Gethsemane's Jesus in the gospels
Let’s read from the memories of the direct witnesses what really happened HERE in the Garden in that tragic night…before the betrayal and arrest of Jesus.
Gethsemane according to Matthew
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37 He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. 38 Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me."
39 He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” 43 Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. 44 He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. 45 Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.
46 Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.” 47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a large crowd, with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.” 49 Immediately he went over to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed him. 50 Jesus answered him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. 51 And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear.52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me. 56 But all this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
The holding called the Gethsemane, the place of the oil-mill, is indicated by Matthew and Mark as the place where the drama of Jesus’ Passion really began. Human weakness in that moment of sadness and deep anxiety is characterised by Jesus’ prayer who begs the Father three times “Let this cup pass away from me”: another biblical expression to show the terrible fate that God reserved to his opponents.
Jesus reminded his sleeping disciples to pray so as to “not fall into temptation”. This teaching is included in the prayer of the Our Father, so that the Father will not abandon his sons in the moment of difficulty but will give them the strength to overcome every temptation.
Matthew recounts Judas’ greeting and kiss: it was a usual way to greet people in the East and meant a strong friendship. Jesus did not avoid this friendship and even called Judas “friend”. This theme finds a lot of space in this Gospel for two reasons: the first is the no-violence and forgiveness exaltation, the second is the certainty that Jesus’ arrest was part of God’s plan already sketched and entrusted to the Prophets’ Scriptures.
Gethsemane according to Mark
3232 Then they came to a place named Gethsemane,i and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. 34 Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.” 35He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; 36 he said, “Abba, Father,* all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” 37 When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.k The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” 39 Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing.40Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him. 41 He returned a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. 42 Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.” 43 Then, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely.” 45 He came and immediately went over to him and said, “Rabbi.” And he kissed him. 46 At this they laid hands on him and arrested him. 47 One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. 48 Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to seize me? 49 Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me; but that the scriptures may be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled. 51 Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, 52 but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.
(Mark 14, 32-52)
Mark the evangelist tells the story of Jesus’ night of agony and deep prayer that led him to his definitive abandonment to the Father’s will, followed by Judas’ betrayal. Mark highlights Jesus’ prayer to the Father as full of trust and intimacy. In the text, Jesus calls his Father “Abbà”, word expression that in the Judaic tradition has never been used to address God; in addition, “Abbà” is used in the Gospels only here, as if to underline the profound intimacy between God and his son Jesus in the very moment when Jesus felt more in need of his Father’s love.
Mark is also the only one to add a detail, perhaps of a personal nature: it is about a young boy to escape the guards drops the sheet remained naked. It could be a memoir. Marco was in Jerusalem, and the farm of Gethsemane could belong to his family that night would have been surprised to sleep in his shelter and for this only covered the sheet.
Gethsemane according to Luke
39Then going out he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” 41After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” 43 And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. 44 He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. 45When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. 46 He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.” The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus.d 47 While he was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him. 48Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked, “Lord, shall we strike with a sword?” 50 And one of them struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear.f 51 But Jesus said in reply, “Stop, no more of this!” Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him. 52 And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards and elders who had come for him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 Day after day I was with you in the temple area, and you did not seize me; but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.” 54 After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance.
(Lc 22, 39-54)
Among all the evangelists, Luke is the only one to remember that “His sweat became like great drops of blood” because of Jesus’ extreme agony, who in that time of darkness received from the Father the comfort of an angel. The symptom of haematosis can happen as the result of an extreme physical suffering. According to the tradition, Luke who was a doctor attributed that symptom to Jesus’ “agony – (from the Greek “fight”) - against the power of darkness”.
“The power of darkness” was indeed present inside those men who came to take Jesus and it has two meanings: a literal and a biblical one. The first is that Jesus’ arrest happened at night with the favour of “darkness” so that the crowd, who followed him by day, could not help him. The second is that the “darkness” is biblically associated with the absence of God and it is a metaphor of all that is evil and touched by sin. The evangelist is also the only one to tell Jesus’ merciful gesture of healing the servant of the high priest’s cut off ear.
Gethsemane according to John
1When he had said this, Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to where there was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered. 2 Judas his betrayer also knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. 4Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.” He said to them, “I AM.” Judas his betrayer was also with them. 6 When he said to them, “I AM,” they turned away and fell to the ground.7So he again asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I AM. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill what he had said, “I have not lost any of those you gave me.”10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” 12 So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, 13 and brought him to Annas first.
(John 18, 1-12)
John does not present Jesus as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. John’s Jesus through his passion fulfils the mission he was destined to, and his death on the cross is its glorification (John 12, 20-33). In this Gospel the story of Jesus’ agony in the garden of Olives is totally absent, while it shows us Jesus not just betrayed by Judas, but he freely offering himself to drink “the cup” prepared for him by the Father. In contrast with the Synoptic Gospels, it does mention neither the Mount of Olives nor the Gethsemane, but the Kidron brook that divided the high ground of the Temple from the Mount of Olives.
While all the other evangelists vaguely point to the culprit of the high priest servant’s ear cut, John not only specifies his name, Malchus, but also finds in Peter the responsible of that gesture. This is to be read as Peter’s willingness to leave on the servant a sign of shame. Moreover, John states precisely that Jesus’ arrest was carried over by a group of officers of the Jews sent by the high priests rather than the Luke’s less realistic version in which the high priest personally had been there to arrest Jesus.