Matthewby Mike Raiter
Having eaten the Passover meal, Jesus and the disciples go up the Mount of Olives into the garden called Gethsemane, which means ″oil press″ (v. 36). It is very late, so the garden would be quiet and deserted, which is why Jesus liked it so much.
Jesus prays and Matthew describes the depth of Jesus' grief: ″My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death″ (v. 38). This is not figurative language. His anguish was so deep it would have killed Him (cf. Hebrews 5:7). Why? Because He knew He was about to drink the cup of God's wrath for the sins of the world (cf. Jeremiah 25:15). Despite His heartbreak, Jesus knew there could be no other way, and prays, ″Yet not as I will, but as you will″ (v. 39).
His determination to do God's will thus strengthened, Jesus meets the soldiers. At the head of the crowd is Judas, ″one of the Twelve″ (v. 47), says Matthew, just to emphasise the depth of his betrayal. Judas had seen Jesus calm a storm, raise the dead, feed 5,000 men, walk on water, and countless other signs and wonders. It beggars belief that he would do such a thing to a loving friend and master. But it gets worse.
″Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them″ (v. 48). It might have been dark in Gethsemane, which probably explains why Judas felt it necessary to identify Jesus. But the signal he gives is the most intimate and affectionate expression of love and friendship between human beings: the kiss (vv. 48-49).
Finally, Jesus points out the cowardice of this crowd who had ample opportunity to arrest Him publicly, but now come to Him like He was a common rebel. Yet, as we have seen, all this is done exactly as stated in the Old Testament, so that ″the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way″ (vv. 54, 56).
″Am I leading a rebellion?″ (v. 55). Do you see the great irony here? In a sense, the answer is ″yes″. There is something deeply subversive about a kingdom which calls for repentance and radical purity, and whose weapons are deeds and words of love. Jesus was a rebel, who by drinking that cup made possible the greatest rebellion of all: the revolution of the human heart.
Since Jesus knew that He was going to the cross, how can we explain His prayer for the cup to be taken from Him (v. 39)? What does this tell us about Jesus? What does Jesus' petition in the garden teach us about prayer?
How can you explain the betrayal of Judas? What does it tell us about human sin?