Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
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.”
Why did Jesus go forward with this? We see here how much Jesus dreaded the cross. Why did he choose to die?
John answers the question most clearly for us. Although John’s gospel does not include an account of Jesus in Gethsemane, he does relate Jesus’ inner troubles:
- . . . 27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 ”Father, glorify Thy name.” There came therefore a voice out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:23, 27, 28 NASB)
Jesus chooses to suffer and die on the cross, receiving the penalty for our sins, so that God might be glorified. This is the joy set before him: That God would display His character.
Jesus despised the shame of the cross, because he focused His eyes on the joy of God being glorified. Through His death, the character of God is displayed as it could be in no other way. God’s love, God’s justice, God’s patience, God’s power, God’s supremacy – all these are on display in the plan of redemption.
Do you see? The plan of salvation fundamentally is God-centered, not man-centered. From the very beginning, God designed this plan to show what He is like.
Let’s return to the Garden: Jesus returns to the disciples. They are not alert. They are not praying for Him or even for themselves. Instead they sleep. So Jesus speaks to Peter, the one most confident in his own abilities:
“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.”
Jesus says, “How do you think you will be able to keep watch after I’m gone if you can’t keep watch for even one hour now! Your flesh is weak! Remember that! Don’t depend on it! Instead, pray! Live out the Lord’s Supper – feed on me, on God, on His power! – That’s what I’m doing!”
Jesus prays three times, and each time returns to find the disciples sleeping. When He returns the last time, it is too late for a reprimand; there is no longer the opportunity to pray:
- The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 ”Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”
The Hour has come. After the first sin, God promised redemption to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Now, the final stage of the drama of redemption begins at the Garden of Gethsemane. All of human history points to this moment. And the disciples have not prepared themselves.
Do you see the contrast between the choices of Jesus and the disciples? The disciples choose to depend on themselves, on their flesh. And what is Jesus’ choice? Jesus throws Himself on the mercy of God, and depends on the power of God to accomplish God’s will.