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Matthew 26:43

King James Version (KJV)
Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 36-45

Jesus‘ agony in Gethsemane - This account is also recorded in Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1.

Matthew 26:36

Then cometh … - After the institution of the Lord‘s Supper, in the early part of the night, he went out to the Mount of Olives.

In his journey he passed over the brook Cedron John 18:1, which bounded Jerusalem on the east.

Unto a place - John calls this “a garden.” This garden was on the western side of the Mount of Olives, and a short distance from Jerusalem. The word used by John means not properly a garden for the cultivation of vegetables, but a place planted with the olive and other trees, perhaps with a fountain of water, and with walks and groves; a proper place of refreshment in a hot climate, and of retirement from the noise of the adjacent city. Such places were doubtless common in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Messrs. Fisk and King, American missionaries were at the place which is commonly supposed to have been the garden of Gethsemane in 1823. They tell us that the garden is about a stone‘s cast from the brook of Cedron; that it now contains eight large and venerable-looking olives, whose trunks show their great antiquity. The spot is sandy and barren, and appears like a forsaken place. A low broken wall surrounds it.

Mr. King sat down beneath one of the trees and read Isaiah 53:1-12, and also the gospel history of our Redeemer‘s sorrow during that memorable night in which he was there betrayed; and the interest of the association was heightened by the passing through the place of a party of Bedouins, armed with spears and swords. A recent traveler says of this place that it “is a field or garden about 50 paces square, with a few shrubs growing in it, and eight olive-trees of great antiquity, the whole enclosed with a stone wall.” The place was probably fixed upon, as Dr. Robinson supposes, during the visit of Helena to Jerusalem, 326 a.d., when the places of the crucifixion and resurrection were believed to be identified. There is, however, no absolute certainty respecting the places. Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book, vol. ii. p. 484) supposes it most probable that the real “Garden of Gethsemane” was several hundred yards to the northwest of the present Gethsemane, in a place much more secluded than the one usually regarded as that where the agony of the Saviour occurred, and therefore more likely to have been the place of his retirement. Nothing, however, that is of importance depends on ascertaining the exact spot.

Luke says that Jesus “went as he was wont” - that is, accustomed - “to the Mount of Olives.” Probably he had been in the habit of retiring from Jerusalem to that place for meditation and prayer, thus enforcing by his example what he had so often done by his precepts the duty of retiring from the noise and bustle of the world to hold communion with God.

Gethsemane - This word is made up either of two Hebrew words, signifying “valley of fatness” - that is, a fertile valley; or of two words, signifying “an olive-press,” given to it, probably, because the place was filled with olives.

Sit ye here - That is, in one part of the garden to which they first came.

While I go and pray yonder - That is, at the distance of a stone‘s cast, Luke 22:41. Luke adds that when he came to the garden he charged them to pray that they might not enter into temptation - that is, into deep “trials and afflictions,” or, more probably, into scenes and dangers that would tempt them to deny him.

Matthew 26:37

And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee - That is, James and John, Matthew 10:2. On two other occasions he had favored these disciples in a particular manner, suffering them to go with him to witness his power and glory, namely, at the healing of the ruler‘s daughter Luke 8:51, and at his transfiguration on the mount, Matthew 17:1.

Sorrowful - Affected with grief.

Very heavy - The word in the original is much stronger than the one translated “sorrowful.” It means, to be pressed down or overwhelmed with great anguish. This was produced, doubtless, by a foresight of his great sufferings on the cross in making an atonement for the sins of people.

Matthew 26:38

My soul is exceeding sorrowful - His human nature - his soul - was much and deeply affected and pressed down.

Even unto death - This denotes extreme sorrow and agony.

The sufferings of death are the greatest of which we have any knowledge; they are the most feared and dreaded by man; and those sufferings are therefore put for extreme and indescribable anguish. The meaning may be thus expressed: My sorrows are so great that under their burden I am ready to die; such is the anxiety of mind, that I seem to bear the pains of death!

Tarry ye here and watch with me - The word rendered “watch” means, literally, to abstain from sleep; then to be vigilant, or to guard against danger. Here it seems to mean to sympathize with him, to unite with him in seeking divine support, and to prepare themselves for approaching dangers.

Matthew 26:39

And he went a little further - That is, at the distance that a man could conveniently cast a stone (Luke).

Fell on his face - Luke says “he kneeled down.” He did both.

He first kneeled, and then, in the fervency of his prayer and the depth of his sorrow, he fell with his face on the ground, denoting the deepest anguish and the most earnest entreaty. This was the usual posture of prayer in times of great earnestness. See Numbers 16:22; 2 Chronicles 20:18; Nehemiah 8:6.

If it be possible - That is, if the world can be redeemed - if it be consistent with justice, and with maintaining the government of the universe, that people should be saved without this extremity of sorrow, let it be done. There is no doubt that if it had been possible it would have been done; and the fact that these sufferings were “not” removed, and that the Saviour went forward and bore them without mitigation, shows that it was not consistent with the justice of God and with the welfare of the universe that people should be saved without the awful sufferings of “such an atonement.”

Let this cup - These bitter sufferings. These approaching trials. The word cup is often used in this sense, denoting sufferings. See the notes at Matthew 20:22.

Not as I will, but as thou wilt - As Jesus was man as well as God, there is nothing inconsistent in supposing that, as man, he was deeply affected in view of these sorrows. When he speaks of His will, he expresses what “human nature,” in view of such great sufferings, would desire. It naturally shrunk from them and sought deliverance. Yet he sought to do the will of God. He chose rather that the high purpose of God should be done, than that that purpose should be abandoned from regard to the fears of his human nature. In this he has left a model of prayer in all times of affliction. It is right, in times of calamity, to seek deliverance. Like the Saviour, also, in such seasons we should, we must submit cheerfully to the will of God, confident that in all these trials he is wise, and merciful, and good.

Matthew 26:40

And findeth them asleep - It may seem remarkable that in such circumstances, with a suffering, pleading Redeemer near, surrounded by danger, and having received a special charge to watch - that is, not to sleep - they should so soon have fallen asleep.

It is frequently supposed that this was proof of wonderful stupidity, and indifference to their Lord‘s sufferings. The truth is, however, that it was just the reverse; “it was proof of their great attachment, and their deep sympathy in his sorrows.” Luke has added that he found “them sleeping” for sorrow - that is, “on account” of their sorrow; or their grief was so great that they naturally fell asleep. Multitudes of facts might be brought to show that this is in accordance with the regular effects of grief. Dr. Rush says: “There is another symptom of grief, which is not often noticed, and that is “profound sleep.” I have often witnessed it even in mothers, immediately after the death of a child. Criminals, we are told by Mr. Akerman, the keeper of Newgate, in London, often sleep soundly the night before their execution. The son of General Custine slept nine hours the night before he was led to the guillotine in Paris.” - Diseases of the Mind, p. 319.

Saith unto Peter … - This earnest appeal was addressed to Peter particularly on account of his warm professions, his rash zeal, and his self-confidence. If he could not keep awake and watch with the Saviour for one hour, how little probability was there that he would adhere to him in the trials through which he was soon to pass!

Matthew 26:41

Watch - See Matthew 26:38. Greater trials are coming on. It is necessary, therefore, still to be on your guard.

And pray - Seek aid from God by supplication, in view of the thickening calamities.

That ye enter not into temptation - That ye be not overcome and oppressed with these trials of your faith so as to deny me. The word “temptation” here properly means what would test their faith in the approaching calamities - in his rejection and death. It would “try” their faith, because, though they believed that he was the Messiah, they were not very clearly aware of the necessity of his death, and they did not fully understand that he was to rise again. They had cherished the belief that he was to establish a kingdom “while he lived.” When they should see him, therefore, rejected, tried, crucified, dead - when they should see him submit to all this as if he had not power to deliver himself - “then” would be the trial of their faith; and, in view of that, he exhorted them to pray that they might not so enter temptation as to be overcome by it and fall.

The spirit indeed is willing … - The mind, the heart is ready and disposed to bear these trials, but the “flesh,” the natural feelings, through the fear of danger, is weak, and will be likely to lead you astray when the trial comes. Though you may have strong faith, and believe now that you will not deny me, yet human nature is weak, and shrinks at trials, and you should therefore seek strength from on high. This was intended to excite them, notwithstanding he knew that they loved him, to be on their guard, lest the weakness of human nature should be insufficient to sustain them in the hour of their temptation.

Matthew 26:42-44

It is probable that our Lord spent considerable time in prayer, and that the evangelists have recorded rather “the substance” of his petitions than the very “words.” He returned repeatedly to his disciples, doubtless to caution them against danger, to show the deep interest which he had in their welfare, and to show them the extent of his sufferings on their behalf

Each time that he returned these sorrows deepened. Again he sought the place of prayer, and as his approaching sufferings overwhelmed him, this was the burden of his prayer, and he prayed the same words. Luke adds that amid his agonies an angel appeared from heaven strengthening him. His human nature began to sink, as unequal to his sufferings, and a messenger from heaven appeared, to support him in these heavy trials. It may seem strange that, since Jesus was divine John 1:1, the divine nature did not minister strength to the human, and that he that was God should receive strength from an “angel.” But it should be remembered that Jesus came in his human nature not only to make an atonement, but to be a perfect example of a holy man; that, as such, it was necessary to submit to the common conditions of humanity - that he should live as other people, be sustained as other people, suffer as other people, and be strengthened as other people; that he should, so to speak, take no advantage in favor of his piety, from his divinity, but submit it in all things to the common lot of pious people. Hence, he supplied his wants, not by his being divine, but in the ordinary way of human life; he preserved himself from danger, not as God, but by seeking the usual ways of human prudence and precaution; he met trials as a man; he received comfort as a man; and there is no absurdity in supposing that, in accordance with the condition of his people, his human nature should be strengthened, as they are, by those who are sent forth to be ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation, Hebrews 1:14.

Further, Luke adds Luke 22:44 that, being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. The word “agony” is taken from the anxiety, effort, and strong emotion of the wrestlers in the Greek games about to engage in a mighty struggle. Here it denotes the extreme anguish of mind, the strong conflict produced in sinking human nature from the prospect of deep and overwhelming calamities.

“Great drops of blood,” Luke 22:44. The word rendered here as “great drops” does not mean drops gently falling on the ground, but rather thick and clammy masses of gore, pressed by inward agony through the skin, and, mixing with the sweat, falling thus to the ground. It has been doubted by some whether the sacred writer meant to say that there was actually “blood” in this sweat, or only that the sweat was “in the form” of great drops. The natural meaning is, doubtless, that the blood was mingled with his sweat; that it fell profusely - falling masses of gore; that it was pressed out by his inward anguish; and that this was caused in some way in view of his approaching death. This effect of extreme sufferings, of mental anguish. has been known in several other instances. Bloody sweats have been mentioned by many writers as caused by extreme suffering. Dr. Doddridge says (Note at Luke 22:44) that “Aristotle and Diodorus Siculus both mention bloody sweats as attending some extraordinary agony of mind; and I find Loti, in his “Life of Pope Sextus V.,” and Sir John Chardin, in his “History of Persia,” mentioning a like phenomenon, to which Dr. Jackson adds another from Thuanus.” It has been objected to this account that it is improbable, and that such an event could not occur. The instances, however, which are referred to by Doddridge and others show sufficiently that the objection is unfounded. In addition to these, I may observe that Voltaire has himself narrated a fact which ought forever to stop the mouths of infidels. Speaking of Charles IX of France, in his “Universal History,” he says: “He died in his 35th year. His disorder was of a very remarkable kind; the blood oozed out of all his pores. This malady, of which there have been other instances, was owing to either excessive fear, or violent agitation, or to a feverish and melancholy temperament.”

Various opinions have been given of the probable causes of these sorrows of the Saviour. Some have thought it was strong shrinking from the manner of dying on the cross, or from an apprehension of being “forsaken” there by the Father; others, that Satan was permitted in a special manner to test him, and to fill his mind with horrors, having departed from him at the beginning of his ministry for a season Luke 4:13, only to renew his temptations in a more dreadful manner now; and others that these sufferings were sent upon him as the wrath of God manifested against sin that God inflicted them directly upon him by his own hand, to show his abhorrence of the sins of people for which he was about to die. Where the Scriptures are silent about the cause, it does not become us confidently to express an opinion. We may suppose, perhaps, without presumption, that a part or all these things were combined to produce this awful suffering. There is no need of supposing that there was a single thing that produced it; but it is rather probable that this was a rush of feeling from every quarter - his situation, his approaching death, the temptations of the enemy, the awful suffering on account of people‘s sins, and God‘s hatred of it about to be manifested in his own death - all coming upon his soul at once sorrow flowing in from every quarter - the “concentration” of the sufferings of the atonement pouring together upon him and filling him with unspeakable anguish.

Matthew 26:45

Sleep on now and take your rest - Most interpreters have supposed that this should be translated as a question rattler than a command,

“Do you sleep now and take your rest? Is this a time, amid so much danger and so many enemies. to give yourselves to sleep?” This construction is strongly countenanced by Luke 22:46, where the expression. Why sleep ye? evidently refers to the same point of time. There is no doubt that the Greek will bear this construction, and in this way the apparent inconsistency will be removed between this command “to sleep,” and that in the next verse, “to rise” and be going. Others suppose that, his agony being over, and the necessity of watching with him being now past, he kindly permitted them to seek repose until they should be roused by the coming of the traitor; that while they slept Jesus continued still awake; that some considerable time elapsed between what was spoken here and in the next verse; and that Jesus suffered them to sleep until he saw Judas coming, and then aroused them. This is the most probable opinion. Others have supposed that he spoke this in irony: “Sleep on now, if you can; take rest, if possible, in such dangers and at such a time.” But this supposition is unworthy the Saviour and the occasion. Mark adds, “It is enough.” That is, sufficient time has been given to sleep. It is time to arise and be going.

The hour is at hand - The “time” when the Son of man is to be betrayed is near.

Sinners - Judas, the Roman soldiers, and the Jews.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
He who made atonement for the sins of mankind, submitted himself in a garden of suffering, to the will of God, from which man had revolted in a garden of pleasure. Christ took with him into that part of the garden where he suffered his agony, only those who had witnessed his glory in his transfiguration. Those are best prepared to suffer with Christ, who have by faith beheld his glory. The words used denote the most entire dejection, amazement, anguish, and horror of mind; the state of one surrounded with sorrows, overwhelmed with miseries, and almost swallowed up with terror and dismay. He now began to be sorrowful, and never ceased to be so till he said, It is finished. He prayed that, if possible, the cup might pass from him. But he also showed his perfect readiness to bear the load of his sufferings; he was willing to submit to all for our redemption and salvation. According to this example of Christ, we must drink of the bitterest cup which God puts into our hands; though nature struggle, it must submit. It should be more our care to get troubles sanctified, and our hearts satisfied under them, than to get them taken away. It is well for us that our salvation is in the hand of One who neither slumbers nor sleeps. All are tempted, but we should be much afraid of entering into temptation. To be secured from this, we should watch and pray, and continually look unto the Lord to hold us up that we may be safe. Doubtless our Lord had a clear and full view of the sufferings he was to endure, yet he spoke with the greatest calmness till this time. Christ was a Surety, who undertook to be answerable for our sins. Accordingly he was made sin for us, and suffered for our sins, the Just for the unjust; and Scripture ascribes his heaviest sufferings to the hand of God. He had full knowledge of the infinite evil of sin, and of the immense extent of that guilt for which he was to atone; with awful views of the Divine justice and holiness, and the punishment deserved by the sins of men, such as no tongue can express, or mind conceive. At the same time, Christ suffered being tempted; probably horrible thoughts were suggested by Satan that tended to gloom and every dreadful conclusion: these would be the more hard to bear from his perfect holiness. And did the load of imputed guilt so weigh down the soul of Him of whom it is said, He upholdeth all things by the word of his power? into what misery then must those sink whose sins are left upon their own heads! How will those escape who neglect so great salvation?
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Their eyes were heavy - That is, they could not keep them open. Was there nothing preternatural in this? Was there no influence here from the powers of darkness?

Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 685-94

This chapter is based on Matthew 26:36-56; Mark 14:32-50; Luke 22:39-53; John 18:1-12.

In company with His disciples, the Saviour slowly made His way to the garden of Gethsemane. The Passover moon, broad and full, shone from a cloudless sky. The city of pilgrims’ tents was hushed into silence. DA 685.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, 101-2

Oh, that we might see the needs of these cities as God sees them! At such a time as this every hand is to be employed. The Lord is coming; the end is near, yea, it hasteth greatly! In a little while we shall be unable to work with the freedom that we now enjoy. Terrible scenes are before us, and what we do we must do quickly. 9T 101.1

Recently in the night season I was awakened from sleep and given a view of the sufferings of Christ for men. His sacrifice, the mockery and derision He received at the hands of wicked men, His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, His betrayal and crucifixion—all were vividly portrayed before me. 9T 101.2

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Ellen G. White
Early Writings, 167

I beheld Jesus in the garden with His disciples. In deep sorrow He bade them watch and pray, lest they should enter into temptation. He knew that their faith was to be tried, and their hopes disappointed, and that they would need all the strength which they could obtain by close watching and fervent prayer. With strong cries and weeping, Jesus prayed, “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done.” The Son of God prayed in agony. Great drops of blood gathered upon His face and fell to the ground. Angels were hovering over the place, witnessing the scene, but only one was commissioned to go and strengthen the Son of God in His agony. There was no joy in heaven. The angels cast their crowns and harps from them and with the deepest interest silently watched Jesus. They wished to surround the Son of God, but the commanding angels suffered them not, lest, as they should behold His betrayal, they should deliver Him; for the plan had been laid, and it must be fulfilled. EW 167.1

After Jesus had prayed, He came to His disciples; but they were sleeping. In that dreadful hour He had not the sympathy and prayers of even His disciples. Peter, who was so zealous a short time before, was heavy with sleep. Jesus reminded him of his positive declarations and said to him, “What, could ye not watch with Me one hour?” Three times the Son of God prayed in agony. Then Judas, with his band of armed men, appeared. He approached his Master as usual, to salute Him. The band surrounded Jesus; but there He manifested His divine power, as He said, “Whom seek ye?” “I am He.” They fell backward to the ground. Jesus made this inquiry that they might witness His power and have evidence that He could deliver Himself from their hands if He would. EW 167.2

The disciples began to hope as they saw the multitude with their staves and swords fall so quickly. As they arose and again surrounded the Son of God, Peter drew his sword and smote a servant of the high priest and cut off an ear. Jesus bade him to put up the sword, saying, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels?” I saw that as these words were spoken, the countenances of the angels were animated with hope. They wished then and there to surround their Commander and disperse that angry mob. But again sadness settled upon them, as Jesus added, “But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” The hearts of the disciples also sank in despair and bitter disappointment, as Jesus suffered Himself to be led away by His enemies. EW 167.3

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3 (EGW), 1166

11. God's Long-suffering Leads Some to Carelessness—In His dealings with the human race, God bears long with the impenitent. He uses His appointed agencies to call men to allegiance, and offers them His full pardon if they will repent. But because God is long-suffering, men presume on His mercy. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” The patience and long-suffering of God, which should soften and subdue the soul, has an altogether different influence upon the careless and sinful. It leads them to cast off restraint, and strengthens them in resistance. They think that the God who has borne so much from them will not heed their perversity. If we lived in a dispensation of immediate retribution, offenses against God would not occur so often. But though delayed, the punishment is none the less certain. There are limits even to the forbearance of God. The boundary of His long-suffering may be reached, and then He will surely punish. And when He does take up the case of the presumptuous sinner, He will not cease till He has made a full end. 3BC 1166.1

Very few realize the sinfulness of sin; they flatter themselves that God is too good to punish the offender. But the cases of Miriam, Aaron, David, and many others show that it is not a safe thing to sin against God in deed, in word, or even in thought. God is a being of infinite love and compassion, but He also declares Himself to be a “consuming fire, even a jealous God” (The Review and Herald, August 14, 1900). 3BC 1166.2

(Matthew 26:36-46; Revelation 15:3.) Every Offense Set Down for Reckoning—The death of Christ was to be the convincing, everlasting argument that the law of God is as unchangeable as His throne. The agonies of the Garden of Gethsemane, the insult, the mockery, and abuse heaped upon God's dear Son, the horrors and ignominy of the crucifixion, furnish sufficient and thrilling demonstration that God's justice, when it punishes, does the work thoroughly. The fact that His own Son, the Surety for man, was not spared, is an argument that will stand to all eternity before saint and sinner, before the universe of God, to testify that He will not excuse the transgressor of His law. Every offense against God's law, however minute, is set down in the reckoning, and when the sword of justice is taken in hand, it will do the work for impenitent transgressors that was done to the divine Sufferer. Justice will strike; for God's hatred of sin is intense and overwhelming (Manuscript 58, 1897). 3BC 1166.3

11, 12. See EGW on Genesis 15:16. 3BC 1166.4

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