36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.
This Garden of Gethsemane was a spot Jesus and the disciples frequented for time of prayer. So when Jesus took Peter, James and John to this place to pray on this night, it was not unusual. What was most likely different, however, was Jesus’ urgency, his sense of unrest, and his deep sorrow. He pleaded with those select disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
On our trip to the Holy Land a few years ago, I found the Garden of Gethsemane to be one of the most impactful and meaningful spots on the trip. It’s a beautiful place, a large grove of olive trees, on the side of the Mount of Olives, looking out at the Temple Mount. And it is here that we see one of Jesus’ most human and vulnerable moments. As I sat there, amidst those ancient trees where Jesus prayed for the “cup” to be taken from him, I reflected on the pain and struggle of that night. In this place, Jesus felt the full force of both his humanity and his divinity. He suffered. He knew what was coming and what he must do, yet, there was that human part of him that asked for reprieve. Was he also asking for a reprieve for us? Perhaps he was asking God if this was necessary at all.
Jesus' humble prayer in Gethsemane is part of Jesus' suffering for us. He didn’t just accept his fate stoically. He protested, mourned, and asked God to take this cup from him. And yet, even in the midst of this deep concern, he yielded to God in his prayer. I think it is one of the best demonstrations of prayer in the Scriptures. It is where we see Jesus as deeply connected to God as anywhere in the Gospels, for he shared his deepest concerns and was still willing to be changed in and through that sharing. We, like Jesus, are free to go to God with our protests, requests, mourning, and even anger. Prayer isn’t something we do hoping to manipulate events. Prayer is relational. It is a vehicle for sharing our deepest and truest thoughts, feelings, concerns, and desires with God. And through the act of that sharing, it is often us who are changed, moved, and strengthened to cope with the circumstances.
That night, in that beautiful garden, Jesus showed us how to pray and also how to fully surrendered to God’s will. He said “yes” to drinking the cup for you, and for me. May you know this deep in your soul today.
Dear Lord, Thank you for entering Jerusalem on my behalf. Thank you for your sacrifice. Save me from myself, Lord. Show me how to live as a person who honors the gift you have given us. Forgive me as I fail and falter. Let me share the grace I have been given with those around me. I love you, Jesus. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.