[Mark 14:26] “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Scene of Activity
Jesus and the disciples have left the “Upper Room” where they had just concluded the Passover Seder with the singing of the Hallel Psalms.
Though it’s difficult to say with certainty where this room was located we’re told it was (A) in the City of Jerusalem, (B) likely in a residential part of town, and (C) near a water source (Peter and John are told to look of a “man carrying a pitcher of water”).
Details place the location in the southern part of the city near the “Pool of Siloam.”
Note: “They went out” doesn't include Judas who’s already left to betray Jesus.
Mark continues - “They” leave Jerusalem and head to the “Mount of Olives.”
Though it’s difficult to pinpoint what route they might have used to leave the city, one thing is clear - in order to get to the Mount of Olives they would have to cross over the “Kidron Valley” from the northeastern corner of the Temple Mount.
The Kidron was situated on the eastern side of Jerusalem and it separated the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives. From this point of origin the valley continues east through the Judean wilderness towards the Dead Sea.
Over the 20 mile descent the Kidron drops an astounding 4000 feet in elevation.
Note: Just outside the city within the valley itself was a concentration of rock-hewn tombs. This area was known as being one of the main burial grounds of the Jerusalem elite during the 2nd Temple Period.
Because the Kidron was situated directly to the east of the Temple, the valley served a very important function. In his Temple construction Herod had developed a very extensive system of drains and canals that served to wash away the blood during times of sacrifice.
The drains would funnel the blood out the eastern side of the Temple through these water canals directly into the Kidron Valley where it would flow out of the city.
“Kidron” literally means “black” as it described the stained color of blood.
Josephus says that one lamb would be offered for maximum of 10 people. Since he estimates that on average 2.7 million Jews were present for Passover, he record that some 260,572 lambs were slaughtered on this night.
The blood volume of a lamb is about 49 ml per kilogram of a lamb’s weight.
The weight at slaughter (6 months) is 125 lbs (57 kilograms).
On average each lamb would have 2793 ml of blood (totaling 3 quarts).
3 quarts by 260,572 lambs totals 781,716 quarts of blood (740 cubic meters).
There are 264 gallons in a cubic meter equalling 195,360 gallons of blood.
Since an average 20 x 30ft swimming pool contains approximately 22,500 gallons, we can estimate that around 8.7 swimming pools of blood + the water needed to wash this amount of blood away flowed out of the Temple into the Kidron Valley.
Q: Why is the significant?
A: In verse 12 Mark set the scene for this evening, “Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb....” This means as Jesus and the remaining 11 disciples make their way from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives the brutal effects of sin would be on shocking display in the Kidron.
Imagine what this walk would have been like:
- The shrill cry of these innocent lambs being slaughtered.
- The sweaty, blood soaked priests hanging around the East Gate as they break.
- The stunning visual of a river of blood flowing through the Kidron Valley.
The smell in and of itself had to have be nauseating.
Note: Regardless of a person’s sensibilities, every single aspect of this scene was completely and utterly necessary.
The stark reality illustrated by this scene.... atoning for the sin of humanity was a messy, bloody, unsettling, even offensive proposition.
[Mark 14:27-28] “Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered.’ “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”
Jesus has already make it known that one of the 12 would betray Him (clearly speaking of Judas), now He proceeds to tell them they would all experience a crisis of faith.
Admittedly, the phrase “all of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night” is confusing and misleading mainly because it’s poorly translated in the NKJV.
The Greek word for “will be made to stumble” is “skandalizô” meaning “to cause a person to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey.”
Jesus is saying the upcoming events of that evening would cause all of their faith in Him to wain and waffle (applying even to John who never actually abandons Christ).
The ESV and NIV translate this verse correctly, “You will all fall away....”
“For it is written” - To validate His statement Jesus quotes from the prophet Zachariah making it clear He was already aware of their coming failure. Jesus knew His arrest, trial, scourging, execution, and death would rock and rattle their faith.
“But....” he continues.... “after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”
It’s as though Jesus is preemptively encouraging these men in their failure (before they’d failed).... “I know the storm you’re about to face will cause your faith in me to wain. I already know you’re going to fail, falter, even flounder; but.... take heart because in the end I will prove faithful!”
The phrase “will go before” is the Greek word “proagô” meaning “to bring one forth to trial.” Jesus is literally saying, “I will prove to you I’ve risen in Galilee.”
[Mark 14:29-31] “Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” But Peter spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all said likewise.”
It’s not as though Jesus has minced words. He’s been very direct to the disciples.... “every one of your faith in me is going to falter,” but.... Peter will hear none of it!
1. Peter is undeniably sincere.
Even when Jesus predict his coming denial, Peter remains defiant.
The phrase “spoke more vehemently” indicates the way in which Peter was speaking became more animated, brazen, and brash.
It’s as though Peter actually get’s into Jesus’ face when he says, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” Peter wasn’t short on passion!
And to his credit (as we’ll see next week) when everyone else would scatter as they came to arrest Jesus, Peter would make good on this promise.
He was determined to prove his loyalty and devotion even if it meant death.
2. Peter is self-righteous.
I find much humor in his statement, “Even if all are made to stumble....”
It’s as though Peter initially agrees with Jesus before adding an important distinction.... “Jesus, I understand your worried about these idiots standing with you when the ghanoush hits the fan.... I would be as well.... but I want You to be reassured that You’ve got a friend in me!”
Note: Peter is falling prey to the old trap of adopting a righteous view of his ability by comparing himself with the obvious inability of others.
“They won’t or can’t, but I can and will!”
3. Peter is publicly rebellious.
Peter is so sure of himself and his ability to remain faithful to Jesus that he’s openly denying the truthfulness of Scripture and the factuality of Jesus’ word.
Jesus justified His initial statement saying these thing were going to happen because Scripture said they were going to happen - Peter disagrees.
Then Jesus personalizes the matter specifically to Peter saying, “assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” - Peter then proceeds to argue with Jesus.
Peter wreaks of pride, ego, and self-confidence. In his mind there was nothing that would or could deter him from following Jesus. It’s almost as though Peter is wanting an opportunity to prove to Jesus his worthiness and ableness.
Though his intentions are admirable, sadly Peter had become so fixated on defending his ability to be faithful, he’s forgotten to be submissive.
Instead of heeding the Word of Jesus, Peter is openly and publicly rebelling and resisting the Word of Jesus!
Peter’s been crowing like a rooter full of pride and cockiness, but Jesus tells him he will soon find himself humbled. “Pride indeed proceeds a fall.”
Over the next few chapters Jesus is going to be working Peter over in some profound and powerful ways. As we’ll see, Jesus wants Peter to understand that no amount of self or self-ability can help a person follow Him.
Peter will try with all human vigor, might, and sincerity to follow Jesus in the strength of his own ability, through the standing of his own self-righteousness, motivated by the depths of his love and devotion for Jesus; but....
Over the next few hours Peter is going to discover that all of the things he took so much pride in (mainly himself) will prove to be sorely inadequate.
Peter will discover the hard way that his best was simply not good enough.
Peter will learn the essentials to following Jesus is the strength of His sufficiency demonstrated as we submit to the power of His indwelling Spirit.
[Mark 14:32] “Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
It doesn’t take a degree in neuroscience to realize the “Mount of Olives” was known for its extensive olive groves. Even today one can visit and see these incredible trees.
At the base of the mount was a garden known as “Gethsemane.”
John 18 indicates this was a favorite spot for Jesus to visit when in Jerusalem.
“Gethsemane” can be literally translated as “garden of the olive press” for it was in this place harvested olives would be pressed to produce oil.
Once the olives were harvested and cleaned they would be placed under a large millstone and crushed into a paste releasing most of the vegetative water, shattering the olive seed, and initiating the maturation of the oil.
After curing, the paste would be placed onto several large fiber disks - the disks then placed onto the press - and a large stone slowly lowered on top.
The initial weight of the stone would cause the paste to excrete an initial batch of fine, pure, virgin olive oil. As more weight is added more oil is excreted.
It’s interesting Jesus would choose this place to pray?
You see the imagery of this entire process of crushing the olive to produce oil was symbolic of the experience Jesus was about to endure in this garden.
For beginning in Gethsemane the weight of the cross and the path set before Him now begins to apply its crushing impact upon the person of Jesus.
Note: The end result of this crushing would not be His death, nor His resurrection, not even His ascension, but the coming of the Holy Spirit (the virgin olive oil).
[Mark 14:33-34] “And Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”
“Jesus began to be troubled and deeply distressed.”
“To be troubled” - “To be thrown into terror.”
“Deeply distressed” - “To feel displaced, far from home, to be unfamiliar.”
Weight, crushing, and pressing were essentials for oil to be produced; and in this moment we see Jesus going through a similar pressing of His own.
Jesus tells Peter, James, and John that His “soul is exceedingly sorrowful” - literally, “to be so overcome with sorrow as to cause one’s death.”
Luke tells us the experience in the garden was so intense Jesus “sweat great droplets of blood” a condition we know as “Hemadtidrosis” that only occurs when a person is suffering from extreme levels of stress.
To say Jesus was in a place of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual anguish would clearly understate the affairs of this night; and yet, within this account we gain two important insight.
1. Jesus’ experience was other worldly.
Q: What was it that had the Creator of the world so freaked out?
Was it the coming physical torture that awaited Him? I don’t think so.
Jesus willing chose to be a sacrifice knowing the pain that would come.
Was it a demonic influence present in the garden? I don’t think so.
Even though I believe Satan was ever present in the garden (on three occasions Jesus warns the disciples to pray so they do not succumb to temptation), there is no precedent of demonic power having a negative influence on Christ anywhere else in the Gospel record.
A: I am convinced as Warren Wiersbe aptly stated, “Our Lord’s struggle in the Garden can be understood only in the light of what would happen to Him on the cross: He would be made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and bear the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13). It was not the physical suffering that almost overwhelmed Him, but the contemplation of being forsaken by His Father.”
On the cross the 2nd Person of the Trinity would experience the unthinkable - Jesus would experience sin and the separation from God!
2. Jesus demonstrates how to appropriately handle the “dark place.”
Whether it’s emotional grief, physical turmoil, spiritual oppression, or mental anguish - whether it’s pain, depression, doubt, fear, anxiety, stress, or any of the many other effects that come with the human experience: Jesus has been there.
Hebrews 4:15, “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
1st Key: In His “dark place” Jesus maintained human companionship.
Mark tells us Jesus left an 8 man perimeter and only took with Him Peter, James, and John deeper into the garden.
Note: Though it would have been easier to go it alone, Jesus wanted His friends with Him while He endured this pressing.
Understand, they were there not for what they could contribute (they proved to be more of a frustration than help), rather these three men were there because Jesus needed human connection.
Most of the time our natural reaction to the “dark place” is isolation; and yet, this is the worst possible thing a person can do.
In a 2012 article titled “Connect to Thrive” posted in “Psychology Today” Emma Seppala, Ph.D. wrote, “We all know the basics of health 101: eat your veggies, go to the gym and get proper rest. But how many of us know that social connection is as important? Social connection improves physical health and psychological well-being. One telling study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. On the the flip side, strong social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity. Social connection strengthens our immune system (research by Steve Cole shows that genes impacted by social connection also code for immune function and inflammation), helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our life.
People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, are more empathic to others, more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. Social connectedness therefore generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true for those who lack social connectedness. Low social connection has been generally associated with declines in physical and psychological health as well as a higher propensity to antisocial behavior that leads to further isolation.
Is there any surprise why Satan seeks to keep us from Church?
2nd Key: Jesus was willing to surrender His “dark place” to His Father.
[Mark 14:35-36] “Jesus went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”
First, Jesus brings His issues to His heavenly Father in prayer.... “Jesus went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed.”
Then, He honestly expressed His genuine human emotions to His heavenly Father.... Jesus prayed “that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me.”
The “cup” was more than the cross. It signified the wrath of God, separation from God, the pain, suffering, humiliation, betrayal, and sin.
“Abba” was an endearing Aramaic word for “papa or daddy.”
Note: Jesus was not seeking escape nor a way out of the cross, rather He was being honest with His genuine human emotions so that He could effectively yield these feelings to His Father.
But, in the end He surrendered Himself, His thoughts, and the emotions He felt to His Father.... “nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”
“Nevertheless” - indicates a decision of the will.
It’s as though Jesus comes to His Father and prays, “Lord here are my thoughts - my natural fears, anxieties, and inclinations; but even though I feel the way I do.... I choose to surrender these emotions and this situation to You trusting that You know what’s best for me.”
When my mind is filled with negative thoughts and emotions while in the “dark place” of life I must consider what takes priority, has preeminence, and supersedes my feelings; and then I must make a conscious decision to surrender all of these things to the will of God!
As Jesus prayed, “not what I will, but what You will.”
[Mark 14:37-42] “Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”
Though it’s evident James and John are also guilty of a “Wilson-like narcolepsy,” it’s interesting to me that Jesus specifically singles out Peter!
Why? In recounting this story, Peter chooses to focus on his interactions with Christ.
Note: It’s not an accident Peter falls asleep and is awoken by Jesus on three separate occasions, for Peter would end up betraying Jesus three times later this evening.
Peter recognized (in hindsight) that in His rebuke Jesus was highlighting his inadequacy when He says, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
I mean how could Peter think he was really able to lay down his life for Jesus when he wasn’t even able to stay awake and pray with Him?
The day is Friday. The time is approximately 2:00 AM. With the “betrayer at hand” our narrative is about to take a dramatic shift.