The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: Mark 14:32-42, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: Mark 14:32-42, for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.
Mark 14:32-42, How to Pray in Grief:
- Mark’s Gospel has taught us that following Christ means taking up our cross and living for Him. Dying to self and living for Him. This Gospel has shown us His humility, openness and willingness to serve. And so, this morning we’ll learn more about ourselves and Jesus.
- Our passage reveals Jesus surrendering His will to the Father. Now according to Mark, the decision to submit to the Father’s will causes Jesus greater internal suffering than the physical crucifixion on Golgotha. Which teaches us that the cross is a matter of the heart before it is a matter of the hand, a matter of the will before it is experienced.
- So Jesus was mere hours away from experiencing the most horrific death ever to occur in history. Not because the crucifixion was the most horrifying death, but because no sinless person had ever experienced the wrath of God.
- Therefore, as we study this text, we enter the garden with Jesus. And here we learn how to pray in the sight of grief, as Jesus did. We’ll do this under three headings:
1. Plan for the Pressure:
- Text – v32-34
- Explanation – In Gethsemane, it seems as if the decision to submit to the Father’s will causes Jesus greater internal suffering than the physical crucifixion on Golgotha. That’s the pressure. Now coming into the garden, which might have been fenced as a private garden, Jesus led the eleven and instructed eight of them to “sit here while I pray.”
- Having settled the eight, Jesus summoned Peter, James, and John to accompany Him further into the garden. Jesus singled them out to be witnesses to his deep grief in Gethsemane. Which starts with Jesus being “greatly distressed and troubled.”
- “Greatly distressed” translates a word meaning to terrify. It can be paraphrased “to be struck with terror.” It pictures to be grabbed with fear. So Jesus was suddenly struck with the horror of what He was about to experience. He was troubled, meaning to be in distress of mind or to be full of heaviness.
- Jesus also further reveals His heart when He said, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” In addition, the thought of those He loved, who claimed to love Him, would soon forsake Him, didn’t help either. He will be betrayed, forsaken, and abandoned!
- Illustration – Jesus was deeply troubled and yet, through prayer, He was able to speak truth to Himself and bring Himself to a faith-filled frame of mind. So He had a plan, He had a strategy. And friends, this is truly what we need as we face a hard life.
- A life where we are battling with the culture of the world, the flesh, and the devil. For Jesus, it was even prophesied in Isaiah 53:3, saying He would be “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” So He understood the grief and the sorrow that goes along with a fallen world, you know: sin, disease, unbelief, ignorance, rebellion, rejection, disobedience, suffering, poverty, loss, and certainly death.
- Application – We need a prayer plan, especially in the face of fear. See, at this moment, we get the sense that Jesus is in fear. Now before you sit there and say, ‘He is God, in Him is no fear…’ hear me out. I don’t mean a devastating or weakening fear, but rather a burdensome fear, a grieving experience. He had no distrust, and still He took His burdensome fear to the Father.
- So what is an effective prayer plan in the face of this grief, or burdensome fear? Before even praying, Jesus shared His weakness honestly. So be open and honest about your current situation. Next, Jesus commanded the 3 disciples to, “remain here and watch” (v. 34).
- Conclusion – Now watchfulness and wakefulness had been a theme of Jesus in recent days (13:34–35, 37). But here, the disciples were to be watchful for those who would try to trip them up. They were not as strong as they thought they were. Though they might have been in the garden with Jesus, they were not on guard like Jesus.
- Now, in their case they were watching for the arresting crowd, but Jesus was watching for temptations – as they will distract us from prayer and only cause more grief. So be open and honest about your current situation, but you also need to watch for distracting temptations.
- Bridge – Temptations that can lead you back to former sins you have struggled with, but also the temptation of distrusting God’s Word. I want to add a third step in planning for the pressure of grief. The first one was to look inward, the second to look outward. This is to look upward.
- Part of praying is knowing to whom we pray! Which brings us to our second point:
2. Casting the Burden:
- Text – 35-40
- Explanation – When feeling the pressure of grief, Jesus prayed to the Father. He prayed about the possibility of escape. Which is biblical according to 1 Corinthians 10:13. However, Jesus knew the answer. Still He recognised both the power and the purpose of God. If we don’t know God and His purposes, will we truly be in prayer?
- Our relationship with God is vital! When you troubled about facing today and tomorrow, it cannot be without the Lord. This should be your first concern!
- Illustration – Just look at Jesus’ prayer. “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” “Abba” is the most intimate form of addressing God. So when considering the context of what Jesus was facing and what He was praying, this intimate address expresses amazing family trust.
- He knew the power of God, the love of God, and the purpose of God. And this enabled Him to trust God when circumstances pressed in on Him, like this grief.
- Jesus knew God so much so, He knew what was possible with God. However, God’s purposes were for Jesus to be a ransom for sinners. This made the possibility of deliverance from the “cup” an impossibility, and Jesus knew this.
- So He was not praying in opposition to God’s will. Instead, it was the horror of the death that He would experience that fuels this request. He was praying for a willing spirit.
- Application – Jesus would experience a violent, blood-shedding, soul-separating death. So we can understand this request. Which makes His submission to “Abba, Father” all the more impressive: “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
- So really, point one and two go together. In order to be prepared for the pressure of grief or trials, we need to be honest about who we are, to be awake and watchful for possible temptations, but we also need to know God and His purposes when we turn to Him in prayer.
- Friends, there are times when we find ourselves deeply sorrowful, burdened, and even confused by what God is up to. We also know God can make a way to escape. It is in such times that we need to reflect on God’s greater purposes and cast our burdens onto Him.
- Conclusion – Now before we move to our final point, we need to learn one more thing. In verse 37 onward, we see the danger of not having this plan in place, or being aware of false comfort. And our lesson comes in the form of the disciples. They should have been watching, on the lookout for those who would arrest him.
- They were seemingly careless, self-absorbed, and indifferent to the sufferings of their Lord. And really that’s the issue. When faithless indifference sets in, the person and work of Jesus will be of little concern. His sufferings will not motivate us.
- Don’t be comforted to spiritual sleep. Pay attention to the reality of sin. Let’s look at Peter being singled out. Jesus’ use of “Simon” probably stung like when a parent uses your full name! But earlier, Peter said he would die for and with Jesus, yet he can’t even stay awake.
- Jesus was not being unkind but was aiming to equip him. He had warned Peter that he would deny him. Peter should have been alert to this danger. Being posted at the “watch,” he should have been alert, praying about how he would respond when the betrayal took place.
- Bridge – His “spirit [was] willing” but his “flesh [was] weak.” In other words, trusting and obeying God are not necessarily default responses of disciples. And so the point is that Peter assumed that he would be an exception to the word of God and that he would not need to watch and pray as others might.
- Yet, that’s the danger! So if Jesus needed to pray, what made these three think they were an exception? What makes us think we are? Therefore friends, we need to be careful. We must pray for grace when we are experiencing grief.
- If this is not your spiritual reality, you may feel rebuked and alert now, however, this thought will quickly pass you by. And you’ll find yourself in the same, if not worse situation, again. Don’t hit the spiritual snooze button. The disciples did, and simply failed a second time! Which brings us to our final point:
3. Remaining Faithful:
- Text – 41-42
- Explanation – These final verses reveal more than just another failure. They reveal Christ’s perseverance—the kind we need to watch and pray for. See even while His heart was breaking, He remained faithful. Now for the third and final time, Jesus found the three disciples asleep and asked, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?”
- Illustration – This would have pained Him if He didn’t have faith in His Father. I mean, these are the guys who first accepted the call to follow Him. These are the guys who said they wouldn’t let Him die. But they failed to share in His sufferings.
- Jesus did not respond with contempt, or disgust, or with despair. He chose to persevere, to remain faithful in obeying the will of the Father. Is this would you do when you are wounded by your friends? Or when you are faced with what looks like failure? Are you ready to face the coming grief, no matter its form?
- Application – Jesus was when He responded, “It is enough.” Jesus was saying, “I have had enough time to pray. I am ready, even though you’re not. Sleep on.” Perhaps Jesus was also indicating that His time was up and they had missed their opportunity for faithfulness.
- The “hour” had come for the prophecy to be fulfilled that “the Son of Man is betrayed.” There are no more delays, Jesus said “Rise, let us be going; see my betrayer is at hand.” He was ready through prayer. This is what Hebrews 5:7 refers to; Jesus who, “in the days of his flesh, … offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”
- Conclusion – Friends, grief will come. And its form will differ from one to the other. Are you prepared? Are you honest about who you are? Are you wake and on guard? Do you really know who you are praying to? Learn from this. Jesus can sympathise with your weakness!
- This is not because He failed but rather because He endured successfully. So in the hour of trial, watch and prayer, lest you be tempted to doubt and distrust.
- Bridge – And if you aren’t a believer of the Lord Jesus Christ, come to Him who is the only that can take your grief. Repent of you sin and unbelief and throw yourself onto His mercies.
- Believers, go home from this and examine your motives and efforts and desires. Are you willing to go through grief in order to enjoy your sins? Or will you give yourself to the one who suffered the deepest sense of grief, who is able to save you, and lighten the heavy burdens?
- What are some of the ways you can know your weaknesses?
- How should we understand our fear of uncertainty when God promises us deliverance?
- Jesus is God, yet, He prayed to remain faithful. How should we continually pray to be faithful in our service before God?
- After studying these verses, how do you now view the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane?