Wednesday after Laetare
Scripture: St. Matthew 26:36-75 (NKJV)
26:36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
40 Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, “What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”
43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
45 Then He came to His 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 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”
47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.
50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”
Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. 51 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”
55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. 56 But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.
57 And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end.
59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none.
But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'”
62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent.
And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66 “What do you think?”
They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”
67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?”
69 Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.”
70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.”
71 And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!”
73 And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.”
74 Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.
The description of Jesus’ disposition takes a mysterious, dark turn in the Garden of Gethsemane. St. Matthew says, :…He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.'” The Greek words are quite expressive indicating that Jesus is overcome with great sadness and dread. The English adjectives exceedingly and deeply help to convey Jesus’ pitiful condition of distress. He takes Peter, James, and John with him as He goes to pray, but they fall asleep and are no comfort. Jesus prays to His Heavenly Father. At no point does Jesus wish to avoid His Father’s will, He is resolutely determined to do it. The purpose of His supplication was to pray, “…Not as I will, but as You will.”
Nevertheless, do not be mistaken, this was exceedingly deep suffering, “with vehement cries and tears” (Heb. 5:7)! Jesus tells the disciples that his sorrow is “even to death.” This sorrowing to death is not simply his own mortality, but the death which we deserved because of our sins. Jesus’ sorrow was the taking on of our curse of death and Hell so that we might have life and Heaven. The Prophet Isaiah called Jesus, “A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Ch. 53). When we know that He endured this sorrow out of love for us to make expiation for our sins, we are exceedingly and deeply grateful. Isaiah continues, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Is 53:5).
Lord Jesus Christ, Lover of our souls, we give you thanks for your mediatorial suffering which brings us eternal salvation. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.