Feast upon the Word Blog

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NT Sunday School Lesson 25 (JF): Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46

Posted by Jim F. on July 4, 2011

Lesson 25: Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46

As important as the events in the Garden of Gethsemane were, they receive very little attention in scripture. Matthew has 11 verses on it, Mark also has 11, Luke has 7, John tells us nothing about it at all, though he was as close as anyone to what happened. The Doctrine and Covenants has 4 verses about it and the Book of Mormon 1. Why do you think the scriptures are relatively silent about such an important event? Does that tell us anything about how we should understand what scripture is or is not?

Here is a link to a document with a side-by-side comparison of all of the scriptures about the events of Gethsamene.

Matthew 26

Verses 36-46: The word gethsemane means “olive press,” so the garden of Gethsemane was an olive grove within which, presumably, there was an olive press. Is there any symbolic connection between the events in this grove and its name?

The first part of verse 38 seems to be a loose paraphrase of Psalm 42:6. Read that psalm and consider how it is related to Jesus’ experience in the garden.

The phrase “watch with me” could also be translated “stay awake with me” (LDS footnotes). What is Jesus asking the Peter, James, and John to do? Why? Why them and not all of the disciples? How will their staying awake help him? Can we take their sleep to symbolize anything about our lives?

This is the only record we have of Jesus asking someone to help him. What does this suggest about his experience and what is to come?

In verse 39 Jesus prays “If it is possible, let this cup pass by me.” Why a cup? What metaphor is he using? Is it related to the events of the Last Supper?

What does he wish he could avoid? What is Jesus’ attitude toward what is about to happen to him? Does that tell us anything about our own attitude toward suffering? What does it mean when he adds “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt”?

Why does Jesus want Peter, James, and John to pray?

The word translated “temptation” in verse 41 doesn’t mean here, as temptation means for us, “to be enticed to do evil.” Instead, as in the Lord’s Prayer, it means “to encounter a difficulty that cannot be overcome.” What is Jesus admonishing the disciples to do? How is it relevant to what his happening to him in the garden?

The Bible does not use spirit to mean “one’s internal psyche” and flesh to mean “the body.” That usage comes much later. In the Bible the spirit is the force of life. In a Jewish and Christian context, the spirit is something God-given and it has a divine impulse. (See Genesis 2:7.) The flesh, on the other hand, is our concrete existence in the world. What does “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” mean?

Is it significant that Jesus repeats his prayer three times?

What does he mean when he tells the disciples to sleep on, especially when he immediately tells them to get up (verses 45-46)?

Mark 14:32-42

Compare Mark’s account with Matthew’s. Do you see any meaningful differences?

Luke 22:39-46

What does Luke add that in is neither Matthew nor Mark? What does he leave out? What might those differences tell us? How do these three accounts compare to John 12:23-33? Is Alma 7:11-12 about Jesus’ experience in the Garden? Does D&C 19:16-19 tell us something that we don’t have in other scriptures? If so, what? If not, why was it revealed? Does Mosiah 3:7 give us information not found in the Bible?

4 Responses to “NT Sunday School Lesson 25 (JF): Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46”

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  2. Kent Miles said

    One of the difficulties of teaching this lesson is that it has little meaning for someone unless they have had to personally wrestle with consciousness of a need for redemption. And for those who have had that wrestle before God, the sins which were the trigger for their broken heart and contrite spirit are not something which are likely to be discussed in a public forum.

    How does one have meaningful discussion about a topic that is talked about in generalities? How does one teach youth about the atonement, and about the need for a personal Gethsemane?

    • Jim F. said

      I don’t have a fix for every possible class, but my experience has been that close reading of the scriptures, combined with active reflection on their meaning (usually requiring discussion led but not dictated by the teacher), often helps people begin to feel their need for redemption. The scriptures were first written, I believe, to call us to repentance. They can still do that, but we have to let them. That isn’t easy to do, partly because we are so familiar with them that we think we already know what they say. Close reading and discussion can help break that familiarity.

  3. Ginger said

    Thank you so much for these study helps. I have found them very helpful as I prepare my Sunday school lessons, and as I try to understand the scriptures better myself.
    Regarding your first paragraph where you say John tells us nothing at all about these events, I was wondering if the intercessory prayer (John 17) is part of the events from the Garden of Gethsemane, or if you think that occurred earlier? It is hard to tell from the various gospels if John is just relaying a different version of what happened, or if the intercessory prayer occurred before Christ entered the the Garden.
    thanks!

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