Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth



St. Mark XIV. 26-50.

"Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow."

W E are now drawing near the end. We are in presence of an awful mystery—the Great Deliverer needing deliverance—the Comforter of humanity looking for comfort. Be very reverent and solemn. Make the children feel that they are on holy ground. Teacher should much time beforehand in meditating and praying about this Lesson, and trying to enter into the solemn spirit of it.

Read vv.  26-32. Recapitulate last Lesson. Last Supper over. His good-bye to them. Had told them of parting—tried to comfort them about the future. Just here were spoken those words of comfort (St. John xiv., etc.). "Let not heart be troubled;"  "home prepared for you."  "I will come again."  "I will send the Comforter to you." Is it not beautiful this loving, unselfish heart—not a thought of self even in that dread hour? He knew of wretched morrow—the betrayal and denial, the judgment, the mockery, the spitting on and scourging, the awful agony of the Cross. But no thought for that, only for the lonely little band that He was leaving. He was always like that. He is like that still in Heaven.

Then they sing a hymn, probably the Hallel,  the usual Passover hymn, comprising Psalms cxiii. to cxviii. Read a few verses of this hymn. Then out in the bright moonlight they go along the Olivet road. The strain on His heart growing more severe—the intense craving for solitude—for prayer—for the Father's presence. He must be alone in His favourite praying-place. Talk on the road. Peter's impulsive reply. Peter always impulsive—like us Irish people (see again v.  47)—big, generous, impulsive heart, always rushing at things, not calm and quiet. Very confident. Not safe to be too confident. Safer a few hours before when he distrusted himself, and said, "Lord, is it I?" Be afraid of unaided self. Be very confident in God.

Read vv.  32-42. Now approaching very solemn sight. Right on to lonely glades of Gethsemane. All left behind but three. Who? When with Him before? Why bring them? His human craving for friendship in great trouble. He is feeling so lonely and troubled—exceeding sorrowful unto death. "Keep near Me, you three. Tarry ye here," etc. As they tarry He hurries past. He must be on His knees. He must flee to the Father's presence for comfort and help. What a blessed thing for anyone to have such love of prayer and of God. What a blessed shelter in trouble.

Now we behold awful sight. Agony of mind so awful that even He could not bear it. He who was so brave and calm to bear everything. Listen to tortured cry: "O my Father! if it be possible remove this cup from Me." Meaning of "cup." (See ch.  x. 38, 39.) What was this cup? Was it the fear of death? Was it the denial, betrayal, contempt, and scorn, awful death upon Cross, with mocking crowds around? Surely not. Bad as all these were, He was too brave to fear them. Even some of His humble martyrs have borne death without fear. What was it? We do not know. Cannot understand. Deep mystery of God. We only know that it came in some way from the awful burden of the sins of the world. "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." All we can see is that it was some awful, intolerable agony of soul that came on the pure, holy Saviour from bearing the horrible burden of the world's sin.

Was it easy for Him to bear it? No. He had laid aside His Divine power—had to bear it as a man. You and I find it hard to do painful things for sake of God and duty. Wonderful and comforting to think, He found it hard too. Terribly hard. "If it be possible, let it pass from Me." How awful it must have been! Is it wrong to feel it hard to do one's duty? No. Duty is all the grander when you feel it hard, and yet do it. The Lord had to force His human will to obey the Divine will, just as we have to do. But He determined to do it, however hard. That was the grand thing. Therefore He can understand our struggles to do it. Can sympathize with and pity us, and rejoice with us when we conquer like Himself. If He had kept His power as God to help Him, would it be half so grand or so helpful to us? What does He say about getting His own will? (v.  36). No matter how hard to do or bear, let that be always our prayer. When it comes to praying that, the struggle grows quieter. Like as with our Lord, there comes a great calm—the calm of victory—and "there appeared an angel from Heaven strengthening Him." So with us, too.

How many times did He go to see if disciples were keeping watch with Him? Why? His heart yearned for their comfort—and sympathy. And what did He find each time? Yes. They failed Him—miserably, shamefully. Was He very angry? No. Would you be, if some day in horrible misery you found sisters or mother quietly sleeping while you were suffering? "Much they care," you would say angrily. You would not trouble to make allowances or excuses for them. Not so Jesus Christ. See what He says: (v.  38) "Ah!" He says, "the spirit is willing enough; it is only the flesh that is weak." He knew it was not that they did not care, but they were so dead tired, perhaps up previous night with Him. Is it not touching to see Him actually apologizing for them, making excuses for them, trying to look for the good in them where others would only see the evil? Is it not comforting to us to think He is like that—like a father with bad son looking for any little trace of good in him, delighted to find it, making every allowance for him—looking for the good motive at bottom of mistaken action—looking for the sorrow and penitence in his heart, when others only see his faults and his sin. Thank God we have such a loving Master.

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