When the supper was ended and they had sung a hymn, the Lord and the eleven disciples (for Judas had left the table and gone to the priests, to arrange to betray the Lord to them) went from the upper chamber and the city. They passed down over the slope of the hill and across the Kidron to a garden low down on the Mount of Olives, which was probably a favorite resting place for the Lord and His disciples. We can think of them going to this quiet, lonely place in the moonlight, the Lord knowing that Judas would find them there. The Lord was telling them that this very night they would all be offended in Him. Their faith in Him would be shaken. But Peter was sure that he would never be offended in the Lord, even if all the rest of the world were. The Lord said to Peter, that this very night, before the cock should crow twice in the early dawn, Peter would deny three times that he knew Him. This, Peter could not believe, and said even if he should have to die with the Lord he would never deny Him; and all the others said the same.
When they came to the garden the Lord took Peter and James and John, the three who had several times been with Him; but they could not be near Him in His agony of prayer, and could not even keep awake, though He bade them to watch.
Then Judas came with armed men - his sign was a kiss - and the Lord let them take Him. "And they all forsook Him and fled." How soon their brave resolutions had vanished and the Lord's prediction had come true!
In pictures looking eastward from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives you see the garden of Gethsemane on the lower slope of the hell, an enclosure with flowers and olives and tall, dark cypress trees. It was probably a grove of olives in the old days, for the name means "oil-press." It was toward midnight as the Lord came with the disciples to this place from the large upper room where they had kept the Passover together. Notice three things as you read the story. The Lord's warning and the protests of the disciples as they walked; the Lord's earnest prayer three times repeated in the garden; the coming of Judas with armed men.
Read verses 26-31. How confident the disciples were that they would be faithful to the Lord! How soon they would fail! We have only to look forward to verse 50 and to the end of the chapter, to find the Lord's warning fulfilled. Notice verse 28. Who would remind the disciples of this promise by and by? (Mark 16:7)
Read verses 32-42. Three disciples went farther into the shadow with the Lord, but He left even these, and went alone to the place of prayer. The disciples slept. They could not understand and we cannot fully understand the trial which led the Lord to pray so earnestly three times. It was one of the last struggles of His life, in which He met all the powers of evil which urged Him to save Himself, to resent the injustice and ingratitude of men, to compel their obedience. What the Lord said tenderly of the disciples, "The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak," reveals a deep truth in regard to Himself in this and in all His temptations. It was the weak human nature that was tempted, and His struggle was to bring down in place of this weakness the strength of the Divine Spirit within. You feel the victory that He gained, when you see the Lord meeting Judas and his men so calm and strong.
Read verses 43-52. What have we learned before about Judas and his bargain with the priests? (Mark 14:1, 2, 10, 11) The deceitful kiss of Judas seems more contemptible than an open attack. (Psalm 41:9; 55:12-14) Who drew the sword? But the love and obedience that the Lord desired could not be compelled by force, such as Judas and his men were using. In the Lord's perfect gentleness there was a greater strength.
1. Where did the Lord go with the disciples from the table of the Last Supper? What is the meaning of the name?
2. What warning did the Lord give them as they walked?
3. What did the Lord do in the garden? The disciples?
4. Who came with Judas? What was his sign?
Let me suggest several points in the lesson for your study. Do you see why this experience of trial should be in Gethsemane, the "oil press"? Connect the oil press in your mind with a wine press and a threshing floor. (R.493; E.359)
Was it also right in a spiritual sense, when all the disciples were offended? (A. 6000) Do you see how at the same time the spiritual sheep were scattered?
Why did the Lord pray three times in the garden? (E. 820; T. 211)
What does the sleep of the disciples suggest, when they should have been watching with the Lord? Their dullness and indifference to the deep things of spiritual life. Presently when the Lord said, "Sleep on now, and take your rest," there is a suggestion of the peaceful trust which we may have in the protecting power gained in His victories. We need not know the depth of evil that He saves us from. There is a wrong sleep of indifference, and a right sleep of peaceful trust. (A. 3696; E. 187) A kiss is a token of love. The kiss of Judas is the token of love for the sake of selfish gain. (A. 4215)