sit and wait, and then the next verse says that He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee deeper into the garden.

And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; (Mark 14:33)
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. (Matthew 26:37)

And he taketh with him Peter and James and John. He went deeper into the garden taking Peter, James, and John with Him. They made up the inner circle who would be the only ones to observe Jesus’ agony. Peter was the leader of this small group and the three were the leaders of the twelve. The trio was present with Jesus on a number of occasions. They witnessed the raising of a young girl from the dead ( [7]Mark 5:41-42); they were present at Jesus’ transfiguration ( [8]Mathew17:1–2); and now they were present during Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane.

And began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy. Our Lord was experiencing tremendous anxiety. He began to be amazed (distressed, bewildered) — a word not used in Matthew’s gospel, but very significant; it suggests something like that horror of great darkness, which fell upon Abraham ( [9]Genesis 15:12), or, rather, something much worse, and more frightful. The terrors of God set themselves in array against him, and he was distressed due to His intense contemplation of them. There in the garden He experienced an overpowering burden on His holy soul as He anticipated becoming a sin-offering for us. We cannot conceive what it meant to Him, the Sinless One, to be made sin for us. There never has been nor will there ever be, sorrow like He felt at that time. Dr. Lightfoot thinks it is very probable that the devil appeared to our Savior in a visible shape, to terrify and frighten him, and to drive him from his hope in God (which he also attempted to do to Job by persecuting him, a type of Christ, to make him curse God, and die).When the devil had tempted him in the wilderness, scripture says that he departed from him for a season (Luke 4:13), intending to have another struggle with Him in the future.

And began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy describes the agony Christ was in. There was no bodily pain or torment involved, and nothing happened that would hurt Him, but, whatever it was, it was from within; he troubled himself ( [10]John 11:33). It felt like He had a weight of lead upon his spirits. This was prophesy fulfilled, I am poured out like water, my heart is like wax, it is melted (Psalm 22:14).

But what was it that caused of all this? What was it that caused His agony? We can be sure it didn’t come from despair or distrust of His Father, much less any conflict or struggle with Him. Since the Father loved Him because He laid down His life for the sheep, so He was entirely subject to his Father’s will. There are three things which may have caused His distress:
1. He was having an encounter with the powers of darkness; He alludes to it in Luke 22:53; This is your hour, and the power of darkness: and he also spoke of it in John 14:30, 31; "The prince of this world cometh.
2. He was now bearing the iniquities which the Father laid upon him. He was suffering for our sins; they were all laid upon him, and he knew it. As we are required to be sorry for our particular sins, so was he grieved over the sins of us all.
3. He had a clear understanding of all the suffering that was before him. He foresaw the treachery of Judas, the unkindness of Peter, and the hatred of the Jews. He knew that in a few hours He would be scourged, spit upon, crowned with thorns, nailed to the cross and die the worst death imaginable.

And saith unto them, My  [11]soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. (Mark 14:34)
Then saith he unto them, My 11[11]soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. (Matthew 26:38)

And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death. He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. He frankly told Peter, James, and John that His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even to the point of death. This was no doubt the result of the unspeakable revulsion of His holy soul as He anticipated becoming a sin-offering for us. We who are sinful cannot conceive what it meant to Him, the Sinless One, to be made sin for us ([12]2 Cor. 5:21).

Three expressions picture His inner feelings: (1) began to be sore amazed, (2) to be very heavy, and (3) exceeding sorrowful unto death. The first reveals His initial shock at what was to come; the second, His overwhelming sense of distress; the third describes the extent of His emotions. “Its terrors (the agony) exceeded His anticipations. His human soul received new experience—He learned upon the basis of things He suffered” ([13]Hebrews 5:8).

Tarry ye here, and watch. He ordered three of His disciples to remain with him, not because he needed their help, but because he wanted them to look upon him and receive instruction; he said to them, Tarry ye here and watch. He had said to the other disciples nothing but, Sit ye here (v. 32); but these three he bids to tarry and watch, as if He was expecting more from them than from the rest.

And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. (Mark 14:35)
And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. (Mark 14:36)
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39)
And he was withdrawn from them about a  [14]stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, (Luke 22:41)
Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. (Luke 22:42)

With wonder and amazement, we see the Lord Jesus prostrate on the ground, praying to God. Was He asking to be excused from going to the cross? Not at all; this was the purpose of His coming into the world. First, He prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. If there was any other way by which sinners could be saved than by His death, burial, and resurrection, let God reveal that way. We should remember His words in John 12:27-28: “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Therefore, in praying that the cup might pass from Him, He was not asking to be delivered from going to the cross. That was the very purpose of His coming into the world! However, we do not believe that Christ’s sufferings in the garden were part of His atoning work. The work of redemption was accomplished during the three hours of darkness on the cross. But Gethsemane was in anticipation of Calvary. There the very thought of contact with our sins caused the Lord Jesus extreme suffering.

Christ knew that the Father could do anything, and therefore He prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Notice that He addressed God as His beloved Father with whom all things are possible. Here it was not so much a matter of physical possibility as of moral. Could the Almighty Father find any other righteous basis upon which He could save ungodly sinners? What was the answer? There was none; the heavens were silent. By this eloquent silence we know that there was no other way for God to justify guilty sinners than for Christ, the sinless Savior, to die as our Substitute. The Holy Son of God must bleed so that sinners might be freed from sin! He would go to the cross alone, bearing the awful judgment of God against our sins.

The cup refers to Christ’s coming death ([15]Matthew 20:22–23) with its accompanying physical and spiritual agonies ([16]Matthew 27:46). That event was variously referred to by Christ as His cup, baptism, and hour (14[14]Matthew 20:22–23;  [17]John 7:30). Christ’s human nature, though without sin, did fear death ([18]Hebrews 5:7), yet more so than other men because He was to bear as our stand-in, the sin of the entire world ([19]Isa 53:6) and suffer the temporary loss of fellowship with God the Father ([20]Matthew 27:46). Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. Christ’s human will always completely yielded to the divine will. It was natural for Him to be perfectly obedient to the Father.

Nowhere else in Scripture can a clearer picture of Jesus’ humanity be found. The emotions He expressed are not different from what other men have felt. He, however, refused to allow His inner feelings to direct Him; instead He submitted to the Father’s plan: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. It is like He is saying, “I know the matter is settled, and cannot be altered, I must suffer and die, and I welcome it.
The prayer was rhetorical, that is, it was not intended to elicit an answer but to teach us a lesson. We can infer from His willingness to lower Himself when praying to the Father that it behooves us to do the same. Does this mean that Christ was not equal with God? No, it does not! But when He was on earth, in human flesh and in all ways a man, He was dependent upon God; so in that respect He was like us, and was not equal with God.

If possible. The words “if possible” do not express doubt but a concrete supposition on which He based His request. He made His request on the assumption that the Father was able to grant it.

Abba, Father. Abba is the equivalent of the English word “Daddy”. The Apostle Paul taught that all those who have the Spirit of adoption are to cry, Abba, Father ( [21]Galatians 4:6.)

Note that Jesus did not tell the Father what to do; He had perfect confidence in God’s will.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly. As his sorrow and anxiety intensified, he grew more fervent in prayer. Paul wrote in Hebrews 5:7, where he mentioned this occasion, “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.”

And his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Sweat came in with sin, and was a branch of the curse ([22]Gen. 3:19). And therefore, when Christ was made sin and a curse for us, he underwent a terrible sweat. There is some dispute among the critics whether this sweat is only compared to drops of blood. Some say that they were much thicker than drops of sweat commonly are, because the pores of His body opened more than they ordinarily would.  Others say that real blood coming out of the capillary veins mingled with sweat, so that it was like the color of blood, and might be called a bloody sweat. There is yet another theory offered by some. They say that this is one of the times when Christ shed his blood for us, for without the shedding of blood there is no remission. Every pore was a bleeding wound, and his blood stained all his clothing. This showed the horrible struggle He was going through. He was now out in the open air, in a cool season, lying prostrate upon the cold ground, late at night, which, you would think, was not conducive to causing a sweat; yet now he breaks out into a sweat, which indicates the extreme agony he was in.

And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. (Luke 22:43)

Only Luke records this, as well as the fact that His sweat became like great drops of blood.
There are three things in this verse which the other gospel writers failed to record:
1. That, when Christ was in agony, there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. It was an instance of the deep humiliation of our Lord Jesus that he needed the assistance of an angel, and would admit it. The influence of the divine nature withdrew for the present, and then, His human nature, was for a little while lower than the angels, and was capable of receiving help from them.
2. Although He was not delivered from his sufferings, He was strengthened and provided for by this angel, and that was enough.
3. The angels ministered to the Lord Jesus during His sufferings. He could have had legions of them to rescue him; actually, this one could have done it. The angel could have chased and conquered the whole band of men that came to take Him; but He used His aid only to strengthen Him. However this was not all: he probably said something to the Lord to emphasize that His sufferings were for the purpose of His Father’s glory, and His own glory, and for the salvation of those that were given to Him, and that He could count on the joy set before him.  With these and similar suggestions he encouraged Him to go on cheerfully; and that was comforting and strengthening.

And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? (Mark 14:37)
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? (Matthew 26:40)

Returning to the three disciples, He found them sleeping—due to emotional fatigue and physical exhaustion—a sad commentary on fallen human nature. Jesus warned Peter against sleeping in that crucial hour. Only recently, Peter had boasted of his undying commitment and that He would die with his Lord. Now he couldn’t even stay awake. The phrase “one hour” suggests that Jesus had spent an hour praying. If a man cannot pray for one hour, it is unlikely that he will be able to resist temptation in the moment of extreme pressure. No matter how enthusiastic his spirit may be, he must reckon with the frailty of his flesh.

Note: Jesus use of Simon may imply that Peter was not living up to the significance and meaning of his new name, Peter. Also that Peter had nothing to say following Jesus’ rebuke of him.

Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38)
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)
And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. (Luke 22:40)

Their spirits were willing; their flesh was weak. We dare not condemn them when we think of our own prayer lives; we sleep better than we pray, and our minds wander when they should be watching. How often the Lord has to say to us as He said to Peter, “Could you not watch with Me one hour?”

Again, He urged them to watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. Several commentators relate this temptation to Christ, while in the context of this passage, it relates to the disciples. Because they are not prayerfully watching, they will not be prepared for the tragedy that is about to happen. He reminded them that the spirit … is willing, but the flesh is weak. Man’s regenerated spirit may have good intentions, but it must control his body ( [23]Romans 12:1) in order to gain spiritual victory. The problem is that the willing spirits are still attached to unredeemed flesh; therefore, believers are not always able to practice the righteousness they want to do.

Note: The term “watch” in its context means, “Be alert when you pray! Keep your spiritual eyes open, for the enemy is near!”

And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. (Mark 14:39)
He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. (Matthew 26:42)
And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. (Matthew 26:44)

Again, for a second time, He went away and prayed, expressing submission to the Father’s will. He would drink the cup of suffering and death to the dregs.

Our Lord was alone when He prayed, for that was His custom. He taught the disciples to pray, and He prayed in their presence, but He never prayed with them. The uniqueness of His Person and work excluded others from sharing in His prayer life.

And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him. (Mark 14:40)

And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. (Matthew 26:43)
And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. (Luke 22:46)

When He came to the disciples the second time, they were asleep again.

And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (Mark 14:41)
Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (Matthew 26:45)
And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, (Luke 22:45)

The three disciples remained indifferent not only to the needs of Christ at that moment, but also to their need but also to their need of strength and watchfulness for the impending temptation that all of them would face. The disciples needed to learn that victory goes to those who are alert in prayer and who depend on God, and that self-confidence and spiritual unpreparedness lead to spiritual disaster.

Three times the Lord Jesus returned to find the disciples asleep: He prayed, and they slept. Then He said, “It is enough (of sleeping), The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.” With that, they got up as if to leave the garden. But they didn’t have to go far. The metaphor “the hour” denoted God’s appointed time that Jesus would suffer and die. 

Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand. (Mark 14:42)
Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me. (Matthew 26:46)

The opportunity of watching with Him in His vigil was gone. The footsteps of the traitor were already audible. Jesus said, “Rise, let us be going”—not in retreat but to face the foe.


Before we leave the garden, let us pause once more to hear His sobs, to ponder His sorrow, and to thank Him with all our hearts.

                       ___________________Special Notes______________________
  [1]Psalms 113-118 are traditionally referred to as the “Hallel Psalms,” because they have to do with praise to God for deliverance from Egyptian bondage under Moses. Because of this, they are an important part of the traditional Passover service. There is no reason to doubt that these were the hymns sung by Jesus and His disciples on Maundy Thursday when He instituted the Lord’s Supper.

  [2](Psalm 118:6-7, 17-18, 22-24) 6The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? 7The LORD taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me…17I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. 18The LORD hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death…22The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. 23This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. 24This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. 

  [3]MOUNT OF OLIVES — a north-to-south ridge of hills east of Jerusalem where Jesus was betrayed on the night before His crucifixion. This prominent feature of Jerusalem’s landscape is a gently rounded hill, rising to a height of about 830 meters (2,676 feet) and overlooking the TEMPLE.

 [4] KID´RON, or KED´RON (turbid), THE BROOK, a torrent or valley, not a “brook,” or, as in the margin of Revised Version, “ravine”; Gr. winter torrent. It was close to Jerusalem, between the city and the Mount of Olives. It is now commonly known as the “valley of Jehoshaphat.” The channel of the valley of Jehoshaphat is nothing more than the dry bed of a wintry torrent, bearing marks of being occasionally swept over by a large volume of water. It was crossed by David in his flight and by our Lord on his way to Gethsemane.

 [5] (Exodus 12:22-23) 22And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. 23For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. 

  [6]GETHSEM´A-NE (an oil-press), a small “farm,” situated across the brook Kedron, John 18:1, probably at the foot of Mount Olivet, to the northwest and about one-half or three-quarters of a mile from the walls of Jerusalem, and 100 yards east of the bridge over the Kedron. There was a “garden,” or rather orchard, attached to it, to which the olive, fig, and pomegranate grew and provided shade. And we know from the evangelists Luke and John, 18:2 that our Lord frequently went there with his disciples.

  [7]( Mark 5:41-42) 41And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. 42And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.

 [8] (Matthew 17:1-2) 1And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

  [9](Genesis 15:12) And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.

  [10]( John 11:33) When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled

  [11](soul) psyche, inner self-conscience life.

  [12](2 Cor. 5:21) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

 [13] (Hebrews 5:8) Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

  [14] Some Bible scholars say it was 50-60 paces.

  [15](Matthew 20:22–23) 22But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 23And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. 

 [16] (Matthew 27:46) And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 

  [17](John 7:30) Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.

  [18](Hebrews 5:7) Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 

  [19](Isaiah 53:6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 

  [20](Matthew 27:46) And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

  [21](Galatians 4:6) And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

  [22](Gen. 3:19) In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. 

  [23](Romans 12:1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.


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 In 1993, the senior class of River Valley High School in Three Oaks, Michigan, found an interesting way to acknowledge God. Aware of all the threats about openly praying to God at their graduation, these seniors devised a unique plan. Once the diplomas were received, an unidentified graduate deliberately sneezed very loudly. In unison, all ninety-five graduates exclaimed, “God bless you!” The ACLU is probably still trying to figure out if that’s legal.

NEWSLETTER Newsletter, July 1996, p. 2

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