A Battle In a Garden
by Rev. Randy Brown
We continue to look at our series of sermons on the battles, battles that take place here in scripture. We’ve not look at them all, but we’ve looked at a few and we’re going to look at another battle today. It was a day like no other. You could not only feel the tension in the air; you could taste it. Jesus noticed that the twelve that were with Him began bickering, and He would try to have conversation with them in changing the topic of the conversation. They would talk about death and betrayal. They’d talk about joy and peace. After a long day, they come to the garden, the Mount of Olives. As they entered in, He had the twelve to stop and they fellowshipped a little bit there together. Then, all of a sudden, He told them to stay there and then He pointed to the three; Peter, James, and John. He said, “When I leave in a minute, you all follow me out. We need to go a little farther.”
He got up in a few moments, and He left to go to another part of the garden on that hillside. As He did that, they followed Him. It wasn’t very far that they went, but they went. Then He stopped them and said, “I want you to stay here.” The scripture tells us that He went on about a stone’s throw. Now, we don’t know how far that was. It depends on who was throwing the stone, I guess, but He went about a stone’s throw farther, and He knelt down and He began to pray because the battle was going on inside of Him. This particular battle at this particular time of prayer was different than any of the other that we see in scripture, because Jesus began to beg, and He began to plead, and He began to question what God had in mind. He wasn’t happy with what He thought was getting ready to happen and, indeed, was getting ready to happen.
It’d been many times that He had sought the Father’s will and was happy with it, but he began to pray this time, “Father, if there is any other way, then take this cup from me.” He needed His friends around Him, and they were there in two different sections, but He needed some solitude. He needed, if we say, His space. You go through the struggles and you go through the battles, and you know you need your friends around you, but you also need your space and that is what Jesus was doing. So, there He was, his friends at the entrance to the garden, His close friends just a little closer to Him, and then He began to have His space.
If you look closely at Jesus, you’ll see that He’s been acting strange recently. It’s almost as though there’s blood right under His skin, because the scripture tells us that He sweated great drops of blood. He’s praying and He’s begging and He’s pleading and He’s questioning and He’s asking God for another way. For some reason, Jesus decides to take a break. We don’t know why. He just prayed all He could pray right then, and then He decided to take a break. I wonder what He thought of when He walked from the place where He was back to where the big three were. As He walked back He noticed something that disappointed Him greatly; Peter, James, and John, they were asleep. And, He said, “Couldn’t you stay awake just for one hour?” And, He was disappointed. I wonder what He thought. I wonder how disappointed He was. I wonder what He thought as He left the three to go back to that solitude place.
His spirit was heavy, but He’s going back to talk to the Father. He knew what was coming. He knew when it was coming. He had told the disciples what was going to happen. They knew the game plan. He knew the game plan, but it wasn’t working. They begged Him to change the game plan, make adjustments. You know, that’s what you do at half time? Make adjustments, pulled the sword. He was discouraged, and when we are living in discouragement it’s easier to fall into temptation isn’t it? Well, this isn’t working, so we’ll try something else. Change courses, Jesus. Change courses. That’s what He begged the Father to do, and the Father told Him no. The disciples begged Him to change courses. Peter already had his sword. He said, “No, we’re not going to change courses. We’re going to stay the course.”
You remember last week when we talked about when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness? After the temptations the scripture tells us that Satan left Him for a more opportune time. I believe this was the more opportune time. It was his last shot, and being his last shot there were people that told Jesus, “Flex your muscles. Show your power.” Nobody could’ve blamed Him if he had done it. Everybody would have understood, but at the end of the day this was His prayer. “Father, if there’s any other way, then don’t send me to the cross. If there’s any other way, but not my will but Yours be done.” We call what we did awhile ago the Lord’s Prayer. I think this is the Lord’s Prayer, “Not my will but thine be done.” That’s how Jesus prayed.
He was in an gnarled area. There were gnarled trees. There was an eerie sky. He didn’t know what to do. He poured out His heart to the Father. He pleaded, and just like sometimes when we pour out our heart and we plead to the Father, God said to Jesus, tenderly and lovingly, “No. No.” Sometimes that’s hard to take when God tells us no, but He told His Son no. Then Jesus had to decide if He was going to accept that answer or live in rebellion to it, and He accepted it. You may think, and sometimes we think, that the victory was won on Friday, or the victory was won on Sunday morning when they went to the tomb and it was empty. I would suggest to us today that at least in part, if not in whole, that the victory was won in the garden. Are you with me?
Because it was there that Jesus said, “Not my will, but thine be done.” There’s where the victory was won. On the cross? Yes. At the empty tomb? Absolutely. But in the garden, when he surrendered and said, “Father, not my will, but thine be done.” That’s the victory. You know what else he thought there? I think what made his decision. I think Max Lucado has a great point here. Max Lucado says, “His decision was this. He decided to go through Hell for you, so He wouldn’t have to go to Heaven without you.” Wow. Did you hear me? “He decided to go through Hell for you so He wouldn’t go to Heaven without you.”
Now, there are some lessons we need to learn from this battle. The first of, there will be battles. Battles are a part of life. Jesus never hid the cost. He never said it would be easy. There were many defectors. There was one day right before this in scripture when there are people leaving the company of the faithful, and Jesus looked at the disciples and said, “Are y’all going to leave me too?” One of them spoke up and said, “But, Lord, where would we go? Where would we go?” There will be battles. There will be defectors, but will we be one of them? That’s the question. If you haven’t been through a battle, I hate to break it to you: there’s one on the way. If you just got through a battle, I hate to break it to you:t here’s another one coming. Battles are a part of the deal.
No wonder He said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” No wonder He said, “Cast all of your cares upon Him for He cares for you.” Why would He have said that if they are not coming? And, then He says, “Stay awake.” Sometimes we want to pack it all in and walk away. If we don’t stay awake, we’ll miss it. Prayer is essential, and prayer is a privilege if we’re going to be victorious in the battles of life. He prayed. They slept. They missed it. Jesus was hunted like a fugitive. His treatment was not fair. “Wake up,” he said, “So that you won’t fall into temptation.” He wants us to be alert and awake.
Now I want to ask you a question. What do you do when life comes at you and it’s not fair? What do you do when life comes your way and it’s not fair? You want to know what Jesus did? Jesus complained. He complained. Yeah, you heard it. Jesus was a complainer. He goes to the Father, and he says, “Lord, it’s not fair. Lord, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to suffer the agony and the pain and the crucifixion. Lord, is there any other way?” If that’s not complaining, what is it? He complained. Complaining is not a spiritual gift, but it’s okay to complain. We got to make sure that we complain to the right source. Don’t complain on Facebook or Twitter, or whatever that is. The right source is the heavenly Father, and He’s ready for your complaints and He can handle your complaints.
“Cast all your cares on me, for I care for you,” He says. Complainer. That’s how Jesus got through the battle. Why would there be a book or a section in the psalm that’s the largest section of Psalms? It’s the book of laments, the psalms of lament. It’s the biggest section in there. David knew how to complain. Jesus knew how to complain, and they knew who to complain to. So if you’ve got a complaint, take it to Him. He can handle it. Don’t spread it all over social media. Take it to the Father. He can handle it. If you don’t think He’s ready for complaints, go to that story in the scriptures where there are two ladies that are sisters. One’s Mary and one’s Martha, and Martha was a complainer. “Lord, would you go tell my sister to get up and help me?” She complained.
The mother of James and John when they’re not sure where they’re going to get to sit at the table and she wanted to make sure that her boys had a good seat. She was a complainer. The boy who walked to Jesus and said, “Father, Lord, tell my brother to share the inheritance.” He was a complainer. None of those complainers were ever turned away. Jesus dealt with them. Be careful when you complain. We need to complain to God, but stick around for the answer because every time that there was a complaint that came to Jesus, I’m going to tell you in my words what He said, “I didn’t come to take sides. I came to take charge.”
Don’t just complain and then run off. Listen to how He wants to answer your complaint. We think when we pray we got to be polite and talk in the flowery language of thee’s and thou’s. No, we need to be honest, pour out our honest hearts to the Father. He knows it anyway. The first rule of prayer is to be honest with God. Be real in your prayers. Jesus was real in the battle, and we have to be real in our battles and stay around for the answers. That’s the way He fought His battles, and that’s the way we ought to fight our battles too.
I want to share with you something that happened to me this week. It was early in the week, and it had been a long day the day before. Things just kept piling and piling and piling, and when I got one thing done four more were sitting there waiting. Y’all have had those days, right? I woke up at noon. I think it was Tuesday morning, and I said, “Lord, I don’t need another day like yesterday. Lord, can you help me?” Almost immediately, God spoke two words to my heart, and I want to tell you what they are. “I AM. I AM.” I am sufficient. I am capable. I am strong. I am powerful. God said, “I’m going to be with you. I’ve got this.” Isn’t it good to know He’s got our back? Be honest. My prayer that morning, it was a complaint, and God said, “I’m with you. I got this.” He’ll cover your back, too.
Let us pray. Father, thank You that You’re real. Thank You that You’ve got our back. Thank You that we can bring anything in our lives to You that we can even bring our complaints, and You understand and You want to lift those burdens and guide our direction. We thank You, in Jesus name, Amen.