Sermon delivered April 8, 2000 by Pastor Donald J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted

Praying at Midnight

MT 26:36-46, MK 14:32-42, LK 22:39-46, (u)Desire of Ages pp. 685ff, EG White.

The title of our sermon today is "Praying at Midnight." Zebedee's two sons along with nine other men went out under the beautiful Passover Moon. They left Jerusalem's upper room and they made their way across the Kidron Brook and up to the Mount of olives. Only Judas was missing. Eleven men followed Jesus. The path zigzagged slowly through the lowly olive trees leading to a beautiful garden spot. The spot was known as Gethsemane. Gethsemane is a special place in the hearts of most Christians today.

The Passover Moon was full as the little band of twelve left Jerusalem's upper room that Thursday night and made their way across the Kidron brook. Only Judas was missing. Eleven men followed Jesus up the steep hillside of the Mount of Olives. The path zigzagged through lowly olive trees leading them to the edge of a beautiful garden spot. It was called the garden of Gethsemane. This garden is still an important place for Christians today.

What was the purpose of this nocturnal outing? This was no ordinary prayer meeting. They were there to pay an old debt. In fact, this debt was so old . You see, there was another garden way back in the beginning of time where an exceedingly heavy debt was incurred. Adam and Eve ran up an unpayable amount. Each of their children added even more until the debt was unsurpassable And we have added to that amount. Only God Himself could pay this gigantic liability. He paid it for me and He paid it for you. Jesus Christ volunteered to assume the full debt. It was a large cup. He did not really want to drink that cup. It was filled up to the brim with sin's enormous mortgage. Your sins and mine were all there.

This garden spot was very familiar to the group. Jesus often came here to meditate and pray. Tonight Jesus felt the darkness even though the moon was bright. All Jesus life He had walked in the light of God's presence, but now the Father seemed to shut Himself away from His Son. Now Jesus was being numbered among the transgressors. All the sins of the world were about to be rolled upon Him. He didn't know if He could take that. What He missed the most was His Father's presence. All the sins of the world. That's a heavy load. Every step He took was with labored effort. He groaned aloud. Twice His disciples had to support Him, or He would have fallen to the cold earth.

Matthew 26:37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. He was grief-stricken and disheartened. Overwhelmed by the load He was about to shoulder. Now Peter, James and John were taken for moral support. But It seems they didn't have a clue as to what was about to happen. They didn't know what was making Him so sorrowful. Often times you can even be married to somebody and you don't know the burdens they're facing. It's strange that the disciples had no clue that this was it. So, Jesus had to stand it all alone.

Jesus left the three and went on a stone's throw to pray. He fell prostrate upon the ground. The separation from His Father that He faced was almost more than He could endure. Sin would quarantine Jesus from the presence of God. The gulf seemed so broad, so deep, that He could not see past it. It seemed like a black hole. Would He come through this OK, or would this be an eternal separation from His Father?

Just now Jesus longed to have an intercessor for Himself. But He stood alone. The disciples went to sleep on duty. Only Satan seemed to be awake. I believe Satan whispered fear into Jesus' ear...

All these things surely pierced the tender heart of Jesus. It must have cut Him to the core. Our sins weighed heavily on His shoulders. Jesus was fully human and fully divine. His human heart was crushed. He longed for sympathy. Jesus needed to know His disciples were praying for Him, but notice Matthew 26:40,41: Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." "I need you to be praying for Me right now. I need this."

You know, spiritual leaders need prayer. Even pastors need the prayers of their people. We're human.

Matthew 26:42 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."

Jesus struggled back to His Prayer Station to resume His agonizing plight. He prayed earnestly: He said, "I really don't want to drink this cup. I don't want to drink it." In fact, He was agonizing so much that great drops of blood came out. He was sweating blood. The stress was so extreme. The cypress and olive trees were the silent witnesses of His anguish. From their leafy branches dropped heavy drops of dew as if nature was crying too. Jesus was severely pressed. And Gethsemane means, "Oil Press." Here olives were grown and olives were pressed to release their healing wholesome balm. Here Jesus, like the olive, was severely pressed. The pressure was weighty. His spirit was almost crushed by the load of our sins. The healing balm of salvation came out for you and for me.

Jesus was not afraid to suffer. He did not fear the cross. The verbal abuse, the thorns, the cursing were not the problem. So why was Jesus almost overwhelmed by this predicament? Because He could not see the future. Jesus was troubled so deeply because He felt that sin just might separate Him from His Father forever. He who knew no sin was about to take upon Himself all the sins of the human race. He may never be rejoined to His Father. Jesus risked eternal death for us.

He could have escaped. Jesus was not a convict. He was not in jail. He was not a slave. He was not even an employee. Jesus was an unpaid volunteer. In an instant Jesus could have terminated this whole thing, called the angels of heaven, "Get me out of here. I'm going back home. I just can't take this. I can't go through with it." And then the plan of redemption would have been a failure. We would have all been dead. The devil would have owned this planet and he would have been successful. Mankind would be forever lost. But I am here to tell you that Jesus went ahead. Praise God that He did!

I have often thought that the Cross was the location of the greatest struggle and pain for Jesus. I don't think that's true. I think the location of the greatest suffering was in the garden of Gethsemane. That's where He sweat the blood. That's where the decision was made. There's something we can learn here. If we study this, He had a major decision to make, and that the decision was made to go ahead. To drink the cup. To stay with mankind that they might not perish in their sins but have eternal life. Praise God for Jesus heart of Love.

And when you have a major decision to make, maybe who you are going to marry or maybe what you're going to be in life. Are you going to be a computer engineer, or you're going to college and get your degree be a janitor, maybe. Whatever you're going to do. You need to make a decision. How do you make a decision? When a great decision faces you, How do you decide correctly? Look at what Jesus did.

  1. Jesus prayed long and hard. You need to bathe your decision in prayer.
  2. Jesus surrounded himself with others He hoped would be praying for Him. It didn't work out that way, but that's a good thing to do. Get others to pray for you in the decision you need to make.
  3. Jesus sought out a quiet place to make the final decision. You have to have quietness so you can think.
  4. Jesus made the decision before the deadline. Place a deadline on your decision. Don't just go on and on and on. What would have happened if Jesus said, "I think I'll pray about this tomorrow." Do you realize it would have been too late. The captors were already coming.
  5. Jesus consulted with His Father. If you've got a Christian parent, you need to consult with them. You certainly need to consult with God. Like they say in the TV program, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, "Is that your final decision?" Jesus stuck by His final decision. I'm so glad He did not back down. To quit would have been easier.

Three times Jesus prayed for the CUP to pass. Perhaps by now, God had discovered some other way to save the human race. Jesus hoped for some other passage that would not lead to separation from God. But no bypass existed. There was no other way to save us.

You know, the three prayers are not the same. Did you ever examine them? We have a record of a couple of them here. They're not the same. As He got on into His prayer experience, He eventually was praying, "I just want Your will to be done." That's basically what He was asking. And that's one of the finest things we can do as Christians. He said, "Father....May your will be done." I think we need to spread our request out before the Lord, but then we need to we need to include "May Your will be done." Matthew 26:42 Jesus prayed:... "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." What an example for us. Spread out your request before God, and then say, "Thy will be done." The most exceptional lesson I have learned in God's classroom is that when I face a great problem... just to let the Lord choose for me. More and more often my prayers are just for His will to be done. You know, I'm a little bit afraid to say, "Well, Lord, here's how I want it to work out. One, two three four. That's what I want. Would you please bless that." I'm getting afraid to do that. What I'm very comfortable with is, What would You like for me to do. In fact, by our alarm clocks we should have a little sign that says, "Lord; what is your master plan for me today? I'd like to be a part of it. I love you. Thanks for loving me." We should fit into the Master's plan rather than manufacturing our own schedule and asking God to bless it. So often we work out our own plans and then ask God to bless that. That's how we pray. And that's wrong. I don't think it's wrong to ask God to help us to do something, to be successful, but I think we need to always come back to the bottom line: May You will be done. That's where we need to be.

Let me illustrate: It is okay to pray for things but instead of praying, "Help me to get an A on the test today. Come on, God, please do this for me." Instead of that, why not pray, "What do you have for me today, God? You loved this world into life. I belong to you. What's my part in the plan today? You name it and I will try to with your help do it. You want me to be a success? I want that. I'll be a success for you. You want me to be a failure? I'll be willing to fail for you. Whatever you want." Friends, that is the condition of successful prayer.

Far too many Christians live their life on the battery system. Do you live on the battery system of life? You know, you've ridden on these trolleys, or something that has an electric battery in it down here in Chattanooga. They have these electric trolleys going back and forth between the aquarium and the other end of town. They go dead occasionally. I've seen them parked along the streets. Don't operate your Christian life like that. So often we do. We'll go to a retreat, maybe down at Cohutta Springs. We'll come back home and say, "My life has been changed. I am not the person I was. I am charged up." And then two or three weeks later we're back to the old thing again.

Or, maybe we go to church and we get all charged up, we heard a great sermon, the Sabbath School lesson was fantastic, and we go home - "I'm going to really try this week." And then we get all uncharged and we're back with a dead battery.

Or, maybe we read a new book and we tell people. "You know, this has changed my life. I'm never going to be the same." And then a few days later we're back to the old grind.

That's the battery system. That's not what Jesus was on. Can you tell that Jesus did not operate on a battery. Had He done that He would have failed here. Notice what He did. I believe Jesus was one hundred percent plugged in to the Power Source of the universe all the time. That's what you want. You don't want a battery. You want to be plugged in to the colossal generating station of the universe. Jesus was constantly connected with His Father. That's the secret to having success in this life. We need to understand that. Be always plugged in and you will never be the same.

Well, if you face a heavy load today, I want you to know that Jesus will be there to help you. He faced a heavy load and He made it. If you face a problem He will help you go through that problem. We need to pray about our problems just like Jesus did.

Jesus allowed nothing to weaken that connection. It was like He was always plugged into the colossal Power source of the Universe.

I am thrilled to tell you today, that Jesus on that terrible night so many years ago, our wonderful Jesus, followed His Father's will and decided to go ahead and save us at any and all cost to Himself. He accepted the baptism of blood. And having made the decision he fell dying to the ground.

An eleven-year-old girl named Eva was told about another girl at her school who was named Amy. Amy's hair was mysteriously falling out. Now, mine is falling out, but it's not a mystery. Amy's hair was mysteriously falling out. And so Eva began to pray for Amy. Now when you're in the fifth grade and your hair starts falling out, that's a pretty bad thing. So she started praying for Amy and she said, "Jesus, please hold Amy's hair onto her head." The doctors did all they could. They diagnosed, but Amy continued to lose hair. Eva continued to pray the same prayer. After six weeks the doctors finally determined Amy had "alopecia," an extremely rare disorder where hair loss is unpredictable and can be complete and permanent. And that's what she was getting. She would never have any more hair the rest of her life. When Eva, was told about it she changed her prayer. "Dear Jesus, if you won't hold Amy's hair on her head, won't you please hold Amy?" That's the key, isn't it. Surrender our will to His will. "Lord, if this won't work, then at least just hold me. Hold me in Your hands."

Sometimes God doesn't move mountains. Sometime He moves us. Sometime that big problem in your life won't be solved the way you want it. But what we must do is what Jesus did, surrender our life totally into His hands. You can do no finer than to submit yourself into God's loving will. That is what Jesus did. I'm glad He did, aren't you?

Hymn of Praise: #6 O worship the Lord
Scripture:  Matthew 26:36-46
Hymn of Response: #163 At the Cross
Next week:   "CHOOSING BARABBAS"

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