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The Garden

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The Garden

Matthew 26:36-46 NIV


Thesis – On the worst night of our life we should pray through!

Ethical and Supportive Objective – To cause people to pray through on the worst night of their lives.

            Our Lenten sermon series is focusing on Jesus’ final twenty-four hours.  Where did He go?  What did He do?  What were his priorities?  What people did He see?  How did He respond to the circumstances He faced?

            Two weeks ago I told you that the Gospel writers spent thirty-two percent of their writings dealing with the final week of Jesus’ life.  While they have only nine events in common, five of them take place during His last twenty-four hours.  Clearly the final twenty-four hours of Jesus’ life have great significance.

            Last week we looked at the final meal Jesus shared with His disciples.  Prior to this meal He gave them the acted parable of foot washing.  During the meal he taught them great truths about heaven, the Holy Spirit and abiding in Him.  After the meal He headed to an olive grove, on the Mount of Olives, known as the Garden of Gethsemane.  Let’s read Matthew’s account of what happened in the garden, between 7:00 PM and midnight.  You’ll find the account in Matthew 26:36-46.  (Read Matthew 26:36-46.)

            The way this passage portrays Jesus isn’t the way we normally see Him pictured!

Traditional pictures of Jesus include Him knocking at the door, carrying the lamb on His neck and walking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. 

I’m reminded of the account of the teacher of the junior boys Sunday school classiHH

 who told them that no one knew for sure what Jesus looked like.  The pictures they were looking at were just artist’s representations.  One bright boy, in the class, piped up and said, “Yeah, but you’ve got to admit, it sure does look like Him.”

            There is a traditional picture of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He’s kneeling by a rock, halo around His head, moon beam in His face.  That sure doesn’t look like the picture Matthew, Mark, Luke and John paint.  He was sorrowful and distressed (v. 37).  His face was in the dirt (v. 39).  Luke records He sweat blood (Luke 22:44).  There’s no record of halo or moon beam. Jesus tells Peter, James and John, My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (v. 38).  These words mean He preferred to be dead. 

I.  Why was Jesus having the worst night of His life?

A.  Jesus knowing all that was going to happen to him …  (John 18:4) knew He was going to become the Passover lamb (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19).

1.  “Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, in a very solemn ceremony, the people of Israel would gather at the temple.  That year’s High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary of the temple—the only time anyone would enter the Holy of Holies all year long was on the Day of Atonement.  And there was only one guy who was allowed to enter the holy place: the High Priest.  No on else would be let in.  Some traditions say that the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies with a rope tied around his waist [or foot].  The rope was tied on just in case he might somehow offend God or have a heart attack or keel over in some fashion while in there.  No one else could enter if something happened once the High Priest was inside the Holy of Holies and so if he became incapacitated, they could drag him out.  So, the High Priest, once a year, the only time ever for [this particular High Priest, with a] rope tied around his waist [or foot]—would enter the Holy of Holies—and with him, he would take a spotless lamb.  Once inside and at the appointed time, he would grab the lamb, and he would shout really loud so all the people on the outside could hear it: ‘The sins of the people be upon you.’  And at that moment the perfect lamb would ceremonially receive all the sins of all the Israelites.  All the killings, all the rapes, all the dishonesty, all the sleaze, all the lies, all of it would be placed upon that lamb.  That lamb at that moment became the ‘sacrificial lamb.’”  -Rob Prince, Pastor, Central Church of the Nazarene, Lenexa, KS  

 2.  The prospect of becoming sin for us was overwhelming.

            B.  His friends failed to support Him.

1.  But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’  And all the others said the same.  Matthew 26:25

2.  They couldn’t even stay awake (40, 43, 45).

Let’s consider

II.  What Jesus did on the worst night of His life?

            A.  He prayed honestly (39b, c).

            B.  He prayed persistently (v.44).

            C.  He prayed through (v 46).

            There will be a worst night of our life for each of us.  It may be when a child comes home high on drugs.  It may be when a spouse admits to an affair.  It may be hearing the words, “You’re fired” or “cancer” or “bankruptcy.”  The worst night may be the night before (as it was for Jesus): the night before surgery, or the divorce hearing, or the confrontation with the in-laws.  

            It may well be that your friends will fail you, as Jesus’ failed him, on the worst night of your life.

            What should you do when, it seems, you’re having the worst night of your life?  You should follow Christ’s example!  Pray honestly and persistently until you are through (v. 41).

            In his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire Pastor Jim Cymbala tells about a night that seemed like his worst.  “When his daughter was [sixteen] she had fallen in with the wrong crowd.  She started acting out in terrible ways.  They tried everything: begged, pleaded, scolded, argued.  Nothing worked.  She grew more and more hard.  He says:

‘How I kept functioning through that time … I don’t know.  Many Sunday mornings, I would put on my suit, drive to church and cry and cry all the way there.’  Eventually his daughter—Chrissy—left home.  They didn’t know where she was.  They didn’t know what to do.  They were praying.  They were interceding.  But his daughter was gone.  For a couple of months his daughter was gone.  She left in the late fall—she wasn’t there at Christmas.  She was gone. ……………………………………………………………

“In one of their mid-week services, (they have a Tuesday mid-week service): a young woman sent him a note right in the middle of the service.  It said: ‘Pastor Cymbala I feel impressed that we should stop the meeting and all pray for your daughter.’  He kind of hesitated.  Did he have the right to change the flow of the service for a personal need?  Is this something he should do?  Something in the note rang true. 

“So he picked up the microphone and this is what he said: ‘The truth of the matter is that although I haven’t talked about it much, my daughter is very far from God these days.  She thinks up is down and down is up; dark is light and light is dark.  But I know that God can break through to her, and so I am going to ask one of the pastors to lead us in praying for Chrissy .’

            “One of the associate pastors began to pray for his daughter.  Listen to how Rev. Cymbala describes the next couple of minutes.  He wrote: ‘I can only employ a metaphor: The church turned into a labor room.  The sounds of women giving birth are not pleasant but the results are wonderful … There arose a groaning, a sense of desperate determination, as if to say, “Satan, you will not have this girl.  Take your hands off her—she’s coming back!”’  He said he was overwhelmed.  The force of all those people calling on God almost knocked him over.  It was a wonderful time of prayer.  He went home that night—his wife had been sick and was not at the meeting—but when he got home he looked at Carol his wife and said: ‘It’s over.’  She said: ‘What’s over?’  He said: ‘It’s over with Chrissy.  You would have had to be in the prayer meeting tonight.  I tell you, if there is a God in heaven this whole nightmare is finally over.’

            “Thirty-two hours later, as Jim Cymbala was shaving on Thursday morning, his wife burst through the door and said, ‘You gotta go downstairs.  Chrissy is here.’

            “He went to the kitchen where he saw his daughter whom he hadn’t seen in months.  She was on the floor, sobbing saying, ‘Dad I’ve sinned against God.  I’ve sinned against myself.  I’ve sinned against you and mom.  Please forgive me.’

            “And then she said this: ‘Who was praying on Tuesday night?’  He didn’t answer, so she continued.  ‘In the middle of the night, God woke me and showed me I was heading toward this abyss.  There was no bottom to it—it scared me to death.  I was so frightened.  I realized how hard I’ve been, how wrong, how rebellious.’

            “‘But at the same time, it was like God wrapped His arms around me and held me tight.  He kept me from sliding any farther and he said “I still love you.”  Daddy I know somebody was praying for me.  Who was praying on Tuesday night?’”

            When you’re going through, what seems at least, to be the worse night of your life God knows what you’re going through.  He’s been there.  That’s what Gethsemane is all about.  And when God the Son was going through the worst night of His life He prayed through to victory!

            Maybe you’re going through the worst night of your life this morning.  If you are, let me invite you to pray!     

Wyoming, PA – 03/02/08

Bangor, ME – 03/29/09

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