Matthew 26:36-56 … Here we enter high and holy ground, a section of Scripture which even the most spiritual and well-grounded believers can scarcely comprehend. The passage in front of us concerns the Garden of Gethsemane, a name which should be filled with holy meaning and purpose. The name Gethsemane identifies the place clearly. The word means “oil press,” so it was the place where oil was extracted from olives by means of a screw press. Because baskets of olives can be heavy, the press was placed at the bottom of a grove. So the Garden of Gethsemane was in a grove at the foot of Mount Olivet, probably very near the place identified by modern preservationists in Jerusalem. This is the moment of our Lord’s agony. G. Campbell Morgan called this a “sanctuary of sorrows in the presence of human sin.”
Jesus, knowing what lay ahead, was preparing His disciples for the terrible coming events, literally fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 13:7 (which was quoted in Matthew 26:31). Jesus prayed three different times, each time for about an hour. (How can we compare our own meager prayers?). The first prayer was marked by deep personal agony (v.38), because (as many scholars feel) this was the last temptation of Satan, to bypass the cross, to which Jesus answered, “Yet, Thy will be done” (v.39). Twice more He prayed, acknowledging the will of God and praying that God’s will be done. Much could be learned about prayer from this passage: the priority and persistence of prayer and submission to God’s will.
In this passage as well, we have the betrayal of Judas and the arrest of Jesus by the soldiers. The passage ends with the disciples “fleeing,” which is appropriate because this is the night of the prophecy in Zechariah 13:7. The disciples were literally scattering in Matthew 26:56, just as foretold would happen during the night of “striking and scattering” (from the Zechariah passage).
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