Mark 14:32-42 – The Garden of Gethsemane


Mark 14:32-42


Jesus prays in anguish in the garden and his disciples fail their test.


The final chapters of Mark’s Gospel narrate the tragic unraveling of support for Jesus. Earlier in the Gospel, Jesus appeared to be a popular person with crowds following after him along with his chosen group of disciples. Though there was always conflict, Jesus seemed to hold the upperhand. The actions leading up to his arrest, however, show the lack of sincerity among his admirers.

The unraveling began in earnest with Jesus’ prediction that one of his followers would betray him, followed by his prediction of the disciples’ desertion. The scene in the garden of Gethsemane functions as an opportunity for the disciples to prove Jesus wrong and to live up to their boasting that they would die with Jesus (14:31). It is a test that they fail.

The garden shows the human side of both Jesus and his disciples. Jesus has predicted that he is about to undergo the most shameful death that his culture could imagine; in the face of this, he prays with terror and anguish. Despite his fear, Jesus’ prayer ends by placing his faith in his Father’s hands. The disciples, on the other hand, cannot even pray; in Jesus’ darkest hour, they fall asleep. His sarcastic comment at the end of their time in the garden betrays his disappointment at Peter, James, and John (14:41). The inclusion of this detail by Mark is another piece of evidence of his support for Paul who sometimes found himself in conflict with these three “pillars” of the early Christian community.