Mark 14:32-52 Sermon – The Never Ending Battle And Learning To Pray

My kids have a daily schedule printed out and hanging on their door. It starts off with, “Wake up, make bed, brush teeth, eat breakfast…” After preparing this sermon, I realized their daily schedule should read, “Wake up, make bed, prepare for battle, brush teeth, eat breakfast.”

Prepare for battle.

Are you prepared for battle? Do you have battle on your daily schedule?

No matter how young or old you are, you will face a battle everyday. You will face a battle as you face temptation. You will face a battle between your spirit which wants to serve God and your flesh. In today’s passage we will see that Jesus faced a similar battle. We get an amazing glimpse into Jesus’ mind as He faces perhaps the biggest temptation, the biggest battle of His life. We will see the model Jesus gives us for victory. And we will also see how the disciples responded when they faced a battle against temptation of their own.

Mark 14:32-52 – And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled.

And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

Jesus faced this battle –

In verse 33 we learn that Jesus “began to be very distressed and troubled.” And in verse 34 He directly told the disciples that “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death.” In this passage we get a clear glimpse of Jesus’ humanity. Many cults have a distorted view of Jesus. Some of them minimize Jesus’ humanity, claiming Jesus was only spirit and His body was merely a shell or not even real at all. But look at Jesus. He is extremely troubled. 

Luke 22:44 – And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

He is troubled to the point that He sweat blood. This is a very rare condition called hematidrosis and has been observed by doctors on occasion when people face extreme distress. So why was Jesus so troubled? He knows the sheer amount of pain and suffering He is going to face. In the Garden of Gethsemane we see Jesus facing the consequences of choosing to become a human. In Philippians 2 it describes how Jesus gave up His divine rights and willingly became a human, even when He knew it would lead to death on a cross. Jesus becoming a human was always leading to this very point in time when He would take on the suffering of the world. He knew this very clearly.

John 2:4 – And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

He knew this hour was coming.

But this knowledge did not make it easier. This knowledge made it more difficult. There is a saying that “ignorance is bliss.” If Jesus did not know in detail what was going to happen to Him, He would not have been so troubled. But He knew. Every scourge of the whip, every hit with the rod, every prick of the crown of thorns, every hateful insult, every hammer of the nails, every bruise, every cut, and the weight of the world’s sin on His shoulders, Jesus knew.

If I asked you if you would be willing to die for your faith, many or all of you would probably say, “yes.” Saying “yes” and making that decision now in the nice comfort of Jack’s home is good. But if Christians started being persecuted and we actually faced torture and death right in front of us, that decision would be much harder to keep. Would we finish the fight? Would we keep the faith? At that moment doing is harder than saying.

That is the decision Jesus faced now. From eternity past He could see in crystal clear detail exactly what He would face. Imagine again if you could view a large high definition screen of your own suffering and death ahead of time. That’s terrible! To Jesus His own death and suffering were seen and understood even more clearly than watching an HD video of it.

I believe it is important for us to see Jesus’ humanity here. And the reason is this: Jesus’ victory as a person gives us hope. Jesus was not an alien. Neither was He a robot or a kind of unfeeling, impersonal superman. He had feelings as we do. He experienced pain as we do. And He experienced temptation as we do. Matthew 16:22-23. We see this temptation in these verses. Peter tells Jesus that He doesn’t need to die. The literal words in Greek are “God have mercy on you!” Surely the Messiah, the Christ, would not need to suffer! Surely God would not punish His own Son! Here in the garden he was also tempted. He was tempted to give in to despair and fear. He was tempted to give up His calling and escape. He faced the same exact battle that we do. Seeing His victory gives us hope. Seeing His example gives us a model.

Hebrews 4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

(HE WAS TEMPTED IN ALL WAYS AS WE ARE YET WITHOUT SIN.) We also know that He understands us. He knows the battle that you are going through. He knows the temptations you face. He knows the inner struggles that you have that no one knows about. He understands the doubts and fears and worries that swirl through your mind. He sympathizes with you. And He wants to help you if you will turn to Him.

When Facing This Battle Jesus Prayed

  • Jesus kneels in prayer – (For time sake can skip)
  • Jesus’ prayer is a model. His life is a message from God to us. Here He shows us how to respond to stress. He responded by praying. In John 1:1 we learn that Jesus is the Word. One thing that means is that Jesus is the living manifestation of what obedience to God’s Word looks like in action. Let me say that again… Can anyone recite Philippians 4:6? Jesus showed us what this verse looks like in action. He was distressed. He prayed. And after His prayer, He was able to face the most horrific suffering every known with complete calmness and serenity.
  • Application: When you face stress or worry what do you do? Do you pace back and forth? Do you lay in bed awake at night tossing and turning? Do you turn to chocolate or other comfort foods? Do you just continue to worry on and on and on? Next time you are worried go to a quiet place. Put aside distractions. Quiet your heart. And spend time in prayer. Keep praying until your worry is replaced with peace.
    Jesus’ prayer was relational – He said, “Abba, Father!” His relationship with the Father was close and intimate. He had access to the throne room at any time. We too can call God our Father and have the same access.
  • Jesus’ prayer was intentional – We don’t know all of the words Jesus’ said. He may have said more than what is recorded here. However we do see that Jesus was focused and clear in His request. He makes a very clear request seen in verse 36, “All things are possible for you; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what you will.” (We will talk a bit more about the details of this in a moment. First I want to focus on the overall prayer). Jesus told His disciples that their prayers should not be overly wordy. And hear He gives us an example of that. He makes a clear, simple request of the Father. He does not try to hide the fact that He is distressed and would prefer another way if any other way is possible. He simply tells God what is in His heart.
  • Application: God is not more likely to hear just because you talk for a long time. He knows your heart already. When you pray be clear. If you don’t know what to pray, simply tell God what is in your heart. He knows it already.
  • Jesus’ prayer was persistent – In verse 39 we see that He prays the same prayer again. He didn’t give up after the first time. He kept praying until He received a clear answer. Jesus practiced what He preached. He told His disciples the parable of the persistent widow and now it is His turn to be persistent. And Jesus needed an answer. He needed that peace that passes understanding. How could He go through the next day facing all that He would if there was any doubt? And how He could He get through all of the suffering without that calm inner peace? And that brings us to our next and very important point.
  • Prayer prepares us for the battles we have to face – What is the purpose of prayer? Is prayer a tool to get something we want? Prayer is often misunderstood to be this, a way to get something that we want. I want something really bad, so I pray really hard and God will give it to me, right? And if not, what is the purpose of prayer? People who understand prayer as a means to getting what they want, will also likely become bitter and angry when they don’t get it. I would like to call your attention back to the passage. Did Jesus get what He wanted? Did His prayer change God’s plans? The answer is “No.” It did not. Let me make something very clear to you. Jesus, the Son of God, 100% God Himself, did not get what He asked for in prayer. God said, “No” to Him. And if God said “No” to Jesus, He may very well say, “No” to you sometimes. This does not mean He loves you less. This does not mean He cares for you less. It does also not mean that your prayer is worthless. So Jesus made a request and God said, “No.” You ask, “How is that prayer not worthless?” “How is that prayer of any use at all?” I am glad you asked :) This prayer did not change the plan, but it did change the person. Share illustration of tossing an anchor to shore and pulling. Is the shore moving or are you moving? Jesus walked away from His prayer differently. He was no longer distressed and troubled. He walked away as a man on a mission. He was resolved. He was assured. He was confident. He knew His Father had a plan and He knew it was a perfect plan.

Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

How could He be so calm? How could He have such patience and restraint? How could He be silent when Pilate threw question after question at Him? It’s simple. He prayed. God gave Him peace. This peace is not a mystical or magical formula. This peace is based on truth. It is based on the truth that God’s sovereign plan is perfect, that He is in control. We may worry when the lies of Satan swirl around our minds. And we can experience peace when we pray and allow God to remind us of the truths of His Word. God may not give you what you ask for, but He will give you what you need to win the battle.

Luke 22:43 – And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.

He Victoriously Submitted His Will to the Father’s –

Jesus asked that “this cup” be removed.

Jeremiah 25:15 – Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.

Isaiah 51:17 – Wake yourself, wake yourself,
stand up, O Jerusalem,
you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord
the cup of his wrath,
who have drunk to the dregs
the bowl, the cup of staggering.

Revelation 14:9-10 – And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

Jesus is going to drink a cup of suffering. It includes the suffering he faces at the hands of men. But it goes far beyond that. He would face the wrath of God. All of God’s anger at sin would be poured out on Him. In Genesis God pours out His anger on people who thought of only sin continually by sending a flood which wiped out almost all life. Later he sent fire and brimstone from heaven to wipe out the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. These were temporal and physical punishments for spiritual sin. They only offer us a glimpse of God’s wrath against sin. That is the cup which Jesus faced.

Jesus personally wished for a scenario where sin could be dealt with, but He needn’t not face the suffering and pain of dying on the cross and the wrath of God. At the same time, He does not demand this or refuse to carry out His role. Instead He says, “if you are willing” or “if it is possible.” Jesus only wants His prayer answered if it can be answered within God’s perfect sovereign plan. He only wants His prayer answered if there is another way to accomplish the same objective. This verse alone is enough to show us that the cross is the only way possible to accomplish God’s desire of saving us.

I heard a story of two brothers from Australia. One is a believer. The other is not. They were having a conversation and the unbeliever said he thought he could get in to heaven. One day he would face God and “sort everything out.”

After his story, the believer asked him why is Jesus on the cross? That is the same question we should ask. Why is Jesus on the cross? If there were any other way possible for us to achieve salvation, Jesus would not be on the cross. This passage makes it clear. The cross was not a piece of cake. It was the most horrific and painful experience, physically and spiritually anyone has suffered. Jesus did not look forward to it. He hoped for any other way to save us. There was no other way. He took that cup for you, so that He could offer you fellowship and salvation. What a wonderful Savior we have, Amen?

Application: Do you appreciate what Jesus went through for you? If you do appreciate it, how do you show it?

The disciples faced this battle and failed

Luke 22:40 – And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

  • They had a clear command – Jesus commanded them to pray that they would not enter temptation. What temptation did they face? I think they faced more than one. The immediate temptation was to give in to the flesh and sleep instead of praying and watching. But many more temptations were coming. Their leader was about to be arrested. Their faith was going to be tried. Some temptations would be from without, persecutions from people. Some temptations would be from within. With Jesus taken away their own doubts and fears may grow. Their own decision to follow Jesus and be fishers of men would be tested. They too would have a cup of suffering to drink. See Mark 10:39. When Jesus faced these troubles and temptations, He prayed. He told them to do the same.
  • They failed – Where Jesus was victorious, the disciples failed the immediate temptation. Their spirit was willing, but their flesh was weak. Why did they fail? How could they have had victory?
  • They failed because they did not set up practical ways to win this battle (Romans 13:14). Make no provision for the flesh. Their flesh was weak, but they did not do anything to guard against the fact that their flesh was weak. They didn’t only fail once. Jesus was gracious. He reminded them to wake up and pray. He didn’t lash out and yell “Hey guys! I am about to endure the very wrath of God for your sins! Surely you can spare a few minutes to pray!” No, He was gracious. He reminded them kindly. But they failed again. And again they failed the third time! They failed again because they faced the same temptation in the same way. Once again they did nothing to guard against the fact that their flesh was weak. Someone once said the definition of insanity is to do “the same thing over and over again and expect different results.” They did the same thing and they go the same result, sleep. What could they have done?
    • Appointed one of them to supervise and keep others awake (like the Puritans)’
    • Walked around instead of lounging.
    • Splashed water on their faces.
    • Pinched themselves.
  • Imagine you have a long day at the office. You come home. It’s late at night. You know you should spend some time praying. So you take a shower. You get dressed for bed. You turn on the air con. You lay in your bed on your comfy pillow and then begin to pray? You are going to go to sleep. MAKE NO PROVISION FOR THE FLESH. If time, share about driving with jet lag. Proverbs 21:31. In a battle, you have to prepare if you want to have victory. You have to plan ahead, train, and put your troops in the best possible situation for victory. Know where your enemy will attack. Know your own weaknesses. And consider how to minimize those weaknesses. Here are a few practical suggestions on how to make no provision for the flesh.
  • If you are tired and want to pray, pray in the shower instead of in bed!
  • Make your quiet time at a time of day when you are fresh and awake.
  • If you are tempted by spending too much, don’t carry around credit cards. Just take a bit of cash.
  • If you are tempted to sleep in, in the morning put the alarm clock across the room.
  • There are many more examples. You need to examine the temptations you face and come up with a plan to avoid falling into them again and again. Do not try to the same way over and over! Prepare. Look for the way of escape God has given you. Do not make a provision for the flesh. Instead make a provision for the Spirit.

Judas Faced this Battle and Failed –

Judas chose money instead of Jesus. His eyes were not even opened to spiritual things and he acted in the flesh. When we come to this passage, I always ask why the rulers needed Judas’ help? Jesus was a very public figure. Could they not recognize him? Of course they could. See Mark 12:12. They were afraid to arrest Jesus in a public place because they didn’t know how the crowds would react. So they wanted a quiet and private place far from the public eye to do their dirty work. Sin does love the dark, doesn’t it? But where would Jesus be and when would He be there? That is what they needed Judas’ help for. Judas knew their schedule. He knew the quiet places Jesus liked to go with His disciples. In Luke 22:39 it tells us that Jesus usually went to the Mount of Olives. Judas knew this custom and expected to find Him there.

The Mount of Olives itself is a small peak 818 meters high just east of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Garden of Gethsemane was located near the bottom of the Mount of Olives. It is a popular destination to visit for believers going to Jerusalem and reminds us that the Bible is historical and geographical. The people, places, and events recorded inside are accurate.

Peter reacted in the flesh, but Jesus reacted in the spirit

  • Jesus exercised self-control
  • Peter reacted without thinking – Peter had not been praying when the Lord asked him to. He wasted his chance to receive strength from the Lord, instead relying on himself as we saw in his declaration in verse 31 that he would never deny Jesus. Here he continues to rely on his own wisdom and strength, drawing a sword to protect Jesus. But God’s ways are higher than our ways. According to his own understanding it was worth it to fight for Jesus, but we are not to lean on our own understanding. To win the battle of flesh against spirit, Peter had to depend on the Lord instead of himself, but so far he didn’t. Application: It is easy to stand here and criticize Peter, but how often do we do the same thing? How often do we fail to pray and be led by the Spirit and instead act based on our own human understanding of the situation? We apply our own logic and intelligence to situations to try to solve the problems without ever turning and asking God even if He wants us to solve the problem. Wouldn’t it be better for Peter to say to Jesus, “What do you want me to do?” Instead he thought he knew what he should do and he did it, but he was wrong. Next time you face a difficult situation do not be rash. Do not act without thinking. Do not even act with your own thinking. Instead slow down. Take time to pray. And ask the Holy Spirit to lead you so you act with His understanding.
  • In comparison Jesus allowed Himself to be taken. Not only that, He even healed this man’s ear. He once again faced the battle and He once again prevailed.

Verses 51-52 – The identity of this man is unknown. Some have guessed it was Mark since he alone records this, but that is speculation. This passage does remind us of the chaos that the disciples faced. They were scared and frightened, just like Jesus said would happen in verse 27. Facing this fear without their leader, it was even more important for them to spend time in prayer and turn to God for strength and help during what would be a very trying time.


We all face a never ending battle. Each day we wake up and each day we will face many battles against temptation and battles against the flesh. Like the disciples we are weak. We are often tired. Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. You must prepare ahead of time so that you will be ready when the temptation comes, so that you will make no provision for the flesh. Share bull moose illustration.

So the first application is PREPARE. The next is PRAY. When you are tempted pray. It is very simple, but if you start to practice this simple application, you will begin winning the battle.

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