A Closer Look at the Cross: Christ Died for our sins

24 Mar

The Word For The Day — Christ died for our sins according to the...

1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. {2} By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. {3} For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, {4} that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”

There it is. Almost too simple. Jesus was killed, buried and resurrected. The part that matters the most in the world is the cross. No more and no less. The cross.

It rests on the time line of history like a compelling diamond. Its tragedy summons all sufferers. Its absurdity attracts all cynics. Its hope lures all searchers. And, according to Paul, the cross is what counts.

What a piece of wood! History has idolized it and despised it, gold-plated it and burned it, worn and trashed it. History has done everything to it but ignore it. That’s the one option that the cross does not offer.

No one can ignore it! You can’t ignore a piece of lumber that suspends the greatest claim in history. A crucified carpenter claiming that he is God on earth? Divine? Eternal? The death-slayer? No wonder Paul called it “the core of the gospel.” Its bottom line is sobering: if the account is true, it is history’s hinge. Period. If not, it is history’s hoax.

Dying is a dreadful thing from the human point of view; no amount of beautiful music or kind words can soften the blow.

We might work to camouflage the pain and deny the reality of it, but it is a grim, harsh, ugly, inescapable fact with which to reckon.

What is true for us today was true for our Lord when He faced the facts in His day. Being fully human, He did not relish the ultimate end of His earthly life: a crucifixion death.

But He accepted it. Isaiah 53:7: “like a lamb that is led to slaughter.”

Further background

Corinth was a Greek, city, and the Greeks did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. When Paul had preached at Athens and declared the fact of Christ’s resurrection, some of his listeners actually laughed at him (Acts 17:32). Most Greek philosophers considered the human body a prison, and they welcomed death as deliverance from bondage.

This skeptical attitude had somehow invaded the church and Paul had to face it head-on. The truth of the resurrection had doctrinal and practical implications for life that were too important to ignore. Paul dealt with the subject by answering four basic questions.

Are the Dead Raised? (1 Cor. 15:1-4)

It is important to note that the believers at Corinth did believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ; so Paul started his argument with that fundamental truth. He presented three proofs to assure his readers that Jesus Christ indeed had been raised from the dead.

Proof #1their salvation (vv. 1-2). Paul had come to Corinth and preached the message of the Gospel, and their faith had transformed their lives. But an integral part of the Gospel message was the fact of Christ’s resurrection. After all, a dead Saviour cannot save anybody. Paul’s readers had received the Word, trusted Christ, been saved, and were now standing on that Word as the assurance of their salvation. The fact that they were standing firm was proof that their faith was genuine and not empty.

Proof #2—the Old Testament Scriptures (vv. 3-4). First of all means “of first importance.” The Gospel is the most important message that the church ever proclaims. While it is good to be involved in social action and the betterment of mankind, there is no reason why these ministries should preempt the Gospel. “Christ died… He was buried… He rose again… He was seen” are the basic historical facts on which the Gospel stands (1 Cor. 15:3-5). “Christ died for our sins” (author’s italics) is the theological explanation of the historical facts. Many people were crucified by the Romans, but only one “victim” ever died for the sins of the world.

When Paul wrote “according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3) he was referring to the Old Testament Scriptures. Much of the sacrificial system in the Old Testament pointed to the sacrifice of Christ as our substitute and Saviour. The annual Day of Atonement (Lev. 16) and prophecies like Isaiah 53 would also come to mind.

But where does the Old Testament declare His resurrection on the third day? Jesus pointed to the experience of Jonah (Matt. 12:38-41). Paul also compared Christ’s resurrection to the “firstfruits,” and the firstfruits were presented to God on the day following the Sabbath after Passover (Lev. 23:9-14; 1 Cor. 15:23). Since the Sabbath must always be the seventh day, the day after Sabbath must be the first day of the week, or Sunday, the day of our Lord’s resurrection. This covers three days on the Jewish calendar. Apart from the Feast of Firstfruits, there were other prophecies of Messiah’s resurrection in the Old Testament: Psalm 16:8-11 (see Acts 2:25-28); Psalm 22:22ff (see Heb. 2:12); Isaiah 53:10-12; and Psalm 2:7 (see Acts 13:32-33).



The shadow of the cross stretched more deeply across His path every day of His life. He had no other option except to face this premature death at about age 33, a time when most of us are just entering career paths and beginning to smell success in the distance.

His goal was to accomplish the mission of redemption… that He go to a cross and be nailed to its splintered surface… that His blood be poured out and that the cross-death be the answer for uniting man with God.

Luke 10:10: “For the Son of fan came to seek and save what was lost.”

Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Han did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Luke 9:28-31: (at His transfiguration: notice what they were talking about).

“About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. {29} As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. {30} Two men, Moses and Elijah, {31} appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”


Matthew 16:21-23: “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. {22} Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” {23} Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.””

Having declared His person, Jesus now declared His work; for the two must go together. He would go to Jerusalem, suffer and die, and be raised from the dead. This was His first clear statement of His death, though He had hinted at this before (Matt. 12:39-40; 16:4; John 2:19; 3:14; 6:51). “And He was stating the matter plainly” (Mark 8:32, nasb).

Peter’s response to this shocking statement certainly represented the feelings of the rest of the disciples: “Pity Thyself, Lord! This shall never happen to Thee!” Jesus turned His back on Peter and said, “Get behind Me, adversary! You are a stumbling block to Me!” (literal translation) Peter the “stone” who had just been blessed (Matt. 16:18) became Peter the stumbling block who was not a blessing to Jesus!

What was Peter’s mistake? He was thinking like a man, for most men want to escape suffering and death. He did not have God’s mind in the matter. Where do we find the mind of God? In the Word of God. Until Peter was filled with the Spirit, he had a tendency to argue with God’s Word. Peter had enough faith to confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but he did not have the faith to believe that it was right for Jesus to suffer and die. Of course, Satan agreed with Peter’s words, for he used the same approach to tempt Jesus in the wilderness (Matt. 4:8-10).

Today the cross is an accepted symbol of love and sacrifice. But in that day the cross was a horrible means of capital punishment. The Romans would not mention the cross in polite society. In fact, no Roman citizen could be crucified; this terrible death was reserved for their enemies. Jesus had not yet specifically stated that He would be crucified (He did this in Matt. 20:17-19). But His words that follow emphasize the cross.

He presented to the disciples two approaches to life:

deny yourself live for yourself
take up your cross ignore the cross
follow Christ follow the world
lose your life for His sake save your life for your own sake
forsake the world gain the world
keep your soul lose your soul
share His reward and glory lose His reward and glory

To deny self does not mean to deny things. It means to give yourself wholly to Christ and share in His shame and death. Paul described this in Romans 12:1-2 and Philippians 3:7-10, as well as in Galatians 2:20. To take up a cross does not mean to carry burdens or have problems. (I once met a lady who told me her asthma was the cross she had to bear!) To take up the cross means to identify with Christ in His rejection, shame, suffering, and death.

But suffering always leads to glory. This is why Jesus ended this short sermon with a reference to His glorious kingdom (Matt. 16:28). This statement would be fulfilled within a week on the Mount of Transfiguration, described in the next chapter.

Further comments

Following the incident in which Peter acknowledged Jesus as being the Christ, Jesus began preparing his men for His imminent suffering, death, and resurrection.

Peter’s response: “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to You” Jesus said: “Get behind He, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in nind the things of God, but the things of men.”

16:21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.NIV The phrase “from that time on” marks a turning point.

In 4:17 it signaled Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom of heaven. Here it points to his new emphasis on his death and resurrection. The disciples still didn’t grasp Jesus’ true purpose because of their preconceived notions about what the Messiah should be. While they may have understood that he was the Messiah, they needed to prepare to follow him and to be loyal to him as he suffered and This cross saved and converted the world, drove away error, brought back truth, made earth Heaven, fashioned men into angels. Because of this cross, the devils are no longer terrible, but contemptible; neither is death, death, but a sleep.

John Chrysostom


died. So Jesus began teaching clearly and specifically what they could expect so that they would not be surprised when it happened. Contrary to what they thought, Jesus had not come to set up an earthly kingdom. He would not be the conquering Messiah because he first had to suffer many things . . . and . . . be killed. For any human king, death would be the end. Not so for Jesus. Death would be only the beginning, for on the third day, he would be raised to life.

Jesus’ teaching that he must suffer corresponds to Daniel’s prophecies that God’s plan for redemption could not be thwarted by any actions people might take: The Messiah would be cut off (Daniel 9:26); there would be a period of trouble (Daniel 9:27); and the king would come in glory (Daniel 7:13-14). The suffering also recalls Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering Servant in Isaiah 53. His rejection looks back to the rejected “stone” in Psalm 118:22.

Jesus knew from what quarters the rejection would come: the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law (also called “scribes”). The “elders” were the leaders of the Jews who decided issues of religious and civil law. Each community had elders, and a group of them was included in the Council (or Sanhedrin) that met in Jerusalem. “Chief priests” refers not only to the present high priest, but also to all those who formerly held the title and some of their family members. Teachers of the law did just that—taught the law. They were the legal experts. These three groups made up the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court that ultimately sentenced Jesus to be killed (27:1). Notice that opposition came not from the people at large, but from their leaders—the very people who should have been the first to recognize and rejoice in the Messiah’s arrival.


“Triumphalism” is a word that describes the kind of Christianity that seeks political prestige, social recognition, and temporal power. It forces itself on populations and begins to dictate on matters far removed from Jesus’ word. It says, “God will not let us lose because God cannot tolerate loss.” It presses toward victory by any means. It likes success. It is modern Christianity mimicking Peter’s advice to Jesus when he tried to talk him out of his mission.
But Jesus describes the path of faith in much humbler terms: injustice, misunderstanding, suffering, and death. These terms typify true faith for Jesus more than black-tie banquets celebrating multimillion-dollar fund-raising campaigns. When you think of what faith means, focus on Jesus, not on brochures, media presentations, or hyped-up public relations press releases.

16:22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”NIV This was too much for Peter. Having just confessed his heartfelt belief in Jesus as “the Christ, the son of the living God” (16:16) and having been given great authority in Jesus’ kingdom (16:18-19), Peter certainly found it most unnerving that the King would soon be put to death. His actions show that he really didn’t know what he was saying. If Jesus were going to die, what did this mean for the disciples? If he were truly the Messiah, then what was all this talk about being killed? So Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. The word for “rebuke” is a strong term meaning that Peter was rejecting Jesus’ interpretation of the Messiah as a suffering figure.

Peter, Jesus’ friend and devoted follower who had just eloquently proclaimed Jesus’ true identity, sought to protect him from the suffering he prophesied. But if Jesus hadn’t suffered and died, Peter would have died in his sins. Great temptations can come from those who love us and seek to protect us. Be cautious of advice from a friend who says, “Surely God doesn’t want you to face this.” Often our most difficult temptations come from those who try to protect us from discomfort.

16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”NRSV Peter often spoke for all the disciples. In singling Peter out for rebuke, Jesus may have been addressing all of them indirectly. In his wilderness temptations, Jesus had been told that he could achieve greatness without dying (4:8-9). Peter, in his rebuke of Jesus’ words about dying, was saying the same thing. Trying to circumvent God’s plan had been one of Satan’s tools; Peter inadvertently used Satan’s tool in trying to protect his beloved Master. Although Peter had just proclaimed Jesus as Messiah, quickly he turned from God’s perspective and evaluated the situation from a human one. This would be a stumbling block to Jesus. Peter was speaking Satan’s words, thus Jesus rebuked Peter with the words, Get behind me, Satan! This didn’t make sense to Peter, who, Jesus said, was setting his mind not on divine things but on human things. This accusation provides us with an important principle for following Jesus today. We know, from God’s Word, Jesus’ true identity as God’s Son, but it is so easy for us to limit his impact on our life when we are preoccupied with earthly goals. It is so natural and comfortable for us to set our minds on human comfort, security, success, and prosperity that we forget our divine call to sacrifice and service. So we can see that Peter’s perspective was wrong. God’s plan included suffering and death for the Messiah. Jesus would fulfill his mission exactly as planned.


(John 14:1-3)  “”Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me. {2} In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. {3} And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

This section opens and closes with our Lord’s loving admonition, “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1, 27). We are not surprised that the Apostles were troubled. After all, Jesus had announced that one of them was a traitor, and then He warned Peter that he was going to deny his Lord three times. Self-confident Peter was certain that he could not only follow his Lord, but even die with Him and for Him. Alas, Peter did not know his own heart, nor do we really know our hearts, except for one thing: our hearts easily become troubled.

Perhaps the heaviest blow of all was the realization that Jesus was going to leave them (John 13:33). Where was He going? Could they go with Him? How could they get where He was going? These were some of the perplexing questions that rumbled around in their minds and hearts and were tossed back and forth in their conversation at the table.

How did Jesus calm their troubled hearts? By giving them six wonderful assurances to lay hold of, assurances that we today may claim and thus enjoy untroubled hearts. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you may claim every single one of these assurances.

You Are Going to Heaven (John 13:36-14:6)

Jesus did not rebuke Peter for asking Him where He was going, but His reply was somewhat cryptic. One day Peter would “follow” Jesus to the cross (John 21:18-19; 2 Peter 1:12-15), and then he would follow Him to heaven. Tradition tells us that Peter was crucified, though he asked to be crucified head-downward because he did not feel worthy to die as his Master died.

Just as Peter was beginning to feel like a hero, Jesus announced that he himself would soon become a casualty. The message not only shocked Peter, but it also stunned the rest of the disciples. After all, if brave Peter denied the Lord, what hope was there for the rest of them? It was then that Jesus gave His message to calm their troubled hearts.

According to Jesus, heaven is a real place. It is not a product of religious imagination or the result of a psyched-up mentality, looking for “pie in the sky by and by.” Heaven is the place where God dwells and where Jesus sits today at the right hand of the Father. Heaven is described as a kingdom (2 Peter 1:11), an inheritance (1 Peter 1:4), a country (Heb. 11:16), a city (Heb. 11:16), and a home (John 14:2).

The word Father is used fifty-three times in John 13-17. Heaven is “My Father’s house,” according to the Son of God. It is “home” for God’s children! Some years ago, a London newspaper held a contest to determine the best definition of “home.” The winning entry was, “Home is the place where you are treated the best and complain the most.” The poet Robert Frost said that home is the place that, when you arrive there, they have to take you in. A good definition!

The Greek word monē is translated “mansions” in John 14:2 and “abode” in John 14:23. It simply means “rooms, abiding places,” so we must not think in terms of manor houses. It is unfortunate that some unbiblical songs have perpetuated the error that faithful Christians will have lovely mansions in glory, while worldly saints will have to be content with little cottages or even shacks. Jesus Christ is now preparing places for all true believers, and each place will be beautiful. When He was here on earth, Jesus was a carpenter (Mark 6:3). Now that He has returned to glory, He is building a church on earth and a home for that church in heaven.

John 14:3 is a clear promise of our Lord’s return for His people. Some will go to heaven through the valley of the shadow of death, but those who are alive when Jesus returns will never see death (John 11:25-26). They will be changed to be like Christ and will go to heaven (1 Thes. 4:13-18).

Since heaven is the Father’s house, it must be a place of love and joy. When the Apostle John tried to describe heaven, he almost ran out of symbols and comparisons! (Rev. 21-22) Finally, he listed the things that would not be there: death, sorrow, crying, pain, night, etc. What a wonderful home it will be—and we will enjoy it forever!

Further comments

After predicting Peter’s denial (13:38), Jesus spoke to the deep concerns of the disciples. They were confused; he encouraged them to trust. They needed to anchor that trust in Jesus. He indicated that he and the Father would prepare a place for them while he was gone, but that he would return to gather them.

The disciples could not comprehend Jesus’ comments about leaving. Their question about his destination enabled Jesus to identify himself not only as their eternal companion, but also as the very means for them to see the Father. He claimed to be the unique and ultimate resource when he said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (14:6 niv).

Characteristically, the disciples responded to Jesus’ revelation with a question that reveals how inadequately they grasped Jesus’ divine nature. In answering them, Jesus described four aspects of his unique identity: (1) Jesus and the Father share characteristics in such a way that anyone who has seen one has also seen the other. (2) Jesus and the Father are united in such a way that Jesus could speak of either of them being “in” the other. (3) Jesus gives special abilities to those who trust him to accomplish even greater signs than the disciples had already seen. (4) Requests to God made in Jesus’ name will be answered.

After this intimate opening dialogue, the Last Supper discourse began. The next several chapters have been among the most treasured of those who follow Jesus. They not only draw us close to him; they also give us compelling reasons to invite others into that fellowship with our Savior. By recording this private discussion between Jesus and his disciples, John hoped to attract all people to Jesus.

14:1 “Let not your heart be troubled.”NKJV In the Greek, the pronoun your is plural; therefore, Jesus was speaking to Peter (whose denial of Jesus had just been predicted—see 13:38) and to all the other disciples. According to Luke, Jesus had told Peter, “Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat . . .” (Luke 22:31 nrsv). All of the disciples must have been troubled about Jesus’ predictions of betrayal, denial, and departure. After all, if Peter’s commitment was shaky, then every disciple should be aware of his own weaknesses.


Jesus did not want his followers to imitate Peter’s impulsive self-confidence. Potential weaknesses and possible failures trouble us. So we don’t like to think about them. Peter denied his own frailty and claimed more faith than he had. Jesus’ solution for troubled hearts requires us to trust in him. Trust does not mean pretending we are strong; it means recognizing our weakness and need for God’s help. If we believe for a moment that we can follow Jesus in our own strength, we will fail as miserably as Peter.

“Trust in God; trust also in me.”NIV Jesus urged his disciples to maintain their trust in the Father and in the Son, to continue trusting through the next few very difficult days. Jesus later told the disciples why he gave them glimpses of the future that would soon follow: “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe” (14:29 niv). They would not need to be afraid because all that he promised would come true.

14:2 “In my Father’s house are many rooms.”NIV The traditional interpretation of this phrase teaches that Jesus is going to heaven to prepare rooms or “mansions” (nkjv) for his followers. Based on that imagery, entire heavenly subdivisions and elaborate “mansion blueprints” have been described. Many commentators think that Jesus was speaking about his Father’s house in heaven, where he would go after his resurrection in order to prepare rooms for his followers. Then he would return one day to take his believers to be with him in heaven. The day of that return usually has been regarded as the Second Coming.

The other view is that the passage primarily speaks of the believers’ immediate access to God the Father through the Son. The “place” Jesus was preparing has less to do with a location (heaven) as it had to do with an intimate relationship with a person (God the Father). This interpretation does not deny the comfort of heaven’s hope in this passage, but it does remove the temptation to view heaven purely in terms of glorious mansions. Heaven is not about splendid accommodations; it is about being with God. The point of the passage is that Jesus is providing the way for the believers to live in God the Father. As such, the way he prepared the place was through his own death and resurrection and thereby opened the way for the believers to live in Christ and approach God.

According to this view, the Father’s house is not a heavenly mansion, but Christ himself in whom all the believers reside. By expansion, the Father’s house is Christ and the church (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:20-22; Hebrews 3:2). The believers don’t have to wait until the Second Coming to live in this house; once Christ rose from the dead he brought them into a new, living relationship with God (see 20:19-23). He would be the means whereby the believers could come to dwell in the Father and the Father in them. As such, the promise in 14:2-3 relates to the corporate fellowship that would be possible through Christ’s departure and return in the Spirit. In this view, the “many rooms” would be the many members of God’s household. Christ went to prepare a place for each member in God’s household (1 Chronicles 17:9)—the preparation was accomplished by his death and resurrection.

When we face troubling times we often feel overwhelmed by fear, doubts, grief, and conflict. Our outer resources may evaporate and our inner strength may prove inadequate. Though faced with possible or certain failure, we have assurances in Jesus’ words to remain calm and hopeful:
l God is trustworthy, and he has sent Christ, who is also trustworthy, to us. No one else deserves our trust.
l God has a gracious welcome and plenty of space in his “house.” We need not fear exclusion or separation from him.
l Jesus spoke the truth. His description of the future was realistic. He has never been proven wrong. We can rely on both Jesus’ teaching and his promises.
l Jesus did exactly what he said he would do, return to the disciples after the Resurrection. In so doing, he guaranteed our entrance into God’s presence and our place in God’s house.
l Jesus is always with us, and someday we will be face to face with him. Whatever the future holds, Jesus promised to be our companion. We know who Jesus is and how much he loves us.

The Greek word for “rooms” (monai) could be better translated “abodes” because it shares the same root as the Greek word for “abide” (meno). It simply means “a dwelling place.” The word mansions in the nkjv is misleading because it connotes spacious, luxurious houses. Incidentally, early in church history Origen made popular a similar belief that Jesus was speaking of “stages” or levels of heaven, through which believers advanced as they continued to “develop.” But Jesus’ words imply no value judgment between “rooms.” The “prepared place” is with Christ.

“If it were not so, I would have told you.”NKJV Jesus’ words give us great encouragement. Throughout his life he had warned the disciples of opposition (see 16:2). He never held back the truth from them. Because he always told the truth, we can trust him with our future as well.

14:3 “I go and prepare a place for you.”NKJV According to what has been discussed in 14:1-2, there are two ways to understand this statement. Either Jesus was speaking of preparing heavenly dwellings for the future life of the believers, or Jesus was preparing the way for the believers to live in God. Of course, the two views are not mutually exclusive. Now, we live in God because of our living relationship with Christ; in eternity we will live with Christ in the glory he shares with the Father. Eternal life begins in Christ now, not just at some future date when we get to heaven.

In either interpretation, Jesus offers spiritual comfort that begins immediately when we believe. And his Father’s many-roomed house represents gracious welcome and provision for us as we live in union with him.


There are few verses in Scripture that describe eternal life, but these few verses are rich with promises. Here Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you,” and “I will come again.” We can look forward to eternal life because Jesus has promised it to all who believe in him. But we can actually begin to enjoy eternal life now, for it became ours the moment we believed in Jesus. We can live today with a new destiny in mind. Although we do not know all the details of eternity, we need not fear because Jesus is preparing us to share with him the eternity that he and the Father have prepared for us.

“I will come again and receive you to Myself.”NKJV There are three ways to understand this: (1) Jesus’ coming again to the disciples would be realized in a short while. This is confirmed by 16:16, “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me” (nkjv)—note the similar use of again. When Jesus said, “I will come again,” that coming again occurred on the day of his resurrection. (2) Jesus’ “coming again” is the Second Coming. (3) This “coming again” refers to both the Resurrection and the Second Coming—the former foreshadowing the latter. Those who hold this view, therefore, extract a double meaning from Jesus’ words in verses 2 and 3; they say the passage speaks both of the believers being brought into the risen Christ as the many “rooms” in the Father’s house, and of the believers being brought by the returned Christ into the Father’s house in heaven. It does seem that both meanings merge. Christ has us completely in his care.

  1. HIS ARREST AND TRIALS. (Matt. 26:36-46).

(Matthew 26:36-46)  “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” {37} He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. {38} Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” {39} Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” {40} Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. {41} “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” {42} He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” {43} When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. {44} So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. {45} Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. {46} Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!””

26:36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”NRSV After eating the meal, the disciples left Jerusalem and went out to a favorite meeting place (Luke 22:39; John 18:2). This gardenlike enclosure called Gethsemane, meaning “olive press,” was probably an orchard of olive trees with a press for extracting oil. The garden was in the Kidron Valley just outside the eastern wall of Jerusalem and just below the Mount of Olives. Jesus told eight of the disciples to sit down and wait, probably near the garden’s entrance, while he went farther in to pray. The disciples must have been physically and emotionally exhausted from trying to comprehend what would transpire. Instead of watching, however, they gave in to their exhaustion and fell asleep.


When pressed with a difficulty, what’s your first instinct: blame your mom? blame your kids? call 9-1-1? Jesus prayed.

When you’re sick with grief, worry, or guilt, prayer should be first on the list. In prayer, you settle things with God, and God strengthens you. It takes the sting from an emergency. It shares the burden with a big-shouldered friend. Pray first, especially when trouble is close at hand. Pray with others. There you will find strength and support.

26:37-38 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”NIV Jesus then took the other three disciples, his inner circle (Peter, James, and John), farther into the garden with him. To these closest friends, Jesus revealed his inner turmoil over the event he was about to face.

Jesus was sorrowful and troubled over his approaching death because he would be forsaken by the Father (27:46), would have to bear the sins of the world, and would face a terrible execution. The divine course was set, but Jesus, in his human nature, still struggled (Hebrews 5:7-9).

His coming death was no surprise; he knew about it and had even told the disciples about it so they would be prepared. Jesus knew what his death would accomplish.

He also knew that the means to that end would mean taking upon himself the sin of the world, alienating him, for a time, from his Father who would be unable to look upon sin: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 niv).

Jesus bore our guilt by “becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13 niv). As the time of this event neared, it became even more horrifying. Jesus naturally recoiled from the prospect.

Early in Jesus’ ministry Satan had tempted him to take the easy way out (4:1-11); later Peter had suggested that Jesus did not have to die (16:22). In both cases, Jesus had dealt with the temptation soundly. Now, as his horrible death and separation from the Father loomed before him, he was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.

So he asked Peter, James, and John to stay with him and keep watch. Jesus knew Judas would soon arrive, and Jesus wanted to devote himself to prayer until that time came. Jesus also wanted them to stay awake and participate with him in his suffering.

Spiritual vigilance is a vital part of discipleship and a key theme in this book. Jesus wanted these disciples to understand his suffering and to be strengthened by his example when they faced persecution and suffering.

26:39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”NKJV Jesus went still farther into the garden to be alone with God. His agony was such that he threw himself on the ground before God in deep spiritual anguish, praying that if possible let this cup pass—in other words, he was asking the Father to let the mission be accomplished some other way not requiring the agony of crucifixion, when he would become sin and be separated from the Father.

In the Old Testament, “cup” stood for the trial of suffering and the wrath of God (Isaiah 51:17). So Jesus referred to the suffering that he must endure as the “cup” he would be required to drink. Yet Jesus humbly submitted to the Father’s will. He went ahead with the mission for which he had come (1:21).

With the words “let this cup pass from Me,” Jesus was referring to the suffering, isolation from God, and death he would have to endure in order to atone for the sins of the world.

We must not think that it was the fear of death that made our Lord so agonize in the Garden. He did not fear death, but faced it with courage and peace. He was about to “drink the cup” that His Father had prepared for Him, and this meant bearing on His body the sins of the world (John 18:11; 1 Peter 2:24). Many godly people have been arrested, beaten, and slain because of their faith. But only Jesus experienced being made sin and a curse for mankind (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). The Father has never forsaken any of His own, yet He forsook His Son (Matt. 27:46). This was the cup that Jesus willingly drank for us.

Jesus was not wrestling with God’s will or resisting God’s will. He was yielding Himself to God’s will. As perfect Man, He felt the awful burden of sin, and His holy soul was repelled by it. Yet as the Son of God, He knew that this was His mission in the world. The mystery of His humanity and deity is seen vividly in this scene.


In times of suffering, people sometimes wish they knew the future, or they wish they could understand the reason for their anguish. Jesus knew what lay ahead of him, and he knew the reason.

Even so, his struggle was intense—more wrenching than any struggle we will ever have to face. What does it take to be able to say “as God wills”? It takes firm trust in God’s plans; it takes prayer and obedience each step of the way.

This is the heart of true prayer and should be our basic response to trials. Trust God that his way is best, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

God did not take away the “cup,” for the cup was his will. Yet he did take away Jesus’ extreme fear and agitation. Jesus moved serenely through the next several hours, at peace with God, knowing that he was doing his Father’s will.


Some people believe their troubles are caused by bad people, bad germs, or bad luck. But Christians know that God rules, so we rightly make our appeal to his will, which

  • takes the bitterness out of the cup we may face, though it doesn’t always remove the cup. God’s will for each of us includes some pain, some loss, some struggle;
  • never breaks us or makes us feel hopeless or abandoned;
  • always assures us of God’s presence and care; and
  • ever promises reunion and relief.

Take comfort in God’s will for you. Pray sincerely, “Your will be done!”

Jesus was not only asking that they pray for him, but also that they pray for themselves. Jesus knew that these men would need extra strength to face the temptations ahead—temptations to run away or to deny their relationship with him.

“Enter into” could also be translated “fall into.” Jesus wanted the disciples to pray that their faith would not collapse. The word “temptation” can mean testing or trial. Jesus wanted his disciples to pray for strength to go through the coming ordeal. The disciples were about to see Jesus die. Would they still think he was the Messiah? The disciples would soon face confusion, fear, loneliness, guilt, and the temptation to conclude that they had been deceived.

“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”NKJV Many have interpreted “spirit” to mean the “human spirit.” Thus, it would mean that while their spirit might be willing, their flesh would be weak. Their inner desires and intentions would be, as they had previously boasted, to never deny Jesus and to die with him. Their relationship with Jesus had made the disciples eager to serve him in any way possible. Yet their human inadequacies, with all their fears and failures, would make it difficult to carry out those good intentions. A willing spirit (see Psalm 51:12) needs the Holy Spirit to empower it and help it do God’s will.

Jesus used Peter’s drowsiness to warn him to be spiritually vigilant against the temptation he would soon face. The way to overcome temptation is to stay alert and to pray. This means being aware of the possibilities of temptation, sensitive to the subtleties, and morally resolved to fight courageously. Because temptation strikes where we are most vulnerable, we can’t resist alone. Prayer is essential because God’s strength can shore up our defenses and defeat Satan.

26:42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”NKJV Jesus left the three disciples and returned to his conversation with the Father (26:39).

26:43-45 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.NKJV Jesus came back once again to the three disciples and found them asleep again. Despite his warning that they should be awake, alert, and praying not to fall to the coming temptations, their eyes were heavy, and all three went back to sleep. So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.NKJV Jesus continued his conversation with his Father, as before (26:39, 42). During these times of prayer, the battle was won. Jesus still had to go to the cross, but he would humbly submit to the Father’s will and accomplish the task set before him.

Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”NRSV Jesus went away to pray a third time, only to come back and find the disciples still asleep. After much time in prayer, Jesus was ready to face his hour, which conveyed that all he had predicted about his death was about to happen (see John 12:23-24). The disciples had missed a great opportunity to talk to the Father, and there would be no more time to do so, for Jesus’ hour had come. Thus, Jesus did not again tell them to pray. Jesus had spent the last few hours with the Father, wrestling with him, and humbly submitting to him. Now he was prepared to face his betrayer and the sinners who were coming to arrest him. “Sinners” was the term used for Jews who did not live according to God’s will and for Gentiles, who were viewed collectively as sinners because they didn’t live by God’s law. Jesus probably used the term to refer to the priestly authorities who were disobeying God in their treachery, and to the Romans who were participating in Jesus’ arrest, mockery, and death.

26:46 “Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”NIV Jesus roused the three sleeping disciples (and perhaps the other eight as well) and called them together. His words “rise, let us go” did not mean that Jesus was contemplating running. Instead, he was calling the disciples to go with him to meet the traitor disciple, Judas, and the coming crowd. Jesus went forth of his own will, advancing to meet his accusers rather than waiting for them to come to him. Jesus’ betrayer, Judas, had arrived. Judas knew where to find Jesus and the disciples because Gethsemane had been a favorite meeting spot (John 18:1-2). It was to this quiet garden in the very early hours of the morning that Judas brought a crowd to arrest Jesus.

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Posted by on March 24, 2022 in cross


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