Mar 29 // Day 35
Once again the disciples argue over who is the greatest (see Luke 9:46). Even at this late stage in Jesus’ ministry they have not fully understood the nature of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world, driven by earthly power (v. 25) – instead, those full of humility before God will be exalted, and those full of power and self-importance will be brought low (v. 26). The disciples are to serve just as Jesus has humbly served them (v. 27 – see Philippians 2.8). There is a sense here of the sheer loneliness of Jesus – even this late in His ministry, the disciples seem on a different page to Him. Even Peter, his most zealous disciple, will give in to the temptation of Satan (who will use the power of fear over Peter later on that evening – in an act of self-protection, Peter will deny he even knows Jesus). Jesus uses the plural ‘you’ here – Satan is looking to ‘rattle’ all the disciples to test their faith. The kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of God are in battle: Satan does not want Jesus’ Kingdom to prevail.
Jesus talks to the disciples instructing them to be armed spiritually for this battle (see Ephesian 6:10-17). He is talking metaphorically here (v.35-38) shown by the fact that later this evening Jesus will tell them to put their swords away (v.51). Actual swords have no power to stop the battle that is going on. In v.38 there is a hint of frustration ‘that’s enough!’ – Jesus is entirely alone in His understanding of what is to come.
The evening is over and they all head back towards their lodgings on the Mount of Olives (v.39). Jesus stops at the foot of the mountain, entering the Garden of Gethsemane (not named here, see Matthew 26.36) in order to pray. He tells the disciples to pray that they don’t fall into temptation (v.40) though it is left for us to decide whether He meant the temptation of sleep or the temptation to abandon Him. Jesus’ humanity in the face of what lies ahead is deeply moving. The decision to face the cross is an excruciatingly difficult one and, even though He knows it is the Father’s will (v.42), it is still agony for Him (v.44). The description of Jesus’ sweat becoming ‘like great drops of blood’ may be metaphorical (‘like’) or actual (there is a medical condition ‘Hematidrosis’, where extreme anguish causes one’s capillary blood vessels to dilate and burst). Either way, Jesus is under extreme emotional and physical trauma.
It’s been a long day and the disciples are no doubt exhausted (v.45). Jesus has been left entirely alone in His anguish.
As Jesus stirs His disciples, a crowd arrives in the garden. This crowd is made up of His opponents (v.52). In order to identify Jesus in the darkness, Judas kisses Him – a customary greeting between a disciple and his teacher. That Judas would great Him in this way, with such other intentions in his heart, shows the level of his betrayal (v.48). The disciples again misunderstand what is required of them – Jesus puts an end to the fighting and restores the wound that has been inflicted (v. 50 – such grace!). Even though his opponents have seen Jesus teaching and know that there is no justification for his arrest (v. 53), there is to be no resistance – Jesus willingly submits to them and to the powers of darkness at work.
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