Bible Study 3.5.12, 3.8.12, 3.11.12 For Worship 3.17.12

Bible Study 3.5.12, 3.8.12, 3.11.12 For Worship 3.18.12

Matthew 26:36-50

Matthew 26:36  Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go yonder and pray.”

37  And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

38  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”

39  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

40  And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?

41  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42  Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done.”

43  And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.

44  So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.

45  Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

46  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

47  While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.

48  Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him.”

49  And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Hail, Master!” And he kissed him.

50  Jesus said to him, “Friend, why are you here?” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.

COMMENTARY

The Garden of Gethsemane is a powerful story.  It appears in all four canonical gospels.  Jesus has to make a choice – a difficult choice.  He could have very easily climb the Mt. of Olives in the darkness and disappeared into the Judean Wilderness.  Should he save himself and betray his vocation or remain faithful to God’s calling and suffer a horrible fate?  What gives me some hope for my own lack of courage is to see Jesus’ struggle in his hour of trial.  His choice wasn’t a slam dunk.  He struggled.  The Letter to the Hebrews interprets the story this way:  “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear.  Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. . .” (Hebrews 5:7-9)

In Jesus’ prayer, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt,” we can see that the will of Jesus and the will of God we not one and the same.  With struggle Jesus was able to embrace God’s will, but not without struggle.

 

Even as Jesus was struggling with his decision to remain faithful, his closest associates were failing him.  He chose Peter and James and John to keep watch with him, and they all fell asleep — maybe too much wine at the Last Supper.  We can perhaps understand Jesus’ disappointment, if we have ever experienced a sleepless night and a loved one has been unable to stay awake to comfort us in our sleeplessness.  Or perhaps we have experienced the annoyance of a loved one who has been unable to sleep and we could not stay away with them.

The other major failure of the evening was Judas’ betrayal.  According to the gospels Judas attended the Supper and left early.  Recently some scholars have speculated about the possibility that Jesus wanted Judas to betray him.  If Jesus knew Judas was going to betray him, why not stop him?  Surely the eleven disciples could have overpowered him.  But that would have only worked, if they had killed him, uncharacteristic for Jesus, or tied him up and then escaped.  Escape was possible without tying Judas up, that was the struggle in the Garden.  So why did Jesus permit him to leave the Supper, unless he intended for Judas to betray him?  All of this is in the realm of speculation, and we have only the memories of the disciples for the details of the evening.  We just don’t know.

If Jesus had not put Judas up to betraying him, then we can speculate about motives for Judas.  The early church seems to have settled upon greed as the intention that drove Judas.  It is unclear what coins are spoken of, although later in Matthew, when Judas returns the coins, the Priests, unwilling to return blood money to the Temple Treasury, use the sum to buy a field for the burial of paupers.  So the amount may have been of some value.  Probably the thirty pieces of silver reference Zechariah 11:12-13 intended by Matthew to interpret the Jesus Story to be another fulfillment of Hebrew Scripture.

If greed was not Judas’ motive, then perhaps, he was driven by jealousy.  Toward the end of the gospels Jesus seems to place more and more emphasis on an inner circle of followers:  Peter, James and John.  Judas was the treasurer of the group, was he a trusted follower, who found himself excluded from the inner most circle?

Another possible motive might have been disillusionment.  Judas was described as a zealot.  Perhaps when Jesus failed to initiate a revolution following the Palm Sunday Demonstration, Judas became disillusioned and betrayed him.  Another possibility might be that Judas believed that God would send an army of angels to rescue Jesus, if we were arrested.  Or perhaps Judas believed that general population would rise up against the Temple or the Romans if they arrested Jesus.  We don’t know.  According to the story Judas led the Temple thugs to the Garden of Gethsemane and in order to make sure they arrest the right person in the dark he betrayed Jesus ironically with a kiss.

Almost all humans who live in community will at one time or another experience betrayal.  Betrayal hurts so much, because it comes to us at the hands of someone we have loved and trusted.  Why do humans betray one another?  Many motives:  envy, greed, hurt, ego, misunderstanding, lust, fear, disappointment, disillusionment.   The betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane is so powerful, because we have experienced the feeling.

The driving force behind Judas’ betrayal was probably much deeper and more complicated, than simple greed or ambition.  If Judas committed suicide afterward, his betrayal must have haunted him, and ultimately confronted him as a betrayal of himself as well as a friend.  Why do we do it?  What can we do, when we find ourselves betrayed?  What are times when we have betrayed ourselves?  There is so much we can learn in the Garden with Jesus.

LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT

1. After the Last Supper where does Jesus take the disciples?

2. Does Jesus remain with all of the disciples?

3. What does Jesus ask of Peter, James and John?

4. In the Garden what is Jesus prayer?

5. While Jesus is praying, what are Peter, James and John doing?

6. What counsel does Jesus give to Peter, James and John?

7. How many times does Jesus retreat for prayer?

8. What does Jesus say, when he sees Judas coming?

9. Who all is accompanying Judas?

10. What have they brought with them?

11. What gesture did Judas use to signal the crowd who Jesus was?

LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US

1. Have you ever had a sleepless night?  What has kept you awake?

2. Have you ever tried to comfort someone else who was experiencing a sleepless night?

3. How do you understand Jesus’ prayer in the Garden?

4. Have you ever felt like you wanted to run away?

5. Have you ever had friends disappoint you?

6. Have you ever been convinced God wanted you to do something you did not want to do?

7. What do you think was Judas’ motive in betraying Jesus?

8. Have you ever experienced being betrayed by a friend or loved one?  What do you think drove that person to do it?

9. Have you ever betrayed someone?  What was your motive?

10. Have you ever had the experience of feeling like you have betrayed yourself?

11. Why do you think we have such a hard time living in community?

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