The Agony of Obedience
Main Idea: Jesus overcame his greatest temptation through fervent prayer so that we might do the same.
I. The Final Test (Mark 14:32–34)
II. The Final Fight (Mark 14:35–40)
III. The Final Embrace (Mark 14:41–52)
Before we turn to the text this morning, I have to admit that it is very odd to be almost alone this morning at church.
But, I want you to know that the elders do not what you to feel like you are cut off and alone during this Coronavirus outbreak—especially our older church members.
First: Please check in on one another. If God brings someone to mind, give them a call. And please be looking out for your neighbors as well.
Second: If you have a need please ask for help:
- Call someone in the church directory.
- Contact the elders or someone in your small group.
- Contact the church office by phone or email.
Third: We have no idea how long these conditions will persist. But, the elders are praying for you and will be following the situation and we will keep everyone updated through email, face book, and the church website.
How can you stand for God when you’re the only one left standing? How do you endure the agony of obedience knowing full well it’s going to cost you everything?
- Obedience to God isn’t easy.
- Faithfulness to God isn’t free.
- And the sovereignty of God doesn’t erase all of our fears.
But even worse, is the subtle, obedience-eroding belief that Jesus was somehow exempt from these struggles because he was God. And this could not be any further from the truth because Jesus never used his divine privilege for his personal good—he never cheated.
He faced every single difficulty, trial, and temptation in life as a frail human being. Which is why I believe the main idea of our text this morning is this:
Main Idea: Jesus overcame his greatest temptation through fervent prayer so that we might do the same.
The Final Test (32–34)
The Final Fight (35–40)
The Final Embrace (41–52)
The Final Test (Mark 14:32–34)
The Significance of His Struggle (Hypostatic Union)
Throughout the Gospel of Mark we have seen that: Jesus feels the same pain and emotions that we feel. He experienced fatigue (4:38) and hunger (11:12), anger and indignation (1:41; 3:5; 10:14), frustration (8:17, 21), and overwhelming sorrow and distress (14:33–34). And he felt the emotional weight of betrayal and abandonment by his closest friends (14:18–21, 27–31). He felt all of this and more.
But, more than any other event in the entire Gospel, Gethsemane reveals his true humanity. Jesus is not aloof, disconnected, or stoically resigned to his fate. He is utterly consumed in grief even though he is fully aware of God’s sovereign plan, which includes his resurrection from the dead! There is a great comfort in this…
Yet at the same time, his grief presents us with the puzzling question: why does Jesus face his final hours with such agony, angst, and trepidation when the Bible is full of people who faced their death without any fear?
Daniel 3:16–18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Hebrews 11:35–38 Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
We see there is a Biblical pattern of fearlessness in the face of death. But, if this is the Biblical pattern, why do the Gospel authors go out of their way to emphasize Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane. The answer is that Jesus knows that he is facing something infinitely worse that physical death—he is going to be giving his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
In Gethsemane Jesus has to make the first payment of that ransom; in that is he has to willingly submit to God’s sovereign plan and willingly embrace his sin-bearing role.
Jesus isn’t dying for his sin—he is sinless, he is dying for our sin. Jesus isn’t dying for his faithfulness to God—he is dying for our faithlessness to God. Jesus isn’t dying as a rebel—he is dying for rebels.
It’s one thing for a human to answer for their own sins against God. But, who can imagine answering for every-single sin and crime and act of malice and injury and cowardice and evil in the history of mankind?
Jesus has to fully accept the catastrophic consequences of his mission long before he has to endure the physical implications of his mission. Yes, he is going to be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isa 53:5). But, the true horror will come when he is wholly alienated from God—“my God my God why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). See, the very moment that he fully identifies with our sin he will be severed from the unimaginable joy of his eternal fellowship with the Trinity and bear the full weight of the Father’s white-hot wrath against our sin.
What I want you to see is that Jesus is not overwhelmed by the prospect of torture and death, as horrible as it will be. He is overwhelmed by the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
So how? How does Jesus fight for faithful obedience in the face of its agonizing cost? He falls to his knees in prayer.
The Final Fight (Mark 14:35–40)
His Relationship with the Father: It’s easy for modern Christians to miss the radical intimacy of Jesus’ prayer. When Jesus says “Abba Father” he is revealing his true relationship with the Father—Jesus is the rightful Son of God. In fact, contrary to popular belief, Abba was not a simple childish term like daddy. It was a term that adult children used to address their fathers. It was a term of respect.
Jesus isn’t coming to the Father like a kindergartener. He is coming to the Father as an adult son who has every freedom to go the way he chooses. But, listen to his heart in this prayer…
Mark 14:36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
His Devotion to the Father’s Will: What do we see in this verse? When Jesus is asking God to “Take this cup from me” (Mark 14:36) his is praying that God would not to strike the shepherd (Mark 14:27). He is asking, “is it possible for me to avoid this final step and still fulfill your perfect will?” Maybe he is even thinking about how God saved Isaac from death by providing a ram in the thicket.
But ultimately, for Jesus, the issue is not whether God “can” remove the “hour” and “cup” but whether it’s God’s will to remove the “hour” and the “cup.” We see this clearly in the Greek, in that, Jesus uses the strongest contrastive conjunction in the Greek language to subordinate his human will to the Father’s sovereign plan.
Mark 14:36c “Yet, not what I will but what you [will]” (ἀλλ᾿ οὐ τί ἐγὼ θέλω ἀλλὰ τί σύ).
Jesus has to fully and finally die to himself before he can die for the sins of mankind. The agony is real but there is no other way for God to be both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26) apart from his wrath-bearing death.
Romans 3:23–26 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
- Everyone is under God’s wrath because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
- Yet, God cannot simply forgive everyone (which is what many people think he will do on the last day) because he is perfectly holy and just. It is impossible for God to call good evil or evil good. And, as we know full-well, it is impossible for sinful fallen humans to overcome the guilt of their sin by doing good deeds (Romans 3:20).
- Jesus died as a propitiation for our sins. A big word which simply means that his death was the very means by which God satisfied his wrath against us by paying for the debt of our sin against him.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This plan was not random. There is no version of this story where it plays out another way. Rather it was the only way for God to remain perfectly just and holy, in his forgiveness of those who place their faith in Jesus Christ.
And this is why we believe “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Jesus didn’t die so that morally upright people might live better lives. Jesus absorbed God’s holy wrath against the cesspool of mankind’s sin: genocide, adultery, homosexuality, fornication, abortion, murder, rape, slavery, misogyny, bigotry, abuse, theft, greed, and complacent self-serving hedonism.
In fact, the horror of our sin and his separation from God was so great Jesus wrestled with God three different times in prayer.
Luke 22:44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
He didn’t just toss up a prayer to the big guy upstairs. He didn’t just say well if you are sovereign I don’t really need to pray. And he didn’t resign himself to fate. He begged his Father three different times for another way while wholly submitting to his sovereign will.
A Pattern to Follow
Prayer is not the way Christians ask God for stuff. Prayer is the means by which we align our will with God’s will (Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven). We bring our needs and our requests but we do it with open hands. And as we do we pray for the kind of things that brings him glory. And he grants us the power to withstand the temptations that come in our life.
Prayer is more like a wrestling match than an email and that is because following God’s will is not going happen apart from periods of fervent agonizing prayer. If Jesus gave so much time to prayer why do we act as if it is utterly unimportant? Notice, Jesus succeeds and his disciples fail. Why? They fell to temptation because they did not “watch and pray” (14:38) like Jesus did. Don’t miss this.
Like most of us they were willing to follow Jesus to the end, but their will power was not enough to ensure their undying fidelity to Jesus in his final hour of agony and God-exalting victory.
The Final Embrace (Mark 14:41–52)
The first thing I want you to see in these final moments at Gethsemane is that Jesus has fully accepted God’s will and is virtually running headlong into his final hour he is not running away from it.
Mark 14:42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.
Jesus embraces Judas. He receives his final kiss. He allows himself to be seized. And he watches his disciples escape into the dark.
The second thing I want you to see in these final moments at Gethsemane is that Jesus exposes the true identity of the religious leaders. They are not holy men of God. They are not faithful Israelites. They are not the righteous remnant. They are sinners.
Which ultimately means that their opposition to Jesus was ultimately not a matter Biblical interpretation, oral traditions, Messianic expectations, or political aspirations. It was their sin and rebellion against God himself!
The Glorious Irony
Yet the glorious irony in all this, is that Jesus came to save sinners from their sin (2:16–17).
Mark 2:16–17 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
See, these men have been despicable, conniving, hypocrites throughout the whole Gospel. And they are going to sentence Jesus to death. But, even in their act of sinful rebellion Jesus will open the way for their restoration to God through faith in his blood! And that is the very thing we see in the book of Acts.
Acts 6:7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
Jesus saves every kind of sinner.
- He saves morally upright religious people from their sin.
- He saves morally degenerate people from their wholesale rebellion.
- He saves people who are scarred by the shame of the darkest sins.
Jesus is an equal opportunity Savior because everyone is a sinner.
He saves religious hypocrites and atheistic hedonists alike.
The blood of Jesus is more than enough to deliver you from anything you have ever done in your life. And if you think you have lived an acceptable life, the blood of Jesus is witness that it is not enough. If some of the men who murdered Jesus were saved by faith in his blood, anyone can be saved by faith in his blood.
The Amazing Truth
As Christians, it’s easy to emphasize Jesus’ deity so much that we inadvertently diminish his humanity. An unwarranted emphasis that can lead to an inadequate view of Christ and distort one of the greatest comforts in the entire Bible.
- Jesus was not God in a human wrapper or a spiritually possessed body. (Apollinarianism)
- Jesus didn’t exist as a virtual schizophrenic with two separate persons battling with in him. (Nestorianism)
Jesus is more like you than you can ever imagine. Yes, He is truly God and truly man, one person, in two in-confusable, unchangeable, indivisible, inseparable natures: the properties of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. And he did this for a reason.
Hebrews 2:17–18 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
First, he had to be truly man and truly God so that he might fully pay the penalty of our sin in his blood.
Second, he had to be truly man and truly God so that he could suffer every kind of temptation that you have ever or will ever face. He knows the promises of sin. He knows the power of temptation. He knows the weakness of the flesh. He knows them more than anyone else because he never caved in.
Yet, in his perfection he does not accuse us of our failures he forever-intercedes on our behalf to God for our good. A promise that should stiffen our resolve and drive us to our knees in humble prayer just like Jesus:
Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Jesus overcame his greatest temptation through fervent prayer so that we might do the same.
 Jesus overcame the agony of obedience by trusting God and pursuing superior pleasure in him.
 Mark L. Strauss, Mark, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 638–39.
 See also, 2 Maccabees 6–7; Josephus, J.W. 1.33.3 §653; 2.8.10 §153; 7.10.1 §§417–18.
 James R Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 433. See also, J. C. Ryle, Mark, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Crossway Books, 1993), 232–33.
 Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, 434.
 Robert H. Stein, Mark, Baker Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 661.
 Adapted from the Chalcedonian Creed 451 A.D.