First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ August 28, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“A Place Called Gethsemane!”
As we join Jesus and His disciples in the passage we just read from the gospel of Mark chapter 14, they are already in the midst of an eventful night. They had just finished the Passover meal, left the Upper Room where they celebrated Passover and made their way from Jerusalem down through the Kidron Valley to what Mark calls, “A Place Called Gethsemane.”
We’ve been looking at places this summer and Gethsemane is our destination today. Gethsemane was a small garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives, just outside the city of Jerusalem. It probably belonged to a friend of the Lord. In Luke 22:39, Luke tells us it was a place Jesus often visited with His disciples. Gethsemane seems to have been a refuge for the Lord. It was a place where He could find solitude from the crowds. It was a place where He could go to find a private moment to commune with His Father. It was a sanctuary from the attacks of His enemies. It was a place of refreshment from the long days of ministry. It was a special place for the Lord and His disciples.
As we continue our summer sermon series, I would like to spend a few minutes this morning with Jesus and His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. Someone said that, for Jesus, Gethsemane was harder than Calvary. It’s true that the decisive spiritual battle that Jesus came to fight will be fought on Calvary, but it’s Gethsemane where Jesus waits on the edge of a battle He can’t escape; a battle that will be most terrifying to His soul.
Yet, as it is so often the case in our lives, the darkest moments in Jesus’ life are also those times when the grace of God shines the brightest, and in the deep valley of Gethsemane, we get to see God’s power in action. The prophet Isaiah 40:29 reminds us that God “gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” In the deep valley of Gethsemane, we get to see the very presence of our Lord.
A place called Gethsemane. As we remember our Lord’s last hours in the Garden of Gethsemane before He was arrested, and as we also get to reflect on those Gethsemane-like experiences in our own lives, please allow me to underscore two things:
First: Like Jesus, we all Have our own Gethsemanes
Sooner or later, we all will have to face our own Gethsemanes. These are tough times, sleepless nights of the soul when the cold winds of fear and despair blow over our soul. Gethsemane is real. The word “Gethsemane” means “Olive Press”. Gethsemane was, and is, a place where olive trees grew and produced their fruit. The olives were collected, placed in a press and the olive oil was extracted from the olives under very intense pressure.
There are so many situations in life when the weight continues to press at our soul. When we experience the loss of a loved one, it will feel Gethsemane-like. We live in a fallen world where people are taken from us and there is nothing we can do to change it. We will make choices that we will desperately regret – either in a moment of weakness or anger or selfishness, and it will feel like Gethsemane. When we wrestle to do the will of God no matter what, it will feel like Gethsemane. When we follow in the way of Christ, often times, it will feel like Gethsemane. We will experience Gethsemane when we get betrayed by someone we trusted, or deserted by someone we believed loved us. Those times, those restless nights of the soul, are often marked by deep loneliness. Like Jesus, we all have our own Gethsemanes.
Second: Like Jesus, We Need to Give It All to God
In those sleepless nights of the soul, in those Gethsemane-like experiences, we can so easily lose our way and our hope. We feel so helpless. We feel so weak. No energy whatsoever is left in us. I think that’s what Jesus felt in the garden of Gethsemane.
What do we do then? Quiet? Give up? Absolutely not. Mark 14:35-36 tells us, “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible, the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Jesus is submitting Himself to God’s will. If God’s will for us to suffer and endure hardships, let it be so because there is strength and direction when we surrender to that will and not fight it.
In Gethsemane Jesus gave it all to God in prayer. As you may’ve noticed, Jesus addressed God as, “Abba.” “Abba” is an Aramaic term that is equivalent to our word “Daddy”. It is a word of intense intimacy. Friends, in our pain and agony, in our distress and troubles, in our sorrow and helplessness, we are assured of God’s presence. The Lord is near. Christ has brought us into a place of absolute intimacy with the Father! In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was assured of His Father’s closeness and that God’s power will enable Him to accomplish His mission.
Luke tells us in chapter 22:43 “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” For every Gethsemane and Gethsemane-like experience that you and I will have to face, there is an angel from heaven who will be ready to strengthen those who pray for God’s will to be done. It’s true that the devil was destroyed at Calvary, but the devil was defeated in Gethsemane. So as we meet Jesus in Gethsemane this morning, two things we take home. First, like Jesus, we will have our own Gethsemanes. Second, like Jesus, we need to learn how to give it all to God. Gethsemane was a place of pressure, but at the same time, a place of prayer. Amen.
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