We're following Jesus from the Temple to the Cross. The Passover supper has been eaten. Jesus has concluded His "upper room discourse," as recorded in the Fourth Gospel, including the high priestly prayer of Jesus for His disciples, in chapter 17. Jesus and the disciples have sung a hymn, they have left the upper room, and they have crossed the Kidron to the Mount of Olives. Jesus had just given them a stark warning, "You will all fall away," which they all deny. After Jesus' prediction of their apostasy, they arrive at the garden of Getthsemane:
And they came to a place named Getthsemane; and He said to His disciples, "Sit here until I have prayed." (Mark 14:32 NAB)
Here we see our Savior in the garden of Getthsemane. Mark just calls it "a place named Getthsemane," but the Fourth Gospel tells us that it was a garden:
When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, into which He Himself entered, and His disciples. (John 18:1 NAB)
Not since the first Adam do we have such a dramatic scene in a garden.
And the LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. (Genesis 2:8 NAB)
God created Adam and placed him in the garden of Eden. God constituted Adam as the federal head or representative of the entire race. Adam acted on our behalf as our representative. Adam failed, he sinned, and his sin has been put to the account of every person ever bornthis is imputation. Paul teaches this in:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- (Romans 5:12 NAB)
In verses 12-21 of Romans 5, Paul develops the parallel between Adam and Christ, Adam is the head of the whole human race, Christ is the head of the New Covenant people. That there is an analogy is shown by the statement at the end of verse 14:
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (Romans 5:14 NAB)
Adam was a type of "Him who was to come"the Lord Jesus Christ. As Adam committed one act, so Jesus Christ committed one act. It was an act of obedience that led Him to the cross where He died for our sin. His one act of obedience was an act of sacrifice, He gave himself for sinners. What was the result of that one act of obedience? It appeased the wrath of God, it satisfied His justice. Sin was paid for. So God put to the account of His elect the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
This section in Romans 5 is a comparison of two men, Adam and Christ:
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19 NAB)
The comparison is very simple. There are two men, who each performed a single act that brought forth a single result, and the result is experienced by every member in their respective races. In Adam, all are condemned, but in Christ, all are made righteous. All men are born in Adam, and it is only by grace through faith that we are placed in Christ. Paul calls Christ the "last Adam."
So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45 NAB)
Just as human sin was conceived in a garden, so was it overcome in another garden. In our text this morning, we see Christ, the Second Adam, obediently surrendering to the will of God, which is the Cross. Adam's sin brought our condemnation, and Christ's obedience brought our justification:
In the garden of Eden, man's representative fell in sin bringing death to all men, in the garden of Getthsemane, man's representative was victorious over sin, freeing God's elect from death. Let's look at the Second Adam in the garden:
And they came to a place named Getthsemane; and He said to His disciples, "Sit here until I have prayed." (Mark 14:32 NAB)
Let's keep in mind that the events of Getthsemane followed Christ's declaration to His Apostles, "You will all fall away because of Me this night." Now, late in the evening, possibly nearing midnight, Jesus and His disciples make their way up the Mount of Olives and into "a place called Getthsemane." The name Getthsemane simply means: "olive press," giving us an indication that this was some type of orchard, likely walled in with an olive press at its center and offering some seclusion from anyone passing by. Jesus and His disciples came here from time to time, as a friend in Jerusalem likely offered it to Him as a retreat. The name may have been seen by Mark as significant. Jesus was to be trodden under in the press of God.
Luke tells us:
And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. (Luke 22:39 NAB)
The phrase translated "as was His custom" is Greek kata ho ethos. The noun ethos means: "habit, usage." The Greek phrase means: "according to his habit or custom." Earlier, Luke explains:
Now during the day He was teaching in the temple, but at evening He would go out and spend the night on the mount that is called Olivet. (Luke 21:37 NAB)
He followed His custom, He acted according to a very predictable pattern. Judas would know exactly where to lead the arresting officers. There is no elusiveness here, because it was now Jesus' time to be betrayed. He will be taken, but it is not by surprise. Everything is proceeding according to the plan and according to our Lord's predictions.
After leaving the other disciples to sit, probably near the entrance to the garden area, Jesus "took with Him Peter and James and John":
And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. (Mark 14:33 NAB)
The text says, "He began to be very distressed...." The Greek word translated "distressed" is ekthambeo, a very powerful term. It means: "to be shocked by terror, to throw into amazement or terror, to alarm thoroughly." Jesus receives a glimpse into the cup that He was about to endure, and what He saw there was so horrific that He was thrown into terror. The word "troubled" basically means: " a response to that shock."
And He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch." (Mark 14:34 NAB)
When it says, He was "deeply grieved to the point of death"Jesus was so moved, so grieved, so horrified in His soul that He said, "It almost killed Me." Jesus is not being overly dramatic here. What He caught a glimpse of in this cup, was absolutely so horrific it almost killed Him.
Matthew includes the words "with Me":
Then He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me." (Matthew 26:38 NAB)
This seems to indicate that Jesus initially was urging the three disciples to support Him in His trial of prayer when the implications of the cross were being impressed upon Him.
What Jesus saw was so horrible that Jesus moved into the garden and fell to the ground:
And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground, and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. (Mark 14:35 NAB)
This doesn't mean He carefully knelt and prayed. This means He just collapsed in a heap on the ground. It seems that the weight of what He felt in His own heart caused Him to collapse upon the ground. Christ, the Eternal Word, the Creator of the Earth, fell upon the very soil that He had made, agonizing in prayer. The verb is imperfect speaking of the fact that He did it repeatedly.
His posture here is different from any other time we see Jesus. The typical Jewish prayer posture of the day was standing with eyes open and lifted to heaven.
He was in absolute anguish, and He prayed to the Father, "that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by." Jesus was probing the matter of the cross with His Father to see if there was any other way to achieve the salvation of men. Jesus is asking the Father whether or not there is any other way for the sins of men to be forgiven. In other words, what He was asking is, God, isn't there some other way? Because what He saw in that cup was so absolutely horrific, He begged the Father for some other way of redemption.
Never before have we seen Jesus so emotionally distraught. He had faced a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee, totally composed and unruffled. He had faced demonic opposition, satanic temptation, and the grilling of Jerusalem's religious leaders, with total composure. But here in the garden the disciples must have been greatly distressed by what they saw. Here, Jesus cast Himself to the ground, agonizing in prayer. Something terrible was going to happen. Jesus knew it, and the disciples were beginning to comprehend it as well.
What did He understand was about to take place that so stirred His soul it almost took His life in the garden? This is where I think we make our mistake. What we think Jesus saw coming was the physical scourging and the crucifixion, which raises a question. How can others face horrible deaths and yet remain calm, while Jesus is terrorized? Many Christians have been tortured and put to death for their beliefs. Many of them went to their deaths very courageously--many of them singing hymns right to the very end.
In the early part of the 2nd century, the Roman Emperor Trajan confronted Ignatius, Bishop at Antioch, about his faith in Christ. Ignatius did not shrink from his accuser, but instead, gave testimony, "I have Jesus Christ in my heart... He was crucified for my sins." He was taken to Rome and made a spectacle before the thousands gathered in the Coliseum. When Trajan sentenced him to be devoured by the wild beasts, Ignatius triumphantly prayed, "I thank thee, O Lord, that thou hast vouchsafed thus to honour me." And then declared, "I am God's grain, to be ground between the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become a holy loaf for the Lord." The lions soon left nothing but "a few gnawed bones," which his friends took and buried, knowing that he was "with Christ, which is far better" (S.M. Houghton, Sketches from Church History, 16-18).
Then there was the elderly Polycarp, also in the 2nd century, who was a bishop at the church of Smyrna. A letter from the church at Smyrna to the churches in the Christian world related that Jews joined with pagans in clamoring that Polycarp should be cast to the lions or burned alive. His whereabouts was betrayed by a slave who collapsed under torture. They came and arrested him. Not even the police captain wished to see Polycarp die. On the brief trip to the city, he pled with the old man, "What harm is it to say, 'Caesar is Lord' and to offer sacrifice and be saved?" But Polycarp was adamant that for him only Jesus Christ was Lord. When he entered the arena, the proconsul gave him the choice of cursing the name of Christ and making sacrifice to Caesar, or death. "Eighty and six years have I served Him," said Polycarp, "and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" The proconsul threatened him with burning, and Polycarp replied, "You threaten me with the fire that burns for a time, and is quickly quenched, for you do not know the fire that awaits the wicked in the judgement to come and in everlasting punishment. Why are you waiting? Come, do what you will." As they came to bind him to the stake, he requested not to be bound, so they left him unbound in the flames. Polycarp died for his faith in Christ.
Was Jesus in some way weaker than many of these others who seemingly went much more courageously to their deaths? I do not believe it was physical death that Jesus was distressed and troubled about. Jesus was about to experience the wrath of God and to die a spiritual death. Jesus became sin for us:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NAB)
He became our curse:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"-- (Galatians 3:13 NAB)
As our sin bearer and as our curse, He was for the first time in eternity separated from the Father. Jesus' agony, then, wasn't a result of coming face to face with the prospect of physical death, but was a result of His considering the separation from the Father's presence that was to take place on the cross, at the time when the sins of the world were to be laid upon Him, and the Father would have to hide His face, when God's wrath would be fully poured out upon Him and satisfied:
and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 NAB)
Christians see the movie The Passion of the Christ and walk away saying, "It helps me understand to some degree the suffering of Jesus for my sins." Let me suggest to you that doesn't even come close. If you've got it in your head that was the extent of the suffering, you are not even in the ballpark.
According to the Bible, every single one of us is a sinner deserving the wrath of God. Now just let that sink in a little bit: We deserve the full intensity of God's wrath poured out upon us! We don't tend to think of ourselves in those terms because we don't understand the holiness of God, and we over inflate our own goodness. We bring God down to our level, and we put ourselves up to His level, and we don't think we deserve God's wrath.
The next time you are tempted to dismiss your sin as no big deal, remember what that sin cost Him. It was so horrific it would include in some mysterious way a separation between God the Father and God the Son. It was something that never from eternity past and never from eternity future will ever happen again.
And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt." (Mark 14:36 NAB)
"Remove this cup from me..." Of course Jesus is holding no cup at this moment; the cup is symbolic. The "cup" that He wanted to pass represented the wine of God's wrath. The term has associations of suffering and of the wrath of God in the Scriptures, and that is how it is used here.
Upon the wicked He will rain snares; Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup. (Psalms 11:6 NAB)
Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem, You who have drunk from the LORD'S hand the cup of His anger; The chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs. (Isaiah 51:17 NAB)
"Thus says the Lord GOD, 'You will drink your sister's cup, Which is deep and wide. You will be laughed at and held in derision; It contains much. 33 'You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, The cup of horror and desolation, The cup of your sister Samaria. 34 'And you will drink it and drain it. Then you will gnaw its fragments And tear your breasts; for I have spoken,' declares the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 23:32-34 NAB)
It was not merely dying that grieved His soul; it was the deep consciousness of divine wrath poured out with the intensity of a volcano, spewing forth the divine vengeance that we deserve; except that the vengeance would fall upon the only One that deserved no vengeance. He would drink the cup until He had drained the last dregs of God's wrath for the elect.
Jesus prayed, then, "remove this cup from Me...." As a man grasping the weight of infinite wrath, knowing that He would bear the sins of the world, Jesus prayed for the cup to pass. That was the human desire manifesting itself. Never do we see the Incarnation more vividly displayed. As God He knew what lay ahead at the cross; as Man He knew the horror, alienation, and wrath that would belong to Him. The writer of Hebrews put it this way:
In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. (Hebrews 5:7 NAB)
He prayed "with loud crying and tears...." that is, He prayed in a situation of extreme anguish. The situation is the garden of Getthsemane. In Getthsemane it was hard, excruciatingly hard, for Him to accept God's will, just as it often seems hard for us to obey. Jesus, our High Priest, knows how hard it can be to obey.
And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt." (Mark 14:36 NAB)
Our Lord submitted His prayer to the will of the Father "Abba! Father!" Abba is the Aramaic word for "Daddy".
"yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt" The structure in the Greek conditional clauses stresses first, that this cup cannot pass away, but rather, that the Son must drink the cup of divine vengeance and wrath as He submitted to the Father's will.
Before the world was founded, the Father decreed that the Son would bear the Godhead's infinite judgment against sin as one of the condemned race of humanity:
And bow before it shall all who are dwelling upon the land, whose names have not been written in the scroll of the life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; (Revelation 13:8 YLT)
The Second Adam would deliver the redeemed from the curse brought upon mankind from the First Adam.
We learn here that what mattered to Jesus more than anything was doing the will of the Father, "yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt." This was no meaningless phrase in prayer! Even though it meant utter alienation from the Father, He did not falter in submitting to the Father's will. Trusting the Father's wisdom and purpose, He submitted obediently to Him even in the face of wrath.
Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. (Hebrews 5:8 NAB)
"He learned obedience..."points not to intellectual, but to experiential learning. He "learned" it like you do, except to a greater degreein the crucible of conflict! Obedience is learned in times of stress when strong inclinations to disobey are felt by the soul. There in Getthsemane He learned how it feels to obey when such obedience only promises further pain.
As One that has suffered far beyond anything we can imagine in doing the Father's will, He can sympathize with us! He draws near to us when we are tempted to withdraw or give up or despair of pressing on in faithfulness to God:
For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:18 NAB)
"Yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt."As far as I am concerned, this is the greatest statement a child of God can ever make. It is the zenith of the Christian life, it is the goal we should all seek, the very apex of faith. Notice Eli's response to God's coming wrath against His sons:
Then Eli called Samuel and said, "Samuel, my son." And he said, "Here I am." 17 And he said, "What is the word that He spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me. May God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the words that He spoke to you." 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, "It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him." (1 Samuel 3:16-18 NAB)
Eli doesn't argue or complain, he simply submits to the Sovereign will of God.
And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 "Keep watching and praying, that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mark 14:37-38 NAB)
Jesus is agonizing like He never has, and His disciples are sleeping. Before we are too hard on these guys, notice what Luke tells us:
And when He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, (Luke 22:45 NAB)
Luke alone tells us that their sleep was induced by sorrow. This was not merely physical fatigue, or the lateness of the hour, nor apathy. Luke gives us the telling phrase, "sleeping from sorrow...." Have you ever wept and grieved so much that you become exhausted by it? They have heard their Leader agonizing a few steps away, they can sense His struggle and are bewildered at the same time as they are grieved by it.
Mark records that Jesus prays and then returns to His disciples three times. Why? I can't help but think that He is seeking their companionship and encouragement in His struggle. This may be too "human" for your view of the God-Man, but I think the humanness of Jesus seeks human comfort here.
"Keep watching and praying, that you may not come into temptation...."
The verb "pray" is the common Greek word proseuchomai. The content of the prayer is expressed by a Greek verbal infinitive eiserchomai; "come," into temptation. Jesus doesn't encourage them to pray that they won't be tempted. Temptation is a fact of human life that neither we nor Jesus can escape.
The Greek word for temptation in our text is peirasmos, which means: "trial or test, or prove." The word itself is neutral, and its meaning must be determined from its context. Jesus tells them to pray that they won't "enter into" or give into the temptation. How do we resist trials or temptation? Through prayer. That's the simple but vital lesson of this passage.
Luke's account of this adds a unique contribution:
Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. (Luke 22:43-44 NAB)
These verses don't appear in a substantial number of ancient Greek manuscripts, though most modern versions include them in the text. It is much easier to see how a copyist could have left them out than to comprehend how they could have been added.
Both verses are remarkable in what they add to the picture of Jesus in Getthsemane beyond the story related by the Matthew and Mark.
Jesus is strengthened by angels after His temptation by Satan in the desert (Mark 1:13; Matthew 4:11). Here Luke tells us that an angel "appeared to Him," using the passive Greek verb orao, which means: "become visible, appear." Jesus saw this angel. But the angel also "strengthened Him", Greek enischuo, which means: "cause to recover from loss of strength, strengthen."
And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. (Luke 22:44 NAB)
The word "agony" translates from the Greek agonia. Initially, the word was used similarly to agon, "an athletic contest," and then, generally, as a "struggle, fight." In the New Testament agonia means: "agony, anxiety." The depth of that stress is matched by Jesus' "fervent" prayer, which is from the Greek ektenos: "eagerly, fervently, constantly," from the verb ekteino: "stretch out, stretch forth." This is exactly what we are to do when we are in agonyfervently pray.
Luke describes Jesus as sweating profusely in this struggle of prayer. While instances have been cited of blood appearing in one's sweat at times of stress or terror, I think it is more likely that the analogy is more with the dripping of the sweat than to its color or content. In other words: sweat was falling like drops of blood fall.
Luke says that Jesus' sweat became like great drops of blood, without saying that they were blood. The word "like" should be given as wide a meaning as possible.
"Keep watching and praying, that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mark 14:38 NAB)
"Keep watching" is the Greek word gregoreuo, which means: "to keep awake, i.e. watch (lit. or fig.), be vigilant." Keeping alert means that you work against distractions and hindrances. You do what you have to do to stay awake and to stay at the task. But if it means to do what you have to do to stay awake and alert in praying, it also implies: do what you have to do to see that you pray. "Keep watching" is in the present tense, placing added emphasis upon the need to continue in a state of alertness.
We must pray if we expect to avoid entering into temptation. And we WILL be tempted; there is no doubt about that. It seems like the days on which the temptation seems the strongest are those days when we haven't spent time in prayer. A coincidence? I think not.
Jesus was strengthened by prayer. He resisted the temptation of avoiding the cup that was so repugnant to Him. He did the Father's will, no matter the cost. If Jesus needed to pray to resist temptation, how much more do we?
"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Spirit refers to the purpose of the human spirit versus the weakness of mortal humanity.
They were to pray that they would not succumb to temptation. To what temptation was our Lord referring? I believe that the temptation is specific, not general, and that it can be known from the context of our Lord's words. What was it in the context that the disciples were in danger of doing that would be considered succumbing to temptation? The temptation, as I see it, was based upon the disciples' predisposition to view their circumstances in the light of their own ambitions and desires and their own distorted view of how and when the kingdom would come. Early on, Peter had attempted to rebuke the Lord for speaking of His own death
The danger is that the disciples would attempt to resist our Lord's sacrificial death on the cross of Calvary, even as was the case when Peter drew the sword in an attempt to resist His arrest. To put the matter briefly, the disciples were going to be tempted to resist the will of God for the Savior and for themselves, rather than to submit to it.
And again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. 41 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; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. (Mark 14:39-41 NAB)
"Sinners"the term was often used by Jews to refer to the Gentiles. We see in this that the Jewish leadership was now seen as the equivalent of Gentiles and no longer of the people of God. They had demonstrated whose side they were on.
who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Thy servant, didst say, 'WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS? (Acts 4:25 NAB)
Notice how in Acts 4:25, "the peoples," which originally represented non-Israelites, are seen as referring to the peoples of Israel in verse 27:
"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, (Acts 4:27 NAB)
Our text for this morning closes with:
"Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!" (Mark 14:42 NAB)
The agonizing battle of Getthsemane was over. Now a cross was to be embraced for sinners. Divine judgment would be satisfied. God would be just in forgiving sinners. And sinners would rejoice in being declared justified before God.
Jesus Christ drank the cup of God's wrath, understanding fully the awfulness and terror of divine judgment against sinners. He did that for sinners so that sinners might become part of His eternal family. Yet, in spite of the sufficiency of what Christ has accomplished, there are those that persist in thinking there is still more in the cup to drink. So they try desperately to appease the wrath of God through their works, hoping that they might find God's pleasure instead of His wrath. My friend, Jesus Christ drank the cup to its last bitter drop. He consumed God's wrath for you so that you might know the joys of living in union to the Father, even as He does for eternity.
It this text we are reminded of the tremendous power of prayer. Prayer, in this text, did not deliver our Lord from suffering, but it did deliver Him through it. So often we pray that God might get us out of adversity, rather than through it. Prayer is one of God's primary provisions for our endurance and perseverance. His words to His disciples apply to us as well: "Keep watching and praying, that you may not come into temptation."
Many centuries ago at the cathedral at Worms, in Germany, all the powers of Europe were assembled: the Roman emperor, in all his robes and dignity; the papal delegates, the bishops and archbishops of all the Catholic realms of Europe. It was the most imposing array of power possible on the face of the earth of that day, all gathered in that great cathedral against one lone man, Martin Luther, on trial for his life. The account tells us that the night before, someone overheard Martin Luther praying and wrote down the words of his prayer. It was a long, rambling, disconnected prayer of a soul in deep distress and fear, crying out to God for help, casting himself again and again, upon the strength of God and reminding himself that there is no source of hope or help except God. All his reliance upon the princes of the German state disappeared. Martin Luther cast himself in naked helplessness upon the grace and sustaining strength of God. I am sure that is why he received strength to stand and say, "Unless someone can show me from these books and from Holy Scripture the error in my thinking, I will not and cannot recant. Here I stand. I can do no other, God help me!" And though he was condemned as an heretic, it was then that the torts of the Reformation began to spread throughout all of Europe. Nothing could stop the shining forth of the light. Strength is what prayer provides, and that is what Getthsemane teaches.
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