And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.…
After the Passover and the address given in John 14., he led the disciples out through the vineyards, where most likely John 15. was delivered to them, and John 16., until he reached his usual rendezvous in Gethsemane, part of the Mount of Olives. Here let us suppose the high-priestly prayer given in John 17. took place, which being ended, he retired to an adjacent and secluded place for further prayer. Gethsemane was thus his preparation for suffering and death, as the Transfiguration had been for work. And here we have to notice -
I. HIS DREAD OF THE DENOUEMENT WAS NOT A DREAD OF PHYSICAL PAIN AND DEATH. His cry for escape, if possible, was not prompted by physical fear. He always showed himself brave before danger of a mere physical kind. Socrates seems the braver man before he drank the hemlock, but this was because Socrates could not see the issues that were before him as Christ foresaw his fate. The cup he shrank from was not like that of Socrates. It was no literal cup, but the apprehension of isolation from his Father. Not the trial, nor the mockery, nor the physical pain, but the isolation from God, the sense of forsakenness, the constraint to cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" which prompted the cry to escape. Now, the very elevation of his being rendered the dread of separation even for the shortest season from his Father intensely painful. Vulgar souls can take separation from others quietly, but the elect souls pass through deepest pains in consequence. That darkness which came on when Son was separated from Father because of the sin-bearing was what Jesus dreaded, and would gladly have escaped. Want of fellowship with the Father seemed to this holy Child Jesus something to be escaped if at all possible.
II. THE INTENSITY AND EFFICACY OF HIS PRAYER. Just as Jacob had to wrestle at Peniel to obtain the blessing, so had the Saviour in the garden. He was in an agony of earnestness, and was in consequence bathed in a bloody sweat. Time after time he prayed thus earnestly. And we are expressly told, "He was heard in that he feared" (Hebrews 5:7). His prayer was efficacious. Now, let us consider what he prayed for. It was for deliverance from isolation from God - deliverance from death without a sense of the Divine fellowship. And when we consider the sequel, we find that he was heard, and his prayer answered. For
(1) he enjoyed an angelic visit and was strengthened by it (ver. 43);
(2) he was granted light and fellowship with the Father before death supervened; and
(3) he was saved from death by resurrection. In these ways the Father undoubtedly heard and answered the cry of Christ in Gethsemane.
III. NOTICE THE DISCIPLES' SLEEP OF SORROW. For sorrow often induces sleep, while at other times it makes sleep impossible. In the present case the disciples ought to have been praying for Jesus, for themselves, seeking preparation for the trial he had forewarned them was at hand. Instead of doing so they slept. Here we have to notice:
1. Opportunity for showing spiritual sympathy was missed. Jesus, as we know, was most anxious they should watch with him. He needed and he sought their sympathy; but they, in thoughtlessness, denied it to him. It would be well it deepest consideration were exhibited for noble souls that are greatly tried.
2. Opportunity for private preparation was missed. They themselves needed spiritual help more than Christ. They could less afford than he to meet the crisis prayerlessly. Yet this was their condition when the trial fell upon them.
3. Physical effort was their only resource when the crisis came. They could lay on with the sword. It does not take much prayer to help men to fight. But other and better weapons were needed than Peter's sword, but they could only be taken out of the armoury by prayer.
IV. THE BETRAYAL. Judas and his band were upon them before the sleepy disciples had time to pray. He had planned the capture as only a coward can. He betrays Christ with the semblance of friendship, trying to give the Master the usual kiss. To this offer Jesus simply replies, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" Force behind deceit is apparently overpowering the spirituality which had its home in that place of prayer.
V. THE DEFENCE OF THE DISCIPLES AND THE MIRACLE OF THE MASTER, The disciples, spiritually off guard, betake themselves to the carnal weapon, and Peter lays round him with the sword. He succeeds in cutting off the right ear of the high priest's servant. Here is fresh trouble created. If this servant has to go back thus wounded, a warrant will soon be out for the disciples, and the whole issue thrown into perplexity. Our Lord accordingly interposes, heals the sufferer's ear, and advises Peter to put up his sword. In this way Jesus rescues the disciples from the liability incurred through their own imprudence. It was a wonderful consideration manifested when his own troubles were rising to their height.
VI. THE REBUKE ADMINISTERED TO HIS ENEMIES. Why had they come out against him as against a thief? Had he not confronted them time after time in open day? They had not dared to lay hands upon him then. He thus convicted them of cowardice. It was "their hour, and the power of darkness." A deed of darkness dare not be done in open day. Thus was it that our Lord bravely met his adversaries. He was prepared, though the disciples were not. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.