Sermon: The Great Sorrow and Intense Anguish of Becoming Sin Matthew 26:36-46

Truth Taught- Jesus prays for God’s will to be done and for the strength to endure it.

Introduction

In the passage before us today, we see a dual focus that Matthew has for us.  He focuses primarily on Jesus, His deep emotions and His prayers and then secondly, his focus is on the disciples and their inability to perceive what is going on and their weariness in the late hour.  The time is at hand and they are taking a nap.  The same disciples that promised they would never forsake Jesus and even die with Him cannot sit with Him and pray during His time of deepest need.

As we look to this passage, Matthew has set it up so that we can make a clear comparison and contrast between Jesus and His disciples.  The three-fold prayer of Jesus to the Father and the three-fold testing and three-fold failure of the disciples.

We are also very blessed and further equipped to pray as we watch the sequence of Jesus’ prayers.  He moves with great emotion from the removal of this cup, if possible, to the acceptance that it may not be possible to the third prayer which is let Your will be done.  This is a very good example of how we should pray to the Father.  

Jesus exhibits tremendous courage and loyalty to the Father as He prays these three prayers then accepts the will of God and continues His mission.  He never argues with God or complains He simply asks if another way is possible.  Once Jesus understands that another way is not possible, He, in great courage, moves forward completely accepting the will of God and embraces His destiny.

What a wonderful example of prayer Jesus gives us.  We are right to teach and we learn from the Lord’s Prayer but here is another Lord’s Prayer we can learn from.  Pray to the Father for His will to be done then embrace it with all your heart.  Jesus is bold and resolved to accomplish all the Father has for Him even if it means that He will die to secure the salvation of all who would come to Him by faith.  

Matthew 26:36–46 (ESV) 

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” 

1.  Jesus Going Up to Pray

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”

Jesus and the disciples make their way up to the mount of Olives once again.  Here they travel to a special place.  It was a walled olive grove, a secluded garden where Jesus could pray.  Once they arrive, He gets Peter, James and John to go on further with Him.  Jesus then stops and leaves the three with instructions to watch and pray while He goes on further to be alone with God.

Jesus often went to the Father alone in prayer…

Matthew 14:23 (ESV) 

23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 

Matthew reports that at this time Jesus was very sorrowful and troubled to the depths of His soul.  Jesus had already told His disciples on a number of occasions that He would be killed in Jerusalem and then He would rise again on the third day.  So, He knew what was going to take place.  Was it these events that caused Him to be sorrowful to the depths of His soul?  Was it the fact that Judas and the soldiers were making their way to the garden to arrest Him?  Was it that Jesus would endure these events all alone.  He had already told His disciples that they would all abandon Him.  Was it the Sanhedrin would condemn Him and Pilate would sentence Him?  Was it that He would be brutally tortured then brutally crucified and hang there until He was dead?  He had disclosed these events to His followers before and was not troubled like He is now.  It could be that what was far off had now come home.  These events were hours away.  Perhaps this explains His great anguish?

Perhaps His sorrow ran even deeper even than His coming death?  Perhaps there is more going on here?

38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”

Was it the importance of this event that troubled Jesus so?  Was it the theology of the cross event that caused Him to agonize so?  I’m sure the approaching torment and death played a role in His agonizing over these next few hours.  However, its here we must consider and imagine what is about to happen more than Jesus’ death is that the sinless Son of God is about to become sin and about to experience not only the abandonment of even His closes companions but for a time the abandonment of His Father.

Jesus knew that His heavenly Father was going to forsake Him and there was coming a tidal wave of God’s wrath poured out on Jesus, the sinless Son as He would take on the sin of His people.  

Jesus is being forsaken by Judas, then by the others, specifically by Peter and James and John.  Then comes the ultimate shock to Jesus’ soul, He was about to have His Father turn His back to Jesus as He pours out His divine wrath on the sinless perfect Savior.  Jesus would have the weight and intense burden of the curse placed upon Him.  This is what troubled Jesus the most.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) 

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 


Jesus is about to become sin and about to experience the literal wrath of God that those in hell currently experience for sin, however, it is going to be even worse for Jesus because He has never known sin, He has never known abandonment by the Father, He has never experienced even the slightest displeasure of God and very shortly He will endure the pure undiluted wrath of God the Father.

This is why He throws Himself to the ground in prayer…  

2.  Jesus’ First Prayer…He Throws Himself Face Down to the Ground

39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Our Lord’s agony intensifies even more as He literally hurls Himself to the ground in prayer to the Father.  In intense reverence to the Father and in utter anguish Jesus dives to the ground.  That is the literal original language…almost like a belly flop to the ground in reverence and awe of God.

This cup, Jesus speaks of is the cup of God’s wrath.  Judgement and punishment often times in the Bible was symbolized as a cup.

Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Lamentations, Psalms and others in the OT and of course the Book of Revelation in the NT speak of the cup of God’s wrath.  This is the cup Jesus is referring to.  For Jesus to drink the cup of God’s wrath is to have God’s full wrath for all the sins of God’s elect to be poured out on Jesus in full measure.  This includes God’s wrath and God’s abandonment.   

Jesus knows there is no plan B.  He knows what He is to endure.  He has spoken about it already.  He’s read the OT.  He has taught His disciples the reality of Him impending death.  There is no other option.  This is not new discovery for Jesus.  What is going on here is that Jesus is reigning in if you will, His humanity and is emotionally coming to terms with what He already knows is getting ready to happen.  It’s like He knows this in theory and needs to embrace it in reality.  

We see Jesus’ intense prayer being contrasted with the disciples’ sleeping.  Jesus asks them to stay awake and pray and they fell asleep.  He is enduring intense emotional anguish and they are snoring.  We see a very stark contrast, don’t we?  Jesus’ intense praying and their failure to even stay awake. 

Jesus told them to pray that they would not fall into temptation.  Almost verbatim with the line in the Model Prayer…

Matthew 6:13 (ESV) 

13  And lead us not into temptation, 

but deliver us from evil. 

Keep awake and pray…they fail miserably.

3.  Jesus’ Second Prayer…Your Will Be Done

42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.

Jesus knows that He must drink of the cup of the wrath of God.  So, now His prayer to the Father is for strength to drink the cup.  He knows the cup cannot pass and He must drink it.  So, Jesus asks God to give Him the strength to drink it dry.  

Earlier that day, Jesus and His disciple took the Passover.  We must realize that Jesus passed the cup of blessing to His disciples.  This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, He said.  At the Lord’s Supper, we are drinking the cup that signifies we receive all the benefits of the cross while Jesus experienced all the wrath.  The cup we drink is the cup of blessing because He drank the cup of wrath.

God answers His prayer.

Jesus will not resist arrest although He could have passed through another way…
Jesus will not give a defense while standing before Pilate even though He was innocent of any crime.

The only thing Hs says…


Matthew 26:64 (ESV) 

64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 

Really serves to seal His fate. 

After meeting with His Father in prayer our Lord is being made ready to follow through with all the Father desires for Him.

4.  Jesus’ Third Prayer…Even More Intensely, Your Will Be Done

44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” 

Now the third time, Jesus meets with His Father whom He loves and who loves Him.  Jesus is now ready to face all that forgiving sin has in store for Him.  He will drink the cup; He will endure all the Father has for Him and He will do it perfectly.  

The time is now…Jesus had often said His time is not yet but now, the hour is at hand.  

This time as Jesus felt the abandonment of His disciples, He was quickly seeing that He would be facing everything alone.  He alone would drink the cup of God’s wrath.  He would endure everything alone for us.    

Conclusion

Jesus did it all.  Everything required by God to forgive sin Jesus accomplished perfectly.  Even Jesus, the Son of God needed to go to the Father in prayer.  He needed strength to accomplish all the Father had for Him.

If Jesus needed prayer, how much more must we go to the Father in prayer.  Like Jesus we too must pray for God’s will and the strength to endure it.  For many, this is a radical prayer.  So many are used to praying that their circumstances change when a much better prayer is that God would give you what you need to accomplish His will for His glory.  


Pray for God’s will and the strength to endure it.

Resources Used:
Matthew by John MacArthur

Matthew by RT France

Matthew by William Hendriksen

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