In the Fulness of Time/Part 147

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2011
In our passage, all the disciples are warned against becoming “offended” or entrapped because of their relationship to Jesus Christ, and at the end of the paragraph, they all said they would not deny Him; yet, when the actual testing came: “all the disciples forsook him and fled.”

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Predictions Concerning the Disciples’ Defections Matthew 26:31-35

Matthew 26:31-35 “Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night, for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am raised up again, I will go before you, into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, I will never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee that this night, before the cock crows, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet I will not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.”

At the beginning of this paragraph, all the disciples are warned against becoming “offended” or entrapped (from skandalidzo) because of their relationship to Jesus Christ, and at the end of the paragraph, they all said they would not deny Him; yet, when the actual testing came: “all the disciples forsook him and fled” (verse 56). This should not be overlooked, in light of the fact that Peter is singled out as the most outspoken, and chided by the Lord. This statement was a fulfillment of Zechariah 13:7 “I will smite the shepherd [Christ] and the sheep of the flock [the disciples] shall be scattered abroad.” Whatever else that prophecy may have included (such as the Dispersion in 70 A.D.), it certainly has reference to the forsaking of Christ by the disciples at the time of the crucifixion, as noted in verse 56. Yet, in the same breath Christ gave assurance to them, that, after the resurrection, He would meet them in Galilee. He had predicted His death and resurrection a number of times before this.

Peter, however, was not content with this, but declared his everlasting faithfulness to Christ, boldly insisting that he would “never be offended [from skandalidzo] though all men shall be offended.” Luke 22:31-32 adds the gracious words of Christ: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you [humas, plural] that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee [singular, sou], that thy faith fail not. And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” The Devil may sift poor Peter, the outspoken, overconfident disciple, but he will be “sifted” as wheat, not separated as chaff! This testing will only serve to “convert” (epistrepho) or turn Peter around, that he may, in turn, strengthen his brothers (cf. John 21:15-17).

The sifting process would be threefold; Peter would deny that he was part of the group with Christ, then, that he never knew Him, and finally with cursing and swearing he would declare: “I know not the man” (verse 64). All of this was to occur that same evening, before the cock crowed, which usually occurred before midnight and right before dawn.

One would think that such a direct admonition had silenced Peter, and had caused him to meditate on these solemn words of his Lord, but Peter persisted in his avowal of faithfulness, even unto death! He was not alone in this, however: “Likewise also said all the disciples,” and it was not long thereafter that: “all the disciples forsook him and fled

Prayers in Gethsemane. Matthew 26:36-46

The First Prayer. Mt. 26:36-41

Matthew 26:36-41 “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here while I go and pray yonder. And he took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very depressed. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death; tarry here and watch with me. And he went a little further and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep; and he saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Gethsemane was a garden, or grove of olive trees, possibly on the slope of Mount Olivet: “Jesus often resorted there with his disciples” (John 18:2). Jesus knew that His “hour” was at hand to be betrayed and crucified, and He desired to bring this before His Father in prayer. He left eight disciples sitting at the entrance of the garden, taking only Peter, James and John with Him. The five words used by Matthew, Mark and Luke to describe the emotional state of Jesus are remarkable in their intensity. Each of them has a specific nuance, and yet, all of them have the common idea of deep distress of soul. It is not hard to forget that Jesus was a true human being with a real body which reacted to stress, sorrow, weakness, hunger, thirst and the pressures of His compassionate ministries. The union of His two natures, human and divine, did not remove normal human feelings. He had been thinking about and predicting His impending crucifixion for some time, and now that the time had come, it was to be expected that He would be troubled, as He said: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.” It should not be surprising, then, that He wanted His three most intimate disciples to: “tarry here, and watch” with Him.

The actual wording of His prayers has been the subject of much discussion, since this first prayer is voiced in a positive manner while the second is in the negative. The third is identical with the second according to verse 44. If these prayers are considered simply as encompassing only one basic request, the variations do not really matter. The real question has to do with the possibility of “the cup,” or “the hour” (Mark 14:35) being taken away from Him. There was no fear of mere death in the soul of Jesus; many martyrs have died before and since, even some by crucifixion. Though crucifixion was a horrible way to die, His deep distress was caused by the prospect of having to bear “our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).

The prophet gives the most graphic picture of what was involved, in Isaiah 53. One verse in particular reveals part of the agony anticipated by Christ: “The LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (53:6). The translation, “hath laid” comes from the Hebrew word paw-ga which is defined as follows:

…to rush on anyone with hostile violence… to cause anything to fall upon anyone. Isa. 53:6 “he caused to fall upon him the iniquity of us all” (Gesenius, William. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Ed. Brown, Driver and Briggs, Oxford, Oxford University Press. 1907; pp 665-666).

I can remember years ago, viewing the method used in the slaughterhouse. The animal would be led up to the end of a ramp where a very heavy weight would be caused to fall suddenly upon its head, resulting in its death. This is the picture given in the Hebrew word paw-ga, in reference to Christ absorbing the unimaginable impact of all the sins of the world all at once in His body! It should never be forgotten that He felt the full measure of the wrath of God for our sins while He was still alive on the Cross! Before He died, He cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

Though the Gospel of John does not record the experience of Gethsemane, John 12:27-28 does give direct insight into the content of the prayers. Jesus said: “Now is my soul troubled (from tarasso; to strike together, to be stirred and moved) and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” When this is compared with Matthew 26:39, 42, 44, it becomes assuring that though Jesus was being tempted, and that His soul was agonizingly distressed even to the extent of sweating great drops of blood (Luke22:44), there was never a moment when He desired His own human will over the will of His Father. The real humanity which shrank from the awful burden of bearing the iniquity of us all, was, at the same time, united to the real deity which enabled Him to accede to, and accomplish, His Father’s will.

As Jesus came to the three disciples after His first prayer He found them asleep. His rebuke is specific, yet gentle; did they not have enough strength to watch (and pray) with Him one hour? They needed not only to be alert to the possibility of Satanic attack, but to commit such things to their heavenly Father. The word pierasmos can mean testing or temptation to evil. Here, it seems that Jesus was referring to solitication to evil, since He used the contrast between the willingness of their spiritual side and the weakness of their flesh.

The Second and Third Prayers. Matthew 26:42-46

Matthew 26:42-46 “He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass from me except I drink it, thy will be done. And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. And he left them and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest; behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.”

In His second and third prayers Jesus simply concludes: “Thy will be done,” which is another way of saying: “Father, glorify thy name” (John 12:28). This was why He came, and this is what He would do!

In the first garden “Not your will, but mine” changed Paradise to desert and brought man from Eden to Gethsemane. Now “Not my will but yours” brings anguish to the man who prays it, but transforms the desert into the kingdom and brings man from Gethsemane to the gates of glory (Carson, Donald A. “Matthew” Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, 12 volumes. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984, Vol. 8, p. 545.

Then, having been strengthened by an angel from heaven (Luke 22:43), Jesus spoke in irony to His disciples, “Sleep on now, and take your rest.” It is pure irony, for almost immediately He adds: “Rise, let us be going.” He would soon say to His captors: “This is your hour, and the power of darkness” (22:53). But after this “in the fulness of time,” He would arise from His tomb and prove by this and many other appearances, that He was truly the Son of God, and “the light of the world,” with power over darkness!

Read Part 148

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