Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Sunday School Lesson #25

Posted by Jim F. on July 1, 2007

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 tell 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 document with a side-by-side comparison of the synoptic accounts of Christ in Gethsemane, plus John 12:23-33, Mosiah 3:7, Alma 7:13, and D&C 19:16.

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?

7 Responses to “Sunday School Lesson #25”

  1. Robert C. said

    Regarding the “cup” in Matthew 26:39, it’s interesting to me that “cup of his fury[/wrath]” is an image used in Isaiah 51:17-23 in describing events leading up to the redemption of Zion, after which Isaiah describes the suffering of the servant figure in Isaiah 53 which I’ve been studying in an attempt to understand Mosiah 15 better. Since it seems Jesus frequently quotes Isaiah, I wonder if this an intended allusion to Isaiah. I’m not sure what the significance is if so, but I think that, at the least, Mosiah’s use of Isaiah in discussing the Son submitting to the Father becomes more interesting and significant (and less ad hoc in some sense too…).

  2. Robert C. said

    A couple other thoughts after reading Dale Allison’s commentary on Matthew in The Oxford Bible Commentary:

    Jesus prays 3 times to the Father. This parallels other scriptural accounts of praying three times, and of course takes on more than just literary-device significance for Mormons (b/c of the temple). I think this highlights the fact that the Father doesn’t answer Jesus here, but Jesus is left alone. Whatever the significance of this aloneness is, I think it’s related to the way in which we are sometimes left alone to wander (contra the claim in the poplular Mormon pop song, “You’re not alone”!), though only for a “small moment” (per D&C 122).

    Allison suggests that the “here” in Matt 26:36 alludes to the LXX of Gen 22:5. On the one hand, Jesus is showing faith that is parallel to Abraham (the father), on the other hand Jesus is the sacrificial son like Isaac—again, the father-son identity of Christ seems similar to Abinadi’s discussion in Mosiah 15. Note also that there are three servants that accompany Abraham like Christ, but separate themselves on a mountain for their trial. Allison also notes that there is reference to a “bitter cup of death” in the Testament of Abraham 16:11 (“bitter lot of death” in this translation…).

  3. BrianJ said

    “Note also that there are three servants that accompany Abraham like Christ”

    Is this a different reading than in the KJV? There I am only seeing two servants, Abraham, and Isaac. (It’s probably a very small point, as the parallels are there either way.)

    This is good stuff you’re posting, Robert. Thanks!

  4. Karl D. said

    BrianJ, I believe Robert is referring to Genesis 22:3:

    Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. –NIV

  5. Karl D. said

    Oops, sorry Brian, I see you where already referring to Genesis 22:3. I counted Isaac with the two servants to get the three. But you are right the parallel would work better if there were three explicit servants.

  6. joespencer said

    1+2=3

    What of the LORD and His two angelic companions in Gen 18? There are some rather obvious linguistic ties in the Hebrew between Gen 18 and Gen 22 (vayera being the most important). Interesting thoughts here.

  7. Robert C. said

    I meant to look this up when I was home, but I forgot, sorry. But I think you’re all right in inferring what Allison meant: two servants plus Isaac equals three companions to Abraham like Jesus had three companions in the Garden.

    By the way, regarding the JST and the threesome in Genesis 18, here is a comment where Joe describes in pretty good detail (well, by internet standards anyway…) the JST manuscripts and changes to the KJV.

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