Read Matthew 26:36-46
Jesus and all the remaining disciples left Jerusalem and went to the Mount of Olives where Jesus dropped a bomb on them. He told them they all would fall away. After hearing this prophetic warning, the men head back down the mountain and stopped in Gethsemane.
Jesus decided to stop at Gethsemane, they have a beautiful and peaceful garden there and Jesus is really beginning to be sorrowful and troubled, he has a lot on his mind, he has a huge burden to carry; he needs some time to pray. He asks the disciples to “sit here while I go over there and pray”. Whenever you feel sorrowful and troubled it’s a good idea to follow Jesus’ example and pull away from everyone and pray. Except, Jesus didn’t pull away from all the disciples he had Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (John and James) go with him. Another great example of what to do when you are sorrowful and troubled would be to get a few prayer warriors to come along with you and support you.
Let’s set the scene a little more, dig in a little deeper. Jesus made it well known to his disciples exactly what was going to happen this very day. Back in verse two Jesus told them that in two days he was going to die, he was going to be crucified. Those two days came and went and know it is the day of Passover, sacrifices were being made and The Sacrificial Lamb would be given over. This was made clear to the men. They knew that they each would be tempted and that they would not handle it well and it would result in them running away. They were faced with a crisis, one in which they should take Jesus’ lead with and pray. But, they didn’t, in fact there is no indication anywhere in any of the gospels that even remotely suggests that they prayed. They should have been calling out to God on behalf of their friend’s sorrows, but they didn’t. They dropped the ball.
Jesus needed/ wanted some privacy to pray and to pour out his heart to his Father and he asked the men to sit by the edge of the garden while he ventured further into a more secluded place to pray. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Luke 22:40 says that Jesus told them to “Pray that you will not fall into temptation”. They needed to keep “watch” because once they see the torches heading up the hill toward them its “go time”, literally it will be the time they “go and flee” and that is where they fall into temptation. Knowing all this you would think they would listen.
As Jesus heads deeper into the garden he takes along Peter, John and James. Vs. 38 He told them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” With that Jesus heads a little further away, a “stone’s throw away” where he falls to the ground, with his face to the ground he began to pray. The meaning for prayer in this context means he was going to go and pour his heart out to God. There are a few different uses for the word prayer, this use is “pouring out to God” and that is exactly what Jesus began to do. John is the one who records Jesus’ very detailed prayer. John 17.
Basically, Jesus began his prayer glorifying the Father, letting Him know he had completed all that he was to do here on earth. He then focused on the disciples and asked God to preserve them and keep them from evil. He prayed for their sanctification. His focus shifts yet again toward those who will be converted through the disciples preaching (all future believers) and that all would be brought into the eternal glory and that his disciples would be with him in heaven to see His glory with the Father.
This prayer was so intense that the very human Savior couldn’t continue his own human strength and his Father knew this and sent to him an angel who appeared to him and strengthened him. But, Jesus was in such agony that he didn’t stop. He couldn’t stop, there was too much at stake. Being in aguish and strengthened by the angel he prayed even more earnestly.
Jesus was in such agony that his praying caused his body to begin to sweat, except it wasn’t the typical salty drips of watery sweat, these drops of sweat littered the very ground he lay prostrate on. It was like blood was dripping from his body. By the way Dr. Luke is the only one to record this. This could have been actual blood drops, or the sweat could have been so profusely pushed from his body because of the anguish he was in that it could be compared to a bleeding, gaping cut. Either way this is not a typical experience for most humans.
No, the typical response when it comes to being in anguish is more like the disciple’s reaction. Vs. 40 “then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.” Yup, sometimes when we are sorrowful or sad or depressed and feeling overwhelmed with all that we are required to deal with, instead of praying, we crawl into our beds and pull the covers up over our heads nice and snug, shut the world with all its problems out. We cop out, we “turn from Christ”. We choose to ignore the reality of what is about to happen, regardless of how many warnings we’ve received from the “Big” man himself.
I believe that Jesus’ mouth dropped open when he saw Peter, James and John sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch for one hour?” He was literally only gone for one hour. Jesus had an encounter with an angel and was sweating so bad it was like blood pouring from every orifice of his body and these men were sleeping. “Are you serious right now, couldn’t you stay awake and watch over me for one hour?”
Then he pointblank looks Peter in the eye with a direct command to “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Peter, I just told you not more than two hours ago that you will deny me three times. You will fall into temptation and here you are sleeping. You need to watch and pray; you need to be on guard and prepared for what is to come. The spirit is willing, your flesh is weak, don’t give into your flesh.
With that rebuke, Jesus heads back over to his place of prayer and begins to pour his heart out to God again. The first time he prayed, Matthew has it recorded that he asked God, “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” He asked for reassurance, is this really the only way these people can be reconciled with you? Is there really no other way? I don’t think the answer was what he wanted to hear, and he agreed “may your will be done”.
The second time, remembering there really is no other way around this, Jesus prayed, “if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” In other words, if this is the only way things are going to change, if the only way I am going to get through this pain and suffering is to do what it is you have called me to do then let your will be done. If the only way I am going to get through this is by setting my mind, by pushing through and enduring and accepting that this is it, then let your will be done.
Jesus asked is there another way, when there wasn’t he accepted what had to be done. We can ask God to remove us from certain pain and suffering, but sometimes the only way to get the relief is to go through the pain. We need to understand that all “ALL” things work together for good to those that love God. All things means “all” things. The good things, the bad things, the indifferent things. “All” things.
After the second prayer, Jesus takes a little break and checks on his friends, and again he found them sleeping. This time he didn’t even bother to wake or rebuke them. What was the point they clearly are choosing to do what they wanted? So, he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the exact same thing.
The third prayer was the same as the second prayer. Reiterating to God and to himself that this is the only way. The only way for this cup to be taken away is to drink it. To go through with it, to deal with it and to accept it.
Before Jesus went to praying a second time he rebuked Peter. He specifically told Peter to watch and pray so that he would not fall into temptation.
Vs. 45 He returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping?” Now, Luke (22:45) does say that the men were exhausted from sorrow. They cried themselves to sleep. Have you ever done that? Been so sad and overcome with sorrow you cried yourself to sleep? I do suppose that if they had taken the opportunity to pray instead of wallow in their misery things may have been a little different for them. We know they weren’t praying because Jesus called them out. Luke 22:46 “Get up and pray” he told them.
“Are you still sleeping?” Are you still being lazy? Are you still refusing to do what I asked you to do? Are you still ignoring my call on your life? “Look” and I imagine Jesus pointing down the hill toward the valley, through the Olive trees toward what was a line of torches and lanterns heading their way; a charge of people and Judas was leading the way.
“Look, the hour has come” It’s too late to do anything now, it’s go time. I’ve been telling you that this time would come and here it is. This is it; the Son of Man “is” delivered into the hands of sinners. Come on, lets go. There is my betrayer leading the way, with all that being said, Jesus and all his disciples headed out of the garden.