“Be Alert for Prayer to Guard Against the Temptation of Disloyalty to Jesus”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Mark 14.32-52
Mark 14. Jesus predicted in our passage last week that the disciples would deny Jesus in the crucial hour of his arrest. Jesus was sadly contemplating the loss of fellowship with his friends. In our passage this morning, Jesus agonizes over another future loss of fellowship: the fellowship with the Father.
It is now in the middle of the night on Thursday night, around midnight. Jesus will be crucified in a matter of hours. Jesus and the disciples have just celebrated the Passover and Jesus has inaugurated the New Covenant in his blood when he instituted the Lord’s Supper. And Mark records that after singing a hymn, they went to the Mount of Olives where Jesus reveals that they will deny him.
And now, they have come to the garden of Gethsemane. Gethsemane was a garden east of Jerusalem beyond the Kidron valley and near the Mount of Olives. It was a favorite place to retreat to for Christ and his disciples.
Peter and the disciples have just boasted that they would never deny Jesus, even in the face of death. Their words are about to be tested. Their denial of any denial of Jesus is on trial. Whose words will hold true?
Because of the contents in verses 32-52, I’d like to preach to you on “Be Alert for Prayer to Guard Against Temptation.” The temptation is an enticement to do evil. Be alert in order to pray so that you can guard against temptation. Disciples of Jesus experience times of testing that can tempt us to do evil.
We come to this garden of Gethsamane with a desire for the reverence demanded as well as with the humble admission that, no matter how hard we try to peer into Jesus’ heart and struggle, we will only see from afar off like the disciples do and through dim eyes. We will not attempt to pretend that we have sounded the depths of what the Savior is experiencing here Gethsamane.
Be Alert for Prayer to Guard Against Temptation (14:32-42)
So, first be alert for prayer to guard against temptation from verses 32-42. In verses 43-52, we have what that temptation is.
Jesus’ Experience at Gethsemane (14:32-36)
These verses naturally divide between Jesus’ experience and the disciples’ experience. Like Mark has done before, his point is to contrast the difference between a positive example and the disciples in order to show how the disciples do not really understand. Jesus Himself now fills this role of a positive example in our passage this morning.
The godly turmoil that Jesus is experiencing because of His mission to die for the sins of the world is contrasted with the spiritual stupor of his disciples.
The scene begins in Mark 14:32-34 32 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.”
Jesus and his disciples come to this favorite spot of theirs to retreat to, Gethsemane, and Jesus says to most of his disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” Now, keep in mind that at this point Judas Iscariot, the one who will betray him, is not with the disciples. He has gone off to scheme with the Jews to arrest Jesus.
And then He takes three of those remaining 11 disciples, Peter, James, and John. The 8 remain back, but Jesus takes the three off to another place. And as he does He is, Mark says, very distressed and troubled. There are hardly any other words to use to magnify the turmoil that is within the heart of Jesus at this moment. Jesus has his own words to describe his heart. Verse 34 says that he is “deeply grieved to the point of death.” One way of translating this is to say that he is “crushed with grief to the point of death.”
And so He bids these three men to remain here and keep watch. And Jesus goes a bit beyond them now for the purpose of prayer. To the 11 disciples in verse 32, he says “sit here until I have prayed.”
And He brings the 3 to another place and desires that these three disciples v. 34, “keep watch” or to be “spiritually alert” as they too wait upon him to finish his praying. That word has reference to being spiritually alert, not to be on the look out for Judas and the Jews. Jesus desires that His disciples be spiritually vigilant and alert. In our context, we’ll see it refers to them being spiritually alert in light of being tempted to indifference… indifference to Jesus’ person, work, and mission.
So Jesus is verse 33 very distressed and troubled. As well, verse 34 Jesus says that his soul is “deeply grieved to the point of death.” Why is Jesus so terrified and horrified? Have there not been braver men who have foreseen their death and have embraced it with unflinching allegiance? Is Jesus scared of his own physical death?
No, there is something much more troublesome on Jesus’ heart than mere physical death. Yes, Jesus is about to die within a few hours and His spirit will separate from his physical body. But there is a greater separation that he is dreadfully anticipating. He is agonizing over, not physical death, but another kind of death. A spiritual death if you will, when he is separated from his heavenly Father on the cross.
You see, on the cross when Jesus dies for the sins of the world, the Bible teaches in 2 Corinthians 5 that Jesus actually became sin for us. And that marvelous transaction that occurred on the cross that day was when the eternal Father extinguished his own divine wrath against our sin when he put Jesus on the cross. Jesus suffered there for us… Jesus died for our sin that we ourselves might not have to die forever for our sin.
And that teaching comes more into light here. Remember that when Jesus died for you He said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” It was at that moment that God the Father had forsaken God the Son. There was a separation between two infinite and eternal beings, though that separation would happen but for a moment in time.
So God the Son as an infinite being suffered an infinite separation from the infinite God the Father. He suffered that infinite separation from the Father for us that we might not have to. He did that when He took upon Himself the sins of the world. So Jesus died for our sins in this sense then … On the cross, He suffered the infinite separation from God that we deserve for our sins.
And this is why He is so grieved. There is a sense in which he paid the penalty of hell on the cross he was separated from God the Father. It is the only time when it could be said that anyone experienced hell on earth. So, does this surprise you that Jesus is very distressed and troubled and crushed with grief to the point of death?
No one that we have ever talked to will have to experience such great distress or grief.
And Jesus verse 35 goes a little beyond them and falls to the ground and begins to pray. What would somebody, who is about to experience what Jesus is about to experience, pray? And the answer to this question is of great debate among his disciples even today.
Verse 35 has it that Jesus began to pray that “if were possible, the hour might pass Him by.”
Also verse 36, Mark 14:36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”
It is in these distressing moments that we realize the magnitude of our sin against God. No matter what our interpretation, one thing is for certain: our sin against God is horrific to cause the Son of God to respond in this way, dreading His own separation from the Father.
We know that it is horrific because of the distress that it has brought to Jesus’ heart. What separation our sin causes between the Father and the Son, this separation and now the grief that it causes Jesus helps us to realize how horrible our sin really is.
Most Bible interpreters conclude that Jesus is expressing in v. 36 his desire to avoid the cross when He says “remove this cup from me.” But then, when He says “not what I will, but what you will,” He submits Himself to the Father’s will out of obedience, anyway, though it was not His desires to do so. If we conclude that, we have a number of problems. Now, I’m going to spend a little bit of time attempting to wrestle with Jesus’ prayer. If you don’t follow me for the next little bit, I’m afraid I’m going to lose you. Try to do the best we can here. And I trust that as we wrestle with Jesus’ words together, that this will be out of an attempt at reverent and honor to Him.
So, if we conclude in v. 36 that Jesus desires to avoid the cross, but then submits Himself to the Father anyway, we have a number of problems.
Problem #1: Jesus’ will would not be the same as the Father’s will (“not what I will, but what you will”). If this is true, then how do we explain Jesus’ will(s) as it relates to the Father’s will?
If Jesus is expressing his desire to avoid the cross but in the end submitting himself to the Father, how do we explain the relationship between Jesus’ will and the Father’s will? They don’t seem to be one and the same.
It seems then that Jesus resolute will to do the Father’s will has diminished. What do you do with John 4:34 Jesus *said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.
John 8:29 “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” If you hold the common view, you must explain how the change from Jesus’ resolute desire to do the will of God to not wanting to anymore. Plus, how can there be differences in the will of the Father and the will of the Son? “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Problem #2: Could Jesus have gone against the Father’s will? Did Jesus reluctantly go to the cross?
This also raises the problem as to whether or not Jesus’ will could have gone against the Father’s will and Jesus’ remain sinless. God the Son has a will, it seems, to avoid the cross. Is God the Son’s will to avoid the cross sinful? And so did Jesus reluctantly go to the cross?
Problem #3: How do we explain this in light of Jesus’ predictions of His own death and resurrection?
How do we explain Jesus’ seeming reluctance to go to the cross in light of Jesus’ predictions that He would die and be raised from the dead? Jesus had full knowledge of the necessity that God’s wrath against sin be extinguished. Jesus also knew from the beginning that this was God’s eternal plan for Jesus to be the One to accomplish it. How do you explain now Jesus’ reluctance to go to the cross?
So this common view has many problems.
Let’s deal with the facts that we have then. Verse 35, Jesus desires that the hour might pass him by. What does this mean?
Fact #1: “Pass by” in v. 35 means “to come and to go,” not to avoid.
Clearly, Jesus is praying about the hour that has come upon him, the hour of his death by crucifixion to extinguish God’s wrath. He prays in v. 35 that it might “pass by” him. This word “pass by” is a coming and going. This word is used in Luke 18:37 [a crowd told blind Bartimaeus] that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. So picture that. Jesus comes and he goes by Bartimaeus.
Similarly then, Jesus is praying that the hour of his crucifixion would come and go by. Jesus is not praying that He would avoid crucifixion, but that this time would come and go. Time comes and time goes; no one on earth avoids time. He’s praying that the time of His separation from the Father would come but that it would also go. Jesus is expecting a reuniting to His Father.
And then with very endearing terms, he prays in verse 36 “Abba” which literally means “Daddy.” With great boldness as the Son of God, can He pray such things. And then he admits that all things are possible for His heavenly Father and asks the Father to “remove this cup” from him. So, “pass by” v. 35 means “to come and to go” not to avoid.
Fact #2: The word for “remove” (v. 36) means to be moved along with the force involved.
“Remove” has more of the idea of being moved along its course with the force that is causing it to go that way, like Jude 12 …that certain false teachers are “carried along by winds” … That same word carried along is the same word in Mark 14:36 for remove. Something that is carried along by the wind, moves along with the force of that wind. Jesus is praying that this cup would be caused to move along according to God’s plan. He’s praying that when it’s drunk, it is finally completely removed. So, “remove” in v. 36 means to be moved along with the force involved, in this case God’s divine plan.
Fact #3 supports this: The cup in OT imagery is God’s wrath against sin and it’s removed only after it is drunk.
The cup in the Old Testament is a figure for God’s wrath against sin. We will not turn there, but Isaiah 51:17-23 proves this point that the cup is a figure for God’s wrath against sin. But that passage also tells us when it can be removed. The cup of God’s wrath against sin is finally removed, Isaiah 51 teaches, when the cup of God’s wrath has been fully drunk. The concept of removing the cup of God’s wrath against sin before it is drunk is foreign to the Bible.
So Jesus is praying that God the Father would remove the cup of His wrath against Him after Jesus actually drinks it; that the wrath would be fully gone and extinguished! Jesus is praying that God the Father would effectively remove His wrath against Jesus after Jesus becomes sin and dies on the cross. Jesus knows the Father’s wrath will be extinguished at the cross and is praying God’s will back to Him that His relationship with the Father would be restored. That’s a key point then: Jesus is praying the Father’s will back to Him.
So, again, v. 35, Mark says that Jesus prays that the hour would pass by like I can pass you on the sidewalk. I come and I go. Jesus wants the timing of God’s wrath poured out on Him to really come but also to completely go.
Verse 36 again, “to remove” means to move something along; to cause it to be moved along. Jesus is praying that the Father would move along the extinguishing of His own wrath according to His divine plan until it’s finally over. That’s the same language as in v. 35, that it would come and go.
So Christ’s prayer is therefore a prayer of faith. Jesus prays exactly what the Father has planned, that the hour would come where all His wrath would be poured out upon Jesus and that that hour would come and go and that Jesus would be eternally restored to his Father. Jesus is praying that God’s wrath would be entirely removed after Jesus drinks that cup and that there would be a full restoration between God the Father and God the Son.
In fact, at the end of verse 36 when Jesus says there “yet not what I will, but what You will” you can translate that this way “but this is not what I will, but what You will.”
That’s our fourth fact.
Fact #4: End of verse 36 should be translated “but this is not what I will, but what You will.”
So instead of “yet not what I will” based on similar construction in Mark 10:27, I would argue that you should translate that “but this is not what I will, but what you will.” In other words, Jesus is recognizing that what He is praying for is not His own will, but is in fact the Father’s will. It is the Father’s will that the hour of Jesus taking on the Father’s wrath come and go and that Jesus’ drinking of this cup be caused to move along its divinely-intended course and that in the end, the cup of the wrath of God be entirely removed and the Father and Son be entirely restored.
Verse 36, “Father, remove this cup from me after I drink it. But this is not what I will, but what You will.”
TRANS: So Jesus has agonized over the trial that is about to overtake him and his relationship with his Father and so he prays exactly for the Father’s will to be done. Jesus during his entire earthly ministry has been determined to do exactly the Father’s will. Jesus desires that the Father’s cup of His wrath against sin come upon Him. But also, when Jesus does drink that cup, Jesus prays that that wrath be entirely removed. Jesus prays and says that this is the will of the Father.
In Jesus’ hour of agony, He is tempted, perhaps once again by Satan. And He is determined to do the Father’s will. Perhaps Jesus behind the scenes is tempted to believe that the Father’s wrath will not be extinguished and that there will be an eternal rift between Him and His Father. But unlike the garden of Eden, in the garden of Gethsemane, the Second Adam Jesus Christ resists all temptations to believe and act apart from His Father’s will.
So, Jesus is resolute on doing this. He is going to pay for our separation from the Father for us and he is determined to do it. Now, contrast this with Jesus ‘disciples. Though Jesus is horrified at the thought of what is about to follow in his separation from God, the disciples are in a spiritual stupor. The disciples have no idea what is going on. Jesus has predicted over and over again his own suffering and death and Jesus predicts that there would be one who would betray him and he even predicts that the disciples themselves would deny him. But these disciples do not remain alert and they are indeed tempted and deny Him.
The Disciples Experience at Gethsemane (14:37-42)
So secondly now in verses 37 to 42, we have the disciples experience at Gethsemane. Three times Jesus comes to them and each time He finds them sleeping.
Jesus has left the three disciples back a ways as he went away to pray. And he returns to them now. You can imagine Jesus agonizing in His spirit in prayer and in His emotional condition desires to receive some encouragement from His followers. Mark 14:37 And He *came and *found them sleeping….
Turmoil over an infinite separation from His Father, now He’s disappointed and feeling dejected by His own followers. And so Jesus calls Peter by his birth name, not by his apostolic name and says to him, “Simon are you asleep?” Oh… how that must have been convicting to Peter to have Jesus call him “Simon.” Peter means rock…and it’s as if Peter replies, “Jesus, am I in no longer your rock?”
Jesus says to Peter “Could you not keep watch for one hour? Mark 14:38 “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
APP: We have now a couple of principles of prayer. First, we saw Jesus resolutely praying the Father’s will, though hard it may have been to do. Pray therefore, the Father’s will back to him. You must pray Scripture back to your Heavenly Father. Digest and understand the Word of God’s will for you and pray those things back to Him.
Pray back to him God’s promises to you and God’s desire to make you more like His Son no matter what the cost. But here we also have a second principle which is this, very simply, that we are least likely to pray when we are most tempted not to, but when we’re in the greatest need for prayer.
Peter and the disciples were tempted not to pray because of their sleepiness, but they were in their greatest need in that hour to pray.
Verse 38 gives us part of the title of the message this morning. Be on the alert or keep watching. Jesus is exhorting them to be spiritually alert and praying lest they come into temptation. The battle against temptation is won when we pray.
Pray God’s will from His Word back to him as Jesus did; know that you are least likely to pray when you are most tempted not to pray and in your greatest need to pray…and then pray anyway! And third, also know the battle against temptation is won when we pray.
What is temptation? Temptation is enticement to evil. In this case before us, it is an enticement to be disloyal to Jesus; to deny Jesus. As is the case with the disciples here, the body is often the stage the temptation plays out on. The disciples were tested through the weakness of the human body for sleep and any moment they would be tempted to be disloyal to Jesus. Jesus knew that at any moment they would be denying Him.
APP: We too can be tempted to be disloyal to Jesus through some weakness of the body. But like Jesus, let us be alert for prayer that we may guard against an enticement to be disloyal to Jesus.
And Jesus knew the whole time that their spirit was willing. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh or body is weak.” It wasn’t like they were desiring to go off and deny Jesus. Jesus knows the heart. Jesus knows that their spirit is willing, but that their body is weak.
Having good intentions therefore is not sufficient. You may still deny your Savior though you have good intentions. Your life may be one that is not characterized by extreme loyalty to your Lord. So, it is not the good intentions that we use to guard against temptation; it is being spiritually alert and its prayer that effectively guard against temptations.
And in verses 39 and 40 Jesus again leaves to pray, and when He comes back He again finds disciples sleeping.
Mark 14:39 39 Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words.
Notice Jesus repeats His same request in verse 39. So, another principle of prayer, that repeating a similar request is not unbiblical or unbelief. It merely expresses your desire and burden for the Lord to answer your request.
Verse 40 …
40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.
By now, the disciples have become embarrassed. They do not know what to answer Him.
Mark 14:41-42 41 And He *came the third time, and *said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 2 “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”
TRANS: So, be alert in order to pray to guard against temptation. Now, here’s the temptation. Be alert in order to pray to guard against the temptation of being disloyal to Jesus.
The Temptation of being disloyal to Jesus (14:43-52)
So, verses 32-42 focus on how to guard against temptation that is to be spiritually alert and be in prayer. And now in verses 43-52, we have the temptation that disciples face and that is the temptation of being disloyal to Jesus.
This section begins with the actions of Judas. Mark 14:43-45 43 Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, *came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs […imagine that scene….it’s midnight, their torches bright with fire….], who were 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 kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.” 45 After coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him.
This is that respectful affectionate kiss of a follower to his rabbi but it’s his sign betrayal. And then in verse 46, the mob lays their hands upon our Lord Mark 14:46-47 46 They laid hands on Him and seized Him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.
The book of John tells us that this one who drew his sword was none other than Peter. But drawing out the sword is not the answer that the hour demands. Peter may be so resolute not to deny Jesus, and in his rashness attempts to fight for Jesus. Peter must know by now, though, that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world and that in truth we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness is high places, and that the weapons of our warfare are not physical and that it is being spiritually alert and praying that is what Jesus desires. Surely, Peter knows this!
Btw, did you ever think of how pathetic of a strike this was? He cut off his ear … What was he aiming for? At any rate, though Peter fights with the sword now, He will eventually deny and leave his Savior and Lord.
And so that you don’t forget that Jesus is once again in control of all these things, Mark 14:48-49 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? […what, do you think I am some rebel without a cause?] 49 “Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.”
They didn’t seize Him because He would miraculously escape their grasp. It took place the way it did so that the Scripture could all be fulfilled. They think He is some robber, but this fulfills the Scripture in Isaiah 53:12 And was numbered with the transgressors;…”
He was considered to be a transgressor, that’s why they arrested Him. And so Jesus is in complete control of all of these things. It fulfills the Scriptures and he predicted this would come to be and now they have grasped hold of him, but by his divine plan.
The passage end with such a sad note, Mark 14:50 50 And they all left Him and fled.” All the disciples left Jesus and fled; every last one of them did so.
APP: Have you denied Jesus your Lord? Do you leave Him and flee when it’s hard to stand up for Him and for His purpose for your life? When faced with the notion that God demands that you make disciples and teach them, do you recoil from that? What is Christ’s focus for you in this life? Have you determined from His Word His calling for you and for your family and is everything in your life headed that direction and merely an assistance to fulfil God’s purposes for you? Don’t deny your Master and Lord and live your own life. Seek to live His life for you! Find out from God’s Word what that will is and do it! Oh, how those claiming to be Jesus’ disciples today flee from Him today when times get tough.
What is the solution to our sin? Mark answers this for us next in vv. 51 and 52…
You know, Mark is precise in so many ways in the way he relates the events of Jesus’ life. His narrative elements and story line all unite to form a very obviously carefully crafted story. So, when we come to verses 51 and 52, we have to assume there is a point to them…this is not random…
51 A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they *seized him. 52 But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.
Why would Mark relate such an event? What point does it have? Sure, it happened, but not everything that happened in Jesus’ life is recorded in the Gospels. Why did this make it into the gospel of Mark?
I’m usually not all for metaphorical meanings, but since Mark is quite the narrator, I can’t help but to think he intends for us to get something a little more out of this. The next time that word linen cloth occurs in Mark’s gospel, it is when Jesus is buried in one in Mark 15:46. How do the 2 linen sheets fit together?
So here is a young man denying the Lord like the other disciples and he has nothing but a linen sheet, and even loses that. And when Jesus puts on this linen sheet he has died for his disciples sins.
What could this be other then a picture of Jesus effectively dying for our sins? The shame of these disciples as they flee the Lord and deny Him is represented in this young man as he turns his back and the shame of his sin is ever before him. A disgrace and a shame to the Lord Jesus.
But Jesus in his dying for them takes on that linen cloth in his death and buries their sin with Him. So, the linen cloth I wonder if it is meant to represent the shame of our sin when we have denied our Lord. But Jesus buries our sin with him when He is buried in a linen cloth. We’ll see in a later message how this also relates to the resurrection, but we’ll wait till then to tie it all together.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Mark 14.32-52
Why this teaching on temptation for the disciples in the midst of Jesus’ darkest hour? They were tempted not to carry Jesus’ burden and failed. They did not stand for who He is and for what He stood for. It is the wrestling through the ages of God’s people: will we daily, take up our cross and follow Him? Will we give our lives over to Him for His sake and for the gospel’s sake? Are our values Jesus’ values? Do we accomplish His work in this church and in our families and in each life here? Take up your cross, lose your life for Christ’s life, and give yourself wholly over to His causes in this earth. Pray!
“Be Alert for Prayer to Guard Against the Temptation of Disloyalty to Jesus”