Before Jesus ever went to the cross there was a Gethsemane. Regarding peering into Gethsemane, Charles Haddon Spurgeon remarked: We have thus come to the gate of the garden of Gethsemane, let us now enter; but first let us put off our shoes from our foot, as Moses did, when he also saw the bush which burned with fire, and was not consumed. Surely we may say with Jacob, “How dreadful is this place!” I tremble at the task which lies before me, for how shall my feeble speech describe those agonies, for which strong crying and tears were scarcely an adequate expression? I desire with you to survey the sufferings of our Redeemer, but oh, may the Spirit of God prevent our mind from thinking aught amiss, or our tongue from speaking even one word which would be derogatory to Him either in His immaculate manhood or his glorious Godhead.
Luke’s account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46) shows us how in torment Jesus yielded Himself to the Father’s will. Jesus was not only in torment for Himself and the disciples, but His torment shows some unique concerns He has for all believers.
1. Jesus was Tormented About Temptation
Luke tells us that Jesus had left the last celebration of the Passover with the disciples and had gone to the Mount of Olives. The Mount was east of the city of Jerusalem and ascended 300 to 400 feet high. The disciples followed Him, and He warned, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40). The verb “pray” in Greek is present tense and in the imperative mood which denotes an ongoing command. Jesus was telling His disciples, “Keep praying. This is not a suggestion, but a command.” What were they to pray for? They were to pray that they would not enter temptation. There was a cause for which to pray for. The word for “temptation” here can refer to a trap. Jesus knew that His disciples were within hours of being faced with the temptation of denying that they knew Him. Most of them would fail the test.
The Bible is full of pleas by God’s people for Him to lead them away from sin and into righteousness. Psalm 5:8: Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before my face. Psalm 27:11: Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies. In the model prayer, Jesus taught His followers to pray regularly about avoiding temptation to sin. Matthew 6:13a: And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Know today that Jesus desires for you to live in victory over sin. However, that involves our humble submission to God in prayer. Are you praying regularly that God would prevent you from sinning? Are you praying that He would prevent you from being in situations where you would sin? Do you pray for the restraining grace of the Holy Spirit to enable you to live in obedience?
2. Jesus was Tormented About the Will of God
In Luke 22:41, Jesus left the disciples, went about a stone’s throw away, knelt down, and prayed. Standing with one’s hands and eyes lifted toward heaven was the normal Jewish posture for prayer. Jesus kneeling may give us a glimpse of the torment He was in. Luke’s use of the imperfect verb for “pray” shows that Jesus did not pray and stop, but He kept praying. The imperfect verb indicates ongoing action. Jesus said, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). This same prayer is found in Matthew and Mark’s account of what occurred in Gethsemane. The phrase “if it is Your will” in Greek is what is known as a first class conditional statement, indicating what possibly could happen. Jesus knew that the Father could have an alternative will for His life. Jesus did not refer to a literal cup in His prayer. The “cup” in Old Testament language denoted a person’s destiny that usually involved the wrath of God. The term is used in the New Testament to also refer to God’s wrath. Jesus knew the full wrath of the Father was about to be poured out on Him because He would bear the sins of humanity.
However, Jesus was committed to the Father’s will for Him. Jesus desired the Father’s will for Himself. A glimpse of the humanity of Jesus is seen here. The will of the Father was not one of ease, but of torment, pain and death on a cross. Jesus had expressed in John 4:34: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” Yet, here in Gethsemane, we see Jesus struggling with the will of God. Jesus identifies with you as you struggle to discover and follow God’s will. Jesus knows what it means to entertain thoughts concerning comfort over commitment, pleasure over pain, and safety over sacrifice.
3. Jesus was in Torment About Prayer
Supernatural aid to Jesus came in the form of an angel who came and strengthened Him (Luke 22:43). He was in agony. The original Greek word can also be translated “anguish, intense sorrow.” He was in a state of great mental and emotional grief. Sweat poured from His body to such a degree that it fell to the ground. Jesus finished praying, stood up, and found His disciples sleeping. They had already been warned to pray so that they would not be overcome by temptation (Luke 22:40).
Jesus then asked the group, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Luke 22:46). Jesus must have been disappointed in the disciples’ less than stellar behavior. They chose to sleep rather than pray. Yet, He called on them again to pray in order to seek God’s grace in this time of testing.
Who hasn’t slept when he should have been praying? David Garland aptly said, “Battles are won or lost on the field of prayer, but even prayer can be a battle.” Paul said that part of our spiritual armor is prayer. Ephesians 6:18: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. The Apostle James said the prayers of righteous people would accomplish great things. James 5:16: Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Jesus’ torment was not just for Himself and His disciples. Jesus was facing issues that every follower of His will encounter. Jesus’ surrender in Gethsemane shows that we can be victorious over temptation, be faithful in God’s will, and be diligent in prayer.