He does not accuse us in our weakness—that’s ha-Satan’s-Satan's-job, on the contrary, He suffers with us.
An examination of Mattitiyahu/Matthew 26:36-56
Mat 26:36 Then Yeshua came with them to a place called Gat-shemen—Olive Press, Gethsemane: and
He said to his Talmidim—disciples, “Sit here, while I go and pray—a stone’s throw away—over there.”
Gat-shemen was at the base of the Mount of Olives across the kidron valley. The other gospels tell us
that Yeshua went there regularly—probably with His Talmidim. The point being that He was not seeking
to hide from what was to come, in fact He was making it easy for Yehuda—Judas—and the religious leaders’ and their Temple guard to find Him.
Yeshua asked His disciples to stay close to Him, He was only going a stone’s throw away, He was unsettled and knew He would need comfort. Those who pronounce Bible verses as if they were magic incantations in order to ward of depression and anxiety, have foolishly neglected the very real struggle of Yeshua’s humanity while He pleaded with G-d in the Garden of Gat-shemen: what we read next is like a blow by blow of the build up to what is now known as an anxiety or panic attack, born on a platform of deep depression and—I think you’ll agree—for good reason.
The meaning of Gat-shemen, olive press, has obvious connotations regarding the ministry of Yeshua. He will soon rise from the dead and promise the Ruach ha-Kodesh—Holy Spirit—to His followers. The Spirit could only be imparted after His death and resurrection. Oil is used as a symbol of the Ruach ha-Kodesh throughout the Tanakh—Old Testament. Yeshua of course, is crushed and poured out for us. So that we might partake of the oil of His Spirit.
Mat 26:37 And He took Kefa—Peter--Yaakov and Yochanan—James and John the two sons of Zebedee—and began to be dejected and weighted down with sorrow.
Kefa, Yaakov and Yochanan were with Yeshua on several pivotal occasions during His ministry (Luke 8:51, Matthew 17:1-9): there was clearly a unique and important corporate relationship at play here. There is a beautiful allegorical meaning in the names alone: Kefa—the rock, Yaakov, who would be Israel—he who overcomes in G-d, and Yochanan—the L-rd is gracious. Therefore, the Rock—G-d our Rock and Salvation (Yeshua) makes a way for us to overcome through Yeshua and in so doing reveal’s His graciousness to humanity. Yeshua began to become dejected and sorrowful—a description of depression. This from our Messiah. Why then do so many criticize those who suffer from mental illness, depression, anxiety and so one? Surely these experiences in and of themselves cannot be sin, after all Messiah experienced many of these same feelings and emotive responses and yet remained sinless. He is, as the prophet says, “a man of sorrow, familiar with grief.” He does not accuse us in our weakness—that’s ha-shatan’s--Satan's--job, on the contrary, He suffers with us, having known even greater suffering than we could ever imagine—not simply physical death but in addition and beyond all other suffering, He took upon Himself the sin of all humanity, a darkness unparalleled.
Mat 26:38 And He said to them: “There is excessive anguish in my soul, I feel like I’m dying. Wait for me here; and be alert, keep watch with me.”
I know these lines, I've used them myself, He’s saying, “I am overwhelmed with deep anxiety, I’m feeling like I’m slipping into a black abyss engulfed by darkness, the weight is almost too much to bear and I really need you to be there for me in case I lose it completely. I physically feel my body failing—sweaty, pallid, weak, nauseous, heart racing, blood pressure rising, on the verge of passing out—Please stay alert so I know I can call on you if it all becomes too much for me.” Don’t miss understand, He is fully human, this does not make Him any less G-d with us, in fact it affirms His qualification as the Messiah.
“My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.”
Mat 26:39 Moving away a short distance, He fell on his face, and prayed, and said: “My Father, if it can be so, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I choose, but as You choose.”
Yeshua’s prostrate position is one of utter humility and submission, many prophets of Israel had fallen in grief and supplication as forerunners of Messiah. Yeshua is here proving the truth of the Hebrew writer’s words:
“Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and having been heard for His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered; and having been made perfect, He became unto all them that obey Him the author of eternal salvation--Yeshua.”
Yeshua is speaking of the third cup of the Pesach—Passover--Seder—order—that He has only recently presented to His Talmidim (v.27), this is the cup of redemption related to the death of the firstborn at the time of Israel’s exodus. This cup is a metaphor for Messiah’s death and the shedding of His blood as a covering for the sins of humanity: sin being our captivity and Messiah, our freedom.
Mat 26:40 And He came to His Talmidim, and found them asleep: and He said to Kefa: “So! Couldn’t you watch with me one hour?”
Yeshua’s Talmidim had just eaten a large Passover meal with a number of glasses of wine, they were under a great deal of stress due to the violent opposition of the religious leaders and it was now late in the evening, surely this is a recipe for sleep? Why does Yeshua single out Kefa? Perhaps it is because Yeshua knows what the future holds for Kefa, after all, he is going to be the leader of the early Church, one who will first deny Yeshua three times and then repent three times with the words I love you. This, the man who had vowed he would die for Yeshua’s sake, Kefa, who was chief among the three specially selected Talmidim who Yeshua had taken with Him in to the deeper part of the garden. “Kefa, you’re one of my closest friends and a leader of the Talmidim, couldn't you at least have kept awake and watching with me in my grief?”
Mat 26:41 Wake up, and pray, lest you fall succumb to trial. The ruach—spirit—is prepared, but the flesh is infirm.
It seems likely that these words are said specifically to Kefa, although it is also possible that the other Talmidim awoke with the conversation and heard these words. Yeshua is clearly describing the juxtaposition of spiritual will and human weakness, but even more deeply than this He is perhaps referring to the Spirit of G-d at work in humanity verses the fallen nature—flesh.
Mat 26:42 Again He went away the second time, and prayed, and said: “My Father, if it cannot be that this cup pass, except I drink it, Your will be done.”
Again, the ultimate act of submission and humility. Yeshua, knowing that His relenting to His Father’s will is about to bring the greatest suffering of all time upon Him, none the less chooses G-d’s will over His own good. How could I refuse such a Messiah, how could I ever doubt His love for me?
Mat 26:43 And He came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.
Mat 26:44 And He left them, and went again and prayed the third time, and used the same language—said something similar or the same.
This time, Yeshua leaves the Talmidim sleeping, an act of loving care, even amidst great suffering Yeshua shows His deep love for others. He then prays similar words to His former prayer. This is the third time He has prayed, three being a Hebrew numeral symbolic of G-d having confirmed or firmly decided something—from a human perspective. Notice that Yeshua is wrestling greatly with His calling, this shows His genuine humanity and the truly great sacrifice He is being asked to make. This does not come easily, it is purchased—like the blessing of Yaakov as he wrestled the Angel of the L-rd—with great struggle and anguish of soul and in the end it is the Angel Himself who will die in order to pass on the blessing that both Yaakov--Israel--and the nations are crying out so desperately for.
Mat 26:45 Then He came to His Talmidim, and said to them: “You've slept enough now, taking your rest. Behold, the hour is come: and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” Mat 26:46 “Arise, let us go. Behold, he that betrays me has come.”
I see this simply as a statement of fact, “You’re rested now, let’s go, I have an enemy I must face.” Notice that throughout this passage Yeshua has refused to hide Himself from those who sought Him. Firstly He went to a garden that He frequented, a garden used by many a Jewish pilgrim during Pesach—Passover—as a camping ground: secondly He goes out to meet His accusers, not waiting for them to find Him. He chooses to lay down His life, it will not be taken from Him.
Mat 26:47 And while He was still speaking, Yehudah—Judas—the betrayer, one of the twelve, arrived; and a great multitude with him, with swords and clubs, from the presence of the chief priests and
elders of the people.
While they were still speaking infers that they had not yet left the garden. Those who came to arrest Yeshua were not Romans, they were religious leaders accompanied by the Temple guard, sent by the Sanhedrin to accompany Yehudah with the intent to arrest Yeshua.
Mat 26:48 And Yehudah the betrayer had given them a sign, saying: “the one I kiss is the man: seize Him.”
Notice the term sign, Yeshua had given many signs of G-d’s genuine love for Israel and all humanity throughout His ministry. Here He is betrayed by a sign that is a fictitious show of love, a public forgery. There is a precedent for betrayal by kiss in the books of the prophets:
“And Joab said to Amasa, Is it well with thee, my brother? And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. But Amasa took no heed to the sword that was in Joab's hand: so he smote him therewith in the belly, and shed out his bowels to the ground, and struck him not again; and he died.”
2 Sh’muel—Samuel 20:9-10
Amasa, an innocent general of David’s armies is betrayed by the kiss of Joab—whose character proves to be corrupt many times over as the narrative proceeds. There are many correlations here: David is a type
for Messiah, Amasa is also an innocent Messianic type and of course Joab is a type for Yehuda—Judas, both perform unjust and uncontainable acts of betrayal.
Mat 26:49 And forthwith he approached Yeshua, and said: “Shalom, Rabbi;” and kissed him.
Mat 26:50 And Yeshua said to him: “Chaver shilee—My dear friend, is it for this you have come?” Then they came up, and laid their hands on Yeshua, and took Him.
In Yochanan’s account Yeshua’s deity is reflected here with the words, “I AM He,” but Mattitiyahu decides to focus on this intimate betrayal. The Scripture is the best commentary here:
“Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”
Mat 26:51 And one of them--Kefa—with Yeshua stretched out his hand, and drew a sword, and struck a servant of the Cohen ha-gadol—high priest, and cut off his ear.
We know from Yochanan’s gospel that the servant in question was named Malchut—royalty or Kingly from the Hebrew root Melekh. This is both ironic and poignant, he is a servant—in fact the Scripture later identity’s him as a brother in law of the High Priest—of the present religious leaders and yet his
name reflects royalty, his ear is cut off and then restored: Yeshua is now present as a humble servant--the ultimate High Priest--being lead to His death--cut off—but He will raise from the dead--restored—and return as King over all creation, thus restoring creation—in future tense—to its original glory in G-d. Kefa is the hero we would all be cheering for if this were a movie, I for one would have been screaming for him to cut the other ear off and then attack Yehudah, but Yeshua sees beyond the short plot of this
life and ahead into the meta narrative of eternity.
Mat 26:52 Then Yeshua said to him: “Return the sword to its place; for all they that live by swords,shall die by swords.”
Some quote this verse as a foundation for pacifism, this is not Yeshua’s intention: there is a difference between living an intentional life of violence and the act of defending ones country or loved ones. Yeshua allows for self-defense and just warfare in His response to the Talmidim in Luke 22:36. Add to this the fact that He is G-d with us and that G-d has not changed and we see in the Tanakh, great precedent for just violence and killing verses unjust violence and murder.
Mat 26:53 “Do you suppose that I cannot ask of my Father, and He would now assign me more than sixty thousand messengers?”
Yeshua emphasis the fact that He is in complete control of the situation. This is a willful act of love on His part. His Talmidim will eventually understand this but at this time they are afraid and want nothing more than to see their Messiah and Rabbi delivered from His enemies.
Mat 26:54 “But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled, that say it must be this way?”
This does not mean that there are specific Scriptures describing every detail of these events—although the kiss of Yehudah’s betrayal is clearly prophesied in Psalm 41:9, it simply means that in order for the prophecies of Yeshua’s unjust trial, death and resurrection to be fulfilled, the current events must take place, Yeshua must be betrayed and sentenced to death in order for Him to be able to raise from the dead and redeem humanity.
Mat 26:55 At that time Yeshua said to the multitude: “Have you come out, as against a cut-throat, with swords and clubs, to take me? I daily sat with you, and taught in the temple, and you did not apprehend me.”
Mat 26:56 And this occurred, that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then the disciples all forsook Him and fled.
This section of Scripture transitions with the fears of isolation Yeshua had felt in the garden now coming to fruition. His closest friends forsake Him, running from danger in order to save themselves, all their protests of loyalty and death defying devotion swept away in the dust of Israel’s ravines. Yeshua is left alone with His captors, an innocent lamb brought to slaughter.
“Couldn't you watch with me one hour?”
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.