Title: Not Just an Example, A Substitute
Text: Matthew 26:36-56
FCF: We often struggle to obey God because of human frailty or lack of human support.
Prop: Though abandoned, Christ denied His human frailty and submitted to the Father, so we too can obey in Christ.
Scripture Intro: NET
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 26. We are well on our way into this final narrative portion of the book of Matthew. We’ve seen Matthew show differing reactions to the cross of Christ. The religious and political leaders and the disciples produced negative reactions to the cross. Whether it was revolt, betrayal, or desertion, we have had a lot to observe that we don’t wish to emulate. And so far, we have only seen two examples of the proper way to view the death of Christ. First, the unnamed woman who gives her most valuable possession to honor her King in His death. Understanding perhaps that through His death Christ will inherit a name above all other names. We also see Christ’s perception of the event in the Lord’s supper. That His body and blood, being broken and spilled out (like the perfume) is God’s signature on the New covenant, whereby He will bring many sons to glory.
Today then, we will continue to see different reactions to Christ’s death. We will see Christ’s human frailty on display – perhaps for the first real time in Matthew since His temptation in the desert. And we will see others’ frailty too. But how they handle those frailties could not be more different from the way Jesus does.
Look with me at verse 36. I’ll be reading from the NET and you can follow in the pew bible on page 1126, or in whatever version you have. If you don’t have a bible, take the pew bible hme with you.
Much to see – as always – let’s dive in!
I.) Christ submitted His human frailty to the will of God, so we too must obey in Christ.
a. [Slide 2] 36 – Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
i. Gethsemane was a garden east of the temple mount and west of the Mount of Olives.
ii. It was a garden that Jesus and His disciples visited often, making it easy for Judas to know exactly where He would be in a few short hours.
iii. Jesus takes His disciples to this peaceful place to pray. He asks them to sit and wait… and perhaps even, pray with Him.
b. [Slide 3] 37 – He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee,
i. Peter along with James and John. John the one who wrote the gospel of John as well as I-III John and Revelation. And James, his brother, known as James the Greater. It was James’ honor to be the first disciple of Christ to be martyred for His name. In AD 44 Herod Agrippa had him beheaded.
ii. This group is known as Jesus’ inner circle. Peter, James and John were often selected to go with Jesus to places the others were left out of. These three saw Christ as He was transfigured while they were in Caesarea Philippi.
c. [Slide 4] And became anguished and distressed.
i. Matthew reveals the humanity of Christ here. He is anguished. He is distressed.
ii. These three disciples who saw the glory and divinity of Christ on display at the transfiguration, will now bear witness to His anguish and humanity– if they stay awake long enough to see it.
iii. These words speak of DEEP sadness. On an emotional level, these words are used in the New Testament and Septuagint to denote such deep and visceral emotions, that many times those who feel it are physically affected by the emotion. Typically it is when someone has experienced DEEP loss or has the potential for experiencing DEEP loss.
iv. Cain experienced this emotion at His utter failure. David experienced this emotion toward Absalom’s death and toward the rape of Tamar. Jonah experienced this emotion when God spared the Ninevites and took his shade away. Elisha was angry with Joash for striking the ground only 3 times when six would have defeated Syria.
v. This emotion seems to reflect DEEP anger or sadness over what good might have been or what good was lost. So going into verse 38 we are left to wonder… what is Jesus so deeply grieved over? What could He be losing?
d. [Slide 5] 38 – Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.”
i. I don’t think that this is hyperbole. Jesus is seriously saying to His inner circle… guys… my heart is so grieved that I think this body I have may fail me.
ii. Stay awake with me. Now we may think that the Son of Man asks this so that His sadness may be assuaged. But we would be wrong to assume it. Jesus does not have His own interests in mind – even in His deep grief over what may be lost. He does not ask, He commands. He tells them to stay awake. His desire for them to remain awake with Him is for their own benefit, which we will see momentarily.
iii. But Jesus, as our perfect substitute and glorious example, when overtaken with deep grief, goes to the only one who has the power to do anything about it… His Father.
e. [Sldie 6] 39 – Going a little farther, He threw Himself down with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me! Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
i. Jesus throws Himself to the ground. Perhaps we could see this as His knees buckling under the heaviness of grief He bears. Still we do not know the source of His heaviness, but our first clue is in what He says next.
ii. If possible… if it is possible – If there is a way. Luke says – if you are willing. Jesus is asking in complete submission to the Father’s will and plan, if something could be done that also fits His will – probably His human will.
iii. What is it?
iv. Let this cup pass from me. So there are two questions. 1 – what is the cup and 2 – what does it mean to pass from?
1. What is the cup?
a. The cup in Matthew 20:22-23 – his fate or His judgment
b. The cup in the Old Testament – Psalm 11:6; 75:8-9; Isaiah 51:17,19,22 – The wrath of God seems to be the normal meaning.
2. What does it mean to pass from?
a. Some scholars conclude that this is still using terminology from a Passover or meal context.
b. They conclude that for Jesus to ask that the cup pass from Him is for Him to be given the cup and drink it and pass it on. In other words He is asking that God accomplish His death and pour out His wrath on Him.
c. Such a conclusion would show Christ in complete lock-step with God’s will for Him to go to the cross. That He is almost chomping at the bit to obey God.
d. As attractive as that interpretation is, it doesn’t seem to make much sense when comparing it to the rest of what Matthew and even Mark and Luke reveal about this event.
e. If Jesus was chomping at the bit to obey God, why was He grieved? Grief doesn’t seem to fit into that same emotional wheelhouse.
f. If His will is in lock-step with the Father’s, why does He add – yet not what I will but what you will. Is His will only out of step in regard to timing? Praying this seems to assume that their wills are not the same.
g. Another reason I doubt this interpretation is that Mark does not say cup, but rather hour. Let this hour pass from me. Which would eliminate the imagery of the Passover meal entirely. Meaning the most natural way to read it would be, let this appointed time skip me.
h. But the clincher for me is still to come in verse 42, when He prays a second time.
i. We’ll cover that when we get there.
j. For now, I think it is safe for us to assume that for the cup to pass from Him, He means for it to pass over or by Him. Skipping Him.
v. So our first clue at what is causing this deep sense of potential loss in our Lord is that He has been appointed to a destiny by God the Father that He wonders if there is a way for the same thing to be accomplished, but not to include the cup stopping at Him.
vi. But He is not in rebellion to the Father, because He continues and says, not my will but yours.
f. [Slide 7] 40 – Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with me for one hour?
i. Jesus obviously prays more than we have been shown. He prays for an hour. We are not given the details of the entire prayer.
ii. Incidentally, the three disciples with HIm are on record for saying that they will go with Him to His suffering. Peter just recently in chapter 26 and the sons of Zebedee in chapter 20 said that they too would drink His cup. And here, as Jesus faces the reality of drinking His cup – they are asleep.
iii. He says to Peter – couldn’t you stay awake with me for an hour? I often want to quote this verse at the end of a sermon J ok so a little joke just kidding.
g. [Slide 8] 41 – Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
i. He issues another command. The first time was a command to stay awake, this one is a command to stay awake and pray.
ii. He gives a reason. Stay awake and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. And then He concludes with the axiom that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
iii. There are two possible interpretations of this. Both are valid.
1. Jesus could be speaking about the temptation to desert Him.
a. Luke reveals that the disciples are exhausted from grief, no doubt over the proclamation of His imminent death and their own prophesied desertion of Him.
b. So perhaps Jesus is telling them that the best way to combat their sinful impulses is not to grieve over it, but rather to seek the Lord.
c. Nevertheless, their desires have been voiced, to support Him fully – but ultimately their flesh is weak in resisting temptation.
2. Jesus could also be speaking about sleep
a. The temptation would be to disobey His command and go to sleep. So add prayer so that you would keep yourself awake. Sleep in itself is not a bad thing, but He has told them to stay awake and be with Him. So sleep in this instance is counter to the will of Christ.
b. Nevertheless the flesh has needs that the Spirit does not and Jesus knows that intimately as He Himself is battling the same battle they are. He faces a human desire that is not evil, but could be counter to the will of God.
3. I think all things considered I prefer the beauty and symmetry of the second one over the first. Plus it means that I can still use this verse as an excuse for falling asleep when I pray J - just kidding.
h. [Slide 9] 42 – He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will must be done.”
i. It is in the second prayer that I find the best argument for concluding that Jesus is asking for God’s divine plan for the salvation of His people from their sin to be accomplished in a way that would not require Him to drink the cup of wrath.
ii. Jesus says, If this cup cannot be taken from me unless I drink it, your will must be done.
iii. The other view of this says that for the cup to pass from Him, He would have to have drunk it first. But if that were the case – Jesus’ words here don’t make any sense.
iv. Jesus was not chomping at the bit to go to the cross, but was asking if there was another way. But here, He says if there is no other way – than the Father’s will MUST be done. He becomes, in this moment, resolute on doing what the Father has destined, even if it means drinking the cup. The wrath of God. His justice.
i. [Slide 10] 43 – 45 – He came again and found them sleeping; they could not keep their eyes open. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is approaching, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
i. Again they are sleeping when He returns. Matthew says that they could not keep their eyes open. They were weighted down.
ii. The text does not indicate that they were awoken again, but Mark says they had no explanation for why they disobeyed again. In no other gospel does He command them a third time to stay awake.
iii. Jesus left them again to pray – praying the same thing again.
iv. When He returns, guess what… they are asleep again.
v. As Jesus approaches His appointed hour – His human will comes into submission to God’s. As the disciples near His appointed hour – they are losing the battle with their flesh… again.
vi. Jesus’ statement is probably ironic. Are you still sleeping? Well it is too late to pray now. The betrayal is almost complete.
j. [Slide 11] 46 – Get up, let us go. Look! My betrayer is approaching.
i. Time to go friends.
ii. The hour has come.
iii. The time is ripe.
iv. It is the beginning of the end. This verse is the pivot point in the narrative.
v. BEHOLD – or LOOK - He is coming – Judas my betrayer.
k. [Slide 12] Although the text does not clearly tell us what sent Jesus into anguish and distress, we do know that the wrath and judgment of God is what He has accepted to drink if it is the only way for the cup to pass from Him. If it is the only way for God’s will to move forward and the plan to be accomplished, then He will drink the bitter cup. And there is the source of His anguish. Not fear over death. Not anxiety over the pain of the cross. Such matters, although heavy, are not heavy enough to bring the God-Man to the point of such deep grief. He did not fear death – He was deeply grieved by the future loss of the Communal relationship with His Father. Hebrews says that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. And for the first time in eternity and for the last time in eternity – the Son and the Father will be disconnected from each other.
l. We are not told exactly what that means. We are not told the details of exactly how all this happened. All we know is that God’s wrath broke out on Himself on that cross. And Jesus was deeply saddened that He would be set against the Father, becoming sin for us – even if it was only briefly.
m. [Slide 13] Passage Truth: Matthew calls the attention of the Jews to the humble submission of their King to go to the cross, drink the cup of the wrath of God, and secure the salvation of His people. As Matthew often does, he sets the example of Christ against the example of the disciples to prove that they are not like Him.
n. Passage Application: The application then, is for the Jews to recognize Christ as their King and submit to the plan of God by which He secured for them a citizenry into His Kingdom. Not by Abraham, but by Christ.
o. [Slide 14] Broader Biblical Truth: For us, we see the broader points of the battle of flesh vs. spirit. The will vs. the frailty of humanity. In one sense we see the utter failure of the disciples to be victorious over their own natural impulses. But then in contrast we see Christ, although deeply grieved at not simply the physical pain of His suffering, but the deep spiritual loss of His suffering, yet rises from such anguish in humble submission to the Father’s will, even though His humanity may will something different.
p. Broader Biblical Application: Thus we are given both the blessed hope of our redemption in the obedience of Christ, and the pattern and provision of our own submission and spiritual victory in Him. That we too can bring our petitions to our Father – in our deepest griefs – in our most desperate hours, knowing that we do not have a Savior that is unfamiliar with our grief, but rather has experienced it in full measure. And has come through victorious. Enduring for us so that we may endure through Him. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak – but when we crucify the flesh with Him – His Spirit in us provides the victory. Praise the Lord! So let us then bring our petitions to the Father, knowing that although our flesh may fail – HE NEVER WILL.
[Slide 15 (blank)] So Christ has conquered His own human frailty. But what about the frailties of others around Him. What if His support system is removed? Will He still obey?
II.) Though abandoned and abused, Christ continued to submit to the Father’s will, so we too can obey in Christ.
a. [Slide 16] 47 – While He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and the elders of the people.
i. Just in case you haven’t caught it yet – Judas is the betrayer.
ii. A large crowd was with Judas bearing all sorts of weapons.
iii. And they were all sent by the religious and political leaders of Israel.
b. [Slide 17] 48 – (Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I kiss is the man. Arrest him!”)
i. We are given an aside here to know that Judas had an arrangement with them that the one whom he kissed would be the one to arrest.
ii. But wouldn’t they have known who Jesus was?
iii. John reveals that this was quite a large group of people. Perhaps as many as 1000 men to take Jesus.
iv. Some of these were Roman soldiers. Certainly they would not have known which Galilean Jew Jesus was. So Judas will show them who to arrest.
c. [Slide 18] 49-50 – Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi,” and kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and took hold of Jesus and arrested him.
i. He wasted no time in betraying His master.
ii. He walked right up to him and kissed him.
iii. A sign of deep devotion and intimate brotherly love.
iv. A mask worn by a traitor.
v. But Jesus knows. And Jesus has always known. He calls him friend. And says why are you here… but this is probably an idiomatic phrase to mean – Do what you have come to do, or even simply telling him, I know why you have come.
vi. Then they took hold of Jesus to arrest Him.
vii. Interestingly enough, the Jews violated several of their own laws to kill Jesus. Rather than list all those out, I decided to make you aware of them as we come to them.
viii. First – Jewish law stated that no person who would be involved in the trial of the accused could be involved in the charge or arrest of the accused. Yet the chief priests and elders send this force to arrest Him.
ix. Second – Jewish law stated that there must be a clear charge against the accused before arrest. But what is clear by the subsequent trials is that they were searching for a charge.
x. Third – Jewish law stated that no one could be arrested and tried for crimes at night, so that witnesses for the accused could be present. It was probably about 2 am at this point.
xi. Fourth – Jewish law stated that no court could be held during feast days. And the Feast days had begun already.
xii. Already – before any trials occur, the Jews have broken at least four of their own laws designed to guarantee a righteous ruling.
d. [Slide 19] 51 – But one of those with Jesus grabbed his sword, drew it out, and struck the high priest’s slave, cutting off his ear.
i. Only John reveals this to be Peter.
ii. Matthew hasn’t been shy about implicating Peter in wrongdoing – but here he chooses to keep Peter’s name out of it.
iii. We had learned before that in Matthew’s gospel, Peter had been the best of the disciples. Representing the best they had to offer. So at first I assumed Matthew did not name Peter because he acted alone here. However, it is clear in Luke that many of the disciples wanted to defend Jesus even to the point of bloodshed.
iv. So the question remained, why did Matthew not name Peter?
v. Well for Peter to act so violently against the High Priest’s slave, would have been a crime. A crime that he was no doubt released from because Jesus diffuses the situation, does not resist arrest, and because all the authorities cared about at the time was getting Jesus.
vi. But after His death and resurrection, Peter could have still been hunted down as a zealot and prosecuted for his action. So perhaps Matthew, written in the 50s, Mark written in the 50s, and Luke written in the early 60s, did not name Peter because charges could still be brought against him for doing it.
vii. But John, writing in the 80s is free to pen Peter’s name since Peter had been crucified about 15 years prior to John writing his gospel.
viii. But why does Peter take up his sword here – perhaps he responds thinking that THIS is the test that Jesus prophesied. Perhaps this is the test in which Jesus says Peter would deny Him. So in overcompensating, he rises in revolt. Set it stark contrast is his defense of his Lord in front of 1000 armed men, and his denial of His Lord to two slave girls and a small group of people around a fire. We’ll see that next week.
ix. So, Peter misunderstands when his test will come, and is rebuked by the Lord. And the Lord’s rebuke is strangely and painfully familiar.
e. [Slide 20] 52-54 – Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back in its place! For all who take hold of the sword will die by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and that He would send me more than twelve legions of angels right now? How then would the scriptures that say it must happen this way be fulfilled?”
i. Put that thing away.
ii. If you depend on violence to get what you want, then others will treat you violently.
iii. This is not necessarily a statement of pacifism so much as it is an axiom or proverb. Violence when used in pure self-determination or preservation, often has a habit of falling back upon us. Can violence be used selflessly? Such teaching is neither affirmed nor denied in Matthew’s gospel.
iv. But to Peter Jesus says - Once again you show that you have so little faith. Could I not call on all of the heavenly host to defend me? Would they not be better protectors than you? You who would swing for a throat and hit an ear???
v. How then would the prophesies be fulfilled?
vi. Peter – This is God’s plan – but you are standing in the way.
vii. Jesus is again saying to Peter… get behind me Satan.
f. [Slide 21] 55-56 – At that moment Jesus said to the crowd, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me like you would an outlaw? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple courts, yet you did not arrest me. But this has happened so that the scriptures of the prophets would be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left Him and fled.
i. Jesus now turns this same teaching toward the whole host who came to arrest Him.
ii. He questions their overkill to come and arrest Him, in the cover of night, with swords and clubs, through deception and manipulation, like an outlaw, or perhaps a better word would be, like a terrorist.
iii. Jesus points to this ridiculous scene in which they have become outlaws themselves to detain Him. They have undone their own laws. They have acted foolishly in their hate.
iv. But they did not need to disobey their own laws. They could have arrested Him any time. He doesn’t sound like a terrorist – teaching in the temple. Does He? And they could have taken Him then…
v. But they have done exactly what was prophesied that they would do.
vi. And when the disciples saw that Jesus had no intention of fleeing, or using any kind of divine power to free Himself… they deserted Him.
g. [Slide 22] Passage Truth: Matthew again displays the King, willingly going to His own death. Despite the illegality of His arrest, and the utter failure of His closest friends both in betrayal and desertion – He goes to the cross. Even if it is alone… He obeys. And this is all according to what the scriptures had prophesied about their Messiah and King.
h. Passage Application: To the Jew Matthew pleads that they would simply follow Him. To repent of every path they think will bring them closer to God – and follow Him.
i. [Slide 23] Broader Biblical Truth: And for us- the truth here again juxtaposes the human failure of the disciples and the Jewish leaders against the absolute obedience and submission of the Son of Man. That even with the injustice and depravity of the event on display for all to see – to fulfill the prophesies about Him, and to accomplish the will of God, He will die on a criminal’s cross. For you. For me. He will drink our cup.
j. Broader Biblical Application: As we discussed some weeks ago, faith in Christ is a gift from God. A gift that God gives and continues to give to those who are His own. And what we see here is the great example of divine faith that we inherit in Christ. That He in belief and obedience to the Father would be humble and submissive even to the point of death on a cross, despite his people and his friends abandoning Him. It is this faith, this enduring and steadfast faith, the faith of Christ that is gifted to all of us. It is through this faith and by God’s grace that we are being saved. And so we who are in Christ can observe our Lord –suppressing the will of His humanity, and purposing to obey the will of His Father – and now setting out in lonely obedience. In observing this, we know that in Him we too can be obedient- and that we too can resist as the writer of Hebrews says – to the point of bloodshed. Even if all else fall, we will not. Peter’s arrogant promise becomes our spiritual reality because of what Christ did.
So what then can we learn from this passage today? How then can we live?
[Slide 24 (end)] “In the first garden “Not your will but mine” changed Paradise to desert and brought man from Eden to Gethsemane. Now “Not my will but yours” brings anguish to the man who prays it but transforms the desert into the kingdom and brings man from Gethsemane to the gates of glory”
Carson, D.A. (1984) Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: With the New International Version: Vol. 8. Matthew Mark, Luke (pp. 545). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
The disciples’ inability to stop their own natural impulses is only a window for us to see who we are naturally as men. We are sleepers, betrayers, rebels, zealots and deserters.
But the Messiah of God experienced all we face in every way, and stayed awake seeking His Father. He did not allow His will to usurp the authority of His Father, He accomplished His Father’s plan by selflessly submitting to violent death, and took the place of sleepers, zealots and deserters, by drinking the cup of wrath reserved for them.
And it is in Him –not just in His example – but in His cross, in His death, In His substitutionary atonement we can be and continue to be victorious over our flesh.
We have been united with Him. When we experience deep pain and anguish – We seek our Father in heaven who alone can relieve it. Yet we remember that if we must endure it in accordance to His will, that He will enable us to do so.
We have been united with Him. So that when obedience may mean we are alone, abandoned by those who claim to love us, betrayed by those closest to us, when the religious and political powers are against us and all of our allies flee – we can … IN CHRIST – find strength to deny our human impulses and obey.
Friends our lives will be full of Gethsemanes. Where our flesh, our humanity, is pushed to the brink. And in those moments when our wills strive with the will of the Father, when all others fail us – We can lean on the conquering shoulder of our Lord – who has come through victorious. Not simply His example, but His provision of grace to obey through His finished work on the cross.
That by His enduring sacrifice we may be healed, not simply forgiven, but truly healed of the sickness of our sin and given the fullness of His righteousness. (II Peter 1:1-4)
Are you living in a dark time now? Is you human frailty getting in the way of humble submission to the Father’s will? Have all others abandoned the Father’s will and you stand alone? Do you think obedience is impossible? Are you weary and heavy laden? You need to know that He HAS carried that burden for you, once for all!
So rise up follower of Christ – crucify your flesh and depend on Christ’s finished work so that you too can obey the Father’s will.