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prison and to death,” when he could not watch with him one hour? They had need to watch and pray, that they might not enter into sore temptation ; for though the Spirit that is full of love to God is willing to suffer all His will, the flesh is very weak. There is great need of watchfulness and prayer. Jesus, who "suffered being tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” felt for them, and though He roused them, He did not upbraid them.
MARK xiv. 39. “ And He went away again, and prayed.”
MATTHEW xxvi. 42, 43. “Saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again : for their eyes were heavy." Heavy perhaps with weeping as well as night, for it is said they slept for sorrow.” From them Jesus found no comfort.
MARK xiv. 40. They wist not what to answer him.” There are sufferings beyond the reach of human sympathy, and in that awful hour Jesus found none. The three disciples, who had more especially been his bosom friends, were so bound with sleep that they could not even speak to Him.
Matt. xxvi. 44.“ And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time” (alone.)
Again through the silence of the night went up that agonizing cry, “My Father, O my Father, if it be possible.” Again it died away in the tones of childlike submission, "Thy will be done.”
It was over,--the conflict was ended, the Saviour had “suffered being tempted.” His sinless human nature had endured worse agonies in his conflict with the sins of man and the consequences of sin, than we in our impure and hardened nature can imagine, or could for one moment undergo ; for beneath the weight of that burthen, we should either bend or break. He rose from the ground victorious. His sufferings had shown the reality of the sacrifice required, and the second Adam in the freedom of His will, triumphed over the human feeling that shrunk back from all that the fall of the first Adam had brought upon the human race. He rose to carry out His Father's will, “the author of eternal salvation even to all them that obey him." *
Verse 45. “Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them (MARK xv. 41.) Sleep on now, and take your rest."
There was no further need for the sympathy they did not give. As far as the comfort they have been to their Lord is concerned, they may sleep now, for he looks for it no more; but still they must rouse themselves and arise, for the hour of their trial as well as His is come. They have been sleeping instead of praying; how will they bear it?
MARK Xv. 41, 42. “ It is enough, the hour is come ; behold the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise up, let us go : lo ! he that betrayeth me is at hand.”
Before we follow on to meet the coming traitor, let us pause a moment that we may gather up the precious truths shown to us in this agonizing scene, called the passion of our Lord. It is plain that it is no sign of God's displeasure when He lays His hand heavily upon us, and permits us to endure extremest anguish, for suffer as we may, we cannot suffer as our Lord has done; neither is it sin to shrink from suffering, and to cry to God to take it away from us. There is neither pain nor grief in heaven. They only became man's sad inheritance from Adam's sin; and the purer the nature, the more will it agonize under the griefs that sin has brought. To shrink from suffering is therefore no rebellion of the will, it is a natural horror implanted in the soul,
* Phil. ii, 8-11. Heb. v. 9.
causing it to turn from that for which it never was created : but to overcome this natural horror,-to be willing to suffer when it is God's will that we should suffer,--to glorify Him in our submission, preferring His will to ours,
this is to be one mind with Christ, this is the unfailing sign that we indeed are His, and it is a sign often given to the weakest and frailest amongst us.
Often does the angel of mercy, unseen, descend upon the dying couch, not to deliver, but to strengthen the sufferer ; and the cry of anguish, the prayer for relief, is changed into the touching words, “Father! not my will, but thine be done."
Death comes in many shapes : none know how they may die. Some fall asleep peacefully, as the trusting infant on its mother's bosom : others are called to endure agony of body, and worse
We know not the reason of the difference now, but this we know :
agony of mind.
“ In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of Sorrows had a part ;
And will He not pity? He is watching near, He sleeps not as his disciples slept. He brought His nature down to ours, He will raise ours to His, and enable us to cry with Him, Abba Father,"if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.”* And it is certain “that the trial of our faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, shall be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ." +
Lord, Thy will, not mine, be done.
* Romans viii. 15–17.
+ 1 Peter i. 7.
No sound but the Saviour's prayer had broken the silence of the night, no light but that of the quiet moon had shone through the solitudes of the garden of Gethsemane ; but now there is a sound of an approaching multitude, a glare of torches and lanterns.
While Jesus was yet speaking, and his disciples scarce roused from their heavy sleep, a band of Roman soldiers, with their officers, and a set of men whose inferior arms show them to belong to the conquered nation, appear at the gate. A single man advances from the armed crowd, and comes alone into the garden. On him is fixed the attention of the soldiers. They know nothing of Jesus or His doctrines, they only know that they have orders to seize the person of a certain man who is to be pointed out by the traitor who has led them to the place.
They know that the sign is to be A Kiss, the pledge in all Eastern nations of friendship and good faith. No doubt in their very hearts they despise the wretch for his treachery ; but that is nothing to them, they have only to obey.
Before we go on with the dreadful history, we shall do well to pause one moment, to consider the character and position of the Roman soldiers, whom we shall find acting so ferocious a part in the cruelties practised upon one, against whom they had not a single feeling. It was nothing to them whether Jesus were, or were not, the Messiah of the Jews, so long as He did not stir the people into rebellion. To the Legionaries,* who were what we would call the common soldiers, or men in the ranks, the question was nought, probably they had never even heard it
* Also called Stationaries.
named; to their officers the centurions, it was all in favour of the safety of Jesus ; a spiritual king, or Messiah, whose rule was only to lead the people to serve God in the every-day duties of life, making them better subjects by making them better men, was just such a one as would have found favour in their eyes, for they had no interest in aught beyond the quiet submission of the conquered nation.
The Roman soldiers, officers and men, were the sign and instrument of Roman power; and there is something very dreadful in the thought that they were stationed every-where, in the very heart of a people with whom they had nothing in common. Hard as the steel of their bucklers, terrible as their sharp-edged swords, heathens in creed, their real religion was the will of their Emperor who to them was as God. The entire army was but one vast machine for crushing the spirit of the nation, and bringing them all into subjection to the Roman power.
When we consider how the minds of men are moulded by their education, and the manner of their lives, we shall not wonder to find the Roman soldiers carrying out without one feeling of pity, each cruel order they received, and even making to themselves a sport of the sufferings of their prisoners. Those who are well read in the history of the fearful times that followed the death of Christ, well know how they executed the decree of vengeance against the whole Jewish people. In the same spirit of barbarous and careless cruelty, they now aided them to complete the crime for which the nation was to be destroyed, not from any feeling they had personally against the Lord Jesus, but simply in the execution of their orders. They had no part in the greater sin of those who delivered Him into their hands.
We must now return to the moment in which these Roman soldiers are for the first time brought forward in the history of Christ our Lord. It is written, that scarcely had our Lord aroused His disciples from their sleep with the words, “Behold he is at hand that doth betray me,” when