Observe How The Lord Handles Distress
Mt 26:36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there." 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me." 39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." 40 Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, "What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." 42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done." 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then He came to His disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.
So much taking place on this night before our Lord went to the cross. But tonight I want to spend some time looking at his hour of prayer in Gethsemane. He has just instituted what we call the Lord’s Supper, then He and the 11 sang a hymn and headed out to the Mount of Olives.
They sang a hymn? Outside the setting of a worship service? What kind of men were these guys?
You know, one of the things I like about the AFLC is we like to sing hymns. When I attend the seminary classes in the summer, every morning devotion starts out with a hymn. At the annual pastor’s retreat, we always have a hymn sing after the pastor’s banquet. Every retreat that I have attended at the ARC always starts out with song.
We should sing more hymns at Living Word at our activities outside of the worship service. We’ve started singing a hymn at the beginning of the men’s Bible Study on Thursday morning. We start off our Sunday night prayer session with singing, and I would recommend it for any other event here at Living Word.
Hey, if it was good enough for Jesus and the 11, it ought to be good enough for us!
So, they arrive at the garden of Gethsemane, and Jesus does something a little unusual. He tells 8 of his disciples to stay in one spot and takes His inner circle, (Peter, John, and James) a little bit farther.
These three were also with Him on the Mount of transfiguration. They were privileges to witness Jesus and an incredible high, and now would have the opportunity to witness Him in an incredible low.
Almost immediately after depositing the other disciples, Matthew notes that Jesus became visibly sorrowful and deeply distressed. His soul became heavy with visible signs of grief! If the disciples hadn’t noticed, He then tells them, “My soul is intensely sad,” In John’s eyewitness account of this event, he says Jesus said, “My soul is troubled.”
The idea of troubled is roiled up, like water....it’s greatly agitated.
And when Jesus says He is “exceedingly sorrowful, even to death,” we could equate it with someone saying today, “I just want to die.” “I want out!” Knowing what I am about to experience or am experiencing, it’s too hard, I just want to die.” “The pain or the anticipated pain is just too much!”
How many of you have ever felt like that? I know I have. There were times when my pain, (mostly self-inflicted) just seemed too much for me to bear, and thoughts of suicide entered my mind. Maybe some of you are even that kind of distress tonight.
Well, suicide is not an option. Whether your pain is self-inflicted by wrong choices you’ve made or inflicted by the wrong choices of others, Gethsemane makes it plain, that we are to endure our pain. Thou shalt not kill applies not only to our neighbors, but also to us.
I believe we can make a connection here between the temptation of suicide and the Scripture that tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way as we are.
Heb 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin
And in Gethsemane He was sorrowful to the point of wanting to die!
Now, He says something to His inner circle that is vitally important for all of us facing distress. He says, “Watch!” “Be vigilant! Observe how I handle great distress in My life.” He went a little further, in plain view and certainly in earshot of the disciples and He fell on His face and prayed.
“Oh My Father, in Mark’s Gospel, the word “Abba” is used. This is a term of great endearment, the equivalent of our word “Daddy.” So the first thing we observe is, it’s okay to humbly play the “Daddy” card when you are in deep distress.
As a baptized believer, you have this right. It’s one of the benefits brought to you in baptism:
Ga 4:4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!"
Yes, beloved, in your deep distress come to your Daddy and pray. “If it’s possible, let this cup pass from Me.” Daddy, if there is anyway that you can lift me out of this distress, please, I beg You....do it! That’s the way I would prefer it Father, nonetheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
This is an ok prayer. It’s what you really want anyway isn’t it? Don’t you want the pain to be gone? Well, don’t deny it, God knows what you want.....He’s not afraid of your honesty, ask Him to get you out of your pain!
Please note the answer our Lord received.......dead silence. And in the silence He has His answer. But, that did not prevent Him from coming back a second and third time to see if he heard right. Why did He stop at three? Why not four? Five? Six?
The answer is found in Luke 22:43, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.”
This does not mean that an angel actually appeared in a physical sense, (although one certainly could have) it simply means an “angel gazed on Him from heaven.” he took a personal interest in the situation as directed by the Father, and strengthened Jesus.
We have no idea what this looks like, only that it is a spiritual reality. This gaze was a certainty to Jesus and gave Him new supernatural strength to go on in prayer and to go on with the Father’s will. The writer of Hebrews, speaking of angels, had this to say:
Heb 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
In the case of Jesus in Gethsemane, this angel “strengthened” Him. The idea of strengthening is to invigorate or impart energy to. The “man,” Jesus, after one more round of heavenly strengthened prayer could get up now and deal with God’s silent response to His prayer. He knew He would be able to endure.
This was the answer to the Son’s prayer. As the Father strengthened Him in prayer, He would also strengthen Him for His trial. He would not pluck Him out, but He would deliver Him, that is, he would help Him see it through to the end. This is the great promise of Ps 91:14
Ps 91:14 "Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, (in prayer) and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.(Give value to his prayer)
Set your love on God and know that He will deliver you. Call upon Him in your hour of need and He will give honor to your prayer. He will be with you in your time of trouble, just as He was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in their fiery trial.
Da 3:24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, "Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?" They answered and said to the king, "True, O king." 25 "Look!" he answered, "I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."
E.M Bounds in his book on prayer writes: “Fear not, O tempted and tried believer, Jesus will come, if patience is exerted and faith holds fast. His delay will serve to make His coming the more richly blessed. Pray on. Wait on. You cannot fail. If Christ delay, wait for Him. In His own good time, He will come, and will not tarry. ....Patience has it’s perfect work in the school of delay.”
Back to the garden. Jesus gets up and goes back to His disciples and they are all sawing logs. He says in v40, “What? I singled the three of you out for a most important spiritual lesson on how to handle distress, and you can’t observe Me for one lousy hour?”
Luke includes another detail here in his account that is well worth mentioning. He says, Jesus “found them sleeping from sorrow.”
They were depressed! Their depression caused them to curl up in a little ball and go to sleep. Now, if any of you have ever dealt with depression, you know what’s going on here don’t you? When you are depressed, you just want to curl up on the couch or in your bed and shut everything else out by going to sleep.
The problem with that pitiful solution is it only drives you deeper into depression.
So Jesus says to the disciples in Mt 26:41, “Watch and pray!” Be alert for this tactic of the evil one! Be vigilant! When depression and distress starts to come on you, learn from My example. Pray as I prayed! Lest you enter into a world of deeper trial and distress.
Break the cycle before it starts! Get up! Get down! And pray! Patiently, persistently, knowing that God will answer! The Spirit that is in you is eagerly yearning to do this very thing, but your flesh is dead set against it, and it will do all it can to stifle the spirit of prayer..
How many times have you skipped Sunday night prayer because your flesh overpowered the spirit? How has that helped your situation? You may say, “well I have attended and it didn’t help my situation one bit.”
Lu 11:5 And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves;
6 'for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him';
7 "and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you'?
8 "I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.
Because of his what? His persistence! How many times do you think this man rapped on the door for this bread? How many times do you think he would’ve knocked on the door if his wife needed to get to the hospital and his car was broke down?
I think he would’ve rapped until he got an answer. We need to learn to go and do likewise. Persistency is directly related to the degree of our desperation. Jesus was desperate! Jesus was persistent. He didn’t give up until He got His answer.
The lessons of Gethsemane are for us today. Look around! There is much distress in our world today. There is much distress here in this little congregation called Living Word! Observe how Jesus handled it and let us go and do likewise. Let us learn the blessings of persistent, patient, prayer.