What is the story of the Garden of Gethsemane the night Jesus was arrested?
The story of the Garden of Gethsemane can be found in Matthew 26:36-56, Mark 14:32-52, Luke 22:39-53, and John 18. After the Last Supper in the Upper Room, after Judas left to notify the chief priests that Jesus would be vulnerable, Jesus led His remaining disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. The garden, possibly an olive grove ("gethsemane" means "oil press"), sat on the side of the Mount of Olives. John 18:1 describes the area as "over the ravine of the Kidron."
Once Jesus and the disciples arrived, Jesus drew away Peter, James, and John—His core three followers. He asked them to stay with Him. "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me" (Matthew 26:38). He then went a little farther, fell to His face, and, in agony, asked God to find another way. His sweat fell like drops of blood; God sent an angel to comfort Him. We cannot know the depths of Jesus' sorrow at this time. While Jesus wept in anguish, Peter, James, and John fell asleep.
Jesus returned to the three and woke them up. "So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:40-41). Again He prayed, humbly and actively submitting to the will of God. But filled with good food and wearied from an emotional night, the disciples fell asleep again.
Jesus rose. When He found them sleeping again, He let them be. He reiterated His distress of what He must do, as well as His willingness. Then He returned to His disciples and woke them, saying, "Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!" (Matthew 26:46).
As Jesus spoke, Judas arrived, followed by a large number of men with swords, lanterns, and clubs—a Roman cohort (of 300-600 men) as well as officers from the chief priests and Pharisees. Judas called to Him—calling Him "Rabbi," or teacher—and kissed Him, a traditional greeting at the time. In case they didn't get the picture, Jesus asked the soldiers who they were looking for. When they said "Jesus the Nazarene," Jesus responded, "I am He." Whereupon the guard and soldiers drew back and fell to the ground.
Jesus submitted to the mob, but His disciples did not. One asked if they should fight back. Peter didn't wait for an answer. He drew his sword (possibly a long fisherman's knife) and cut off the ear of Malchus, the high priest's slave. The Bible doesn't elaborate why. Perhaps Malchus was ushering Peter and the other disciples away. Or maybe he had his hands on Jesus. We don't know. But Jesus rebuked Peter, in effect telling him that if violence was his first instinct, violence would be his undoing. "Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way?" (Matthew 26:53-54). To emphasize His point, Jesus healed Malchus' ear.
Jesus then pointed out the cowardice of the mob, that they came to confront one unarmed man in the dead of night instead of taking Him in the day where the people could see. But, as in His prayer, He acknowledged that this was God's plan. Each member of the mob was responsible for his own choice, but for Jesus' part He would not struggle against God's instruction.
As the guards took Jesus away, the disciples ran, one (perhaps Mark) naked.
How did Judas know where Jesus would be? Possibly because Jesus often took the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:39 says it was Jesus' "custom." John 18:2 says, "Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place; for Jesus had often met there with His disciples."
How did the authors of the Gospels know what Jesus prayed when the three nearest were sleeping? The Bible doesn't say. Either Jesus told them after the resurrection, or the Holy Spirit informed them.
Why, besides the obvious, was Jesus so agonized if He'd known all along this was coming? The scourging ripped His skin off. The thorns on the crown were inches long, sending blood pouring from His scalp. And the hours on the cross were nothing but torture. But Jesus was silent during the torture. It was the removal of God's presence and love that sent Him reeling. Jesus did not question the physical pain, but when the Second Member of the Trinity was removed from communion with the other members, He cried, "Father, why have You forsaken Me?"
Why did the soldiers fall back when Jesus said, "I am He"? Bible versions add the "He" for clarification, but what Jesus actually said was "I AM." This is the name of God (Exodus 3:14). Jesus revealed Himself as God. Faced with the name—the power and identity—the guards fell in fear of His glory.
In ancient Israel, the chosen ones—priests, prophets, and kings—were anointed with olive oil. Jesus was anointed with sweat in an olive grove. It is fitting that Jesus, our Prophet, Priest, and King was in the Garden of Gethsemane—an olive grove—as He began His fulfillment of His role of Messiah, the Anointed One.
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