We are joining Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane today. He has gone here to pray after having given His final warnings to His disciples. All the disciples came with Him this night but He asked most of them to watch from a distance. He took Peter, James and John a little further in with Him. But even these three were left behind as He met personally with His Father.
We looked at this event in both Matthew and Mark’s gospels. In Matthew we watched Jesus in the Garden and wondered what might have changed if His disciples had actually prayed when He asked them to. In Mark’s account we focused on Jesus’ pleading in the garden. What His prayers each focused on. Today Luke shares the physical toll that this time took on Jesus. I would like to follow his lead and go there with our study today.
Luke doesn’t tell us that Jesus actually prayed three different times. He also doesn’t point out that Jesus caught His disciples sleeping on more than one occasion. What we do see is he Father providing His Son with much needed support during this heart wrenching time.
When Jesus went into the garden He asked His disciples to pray that they might be able to withstand temptation. Jesus didn’t ask them to pray for Him but for themselves. I’m betting He knew that they wouldn’t be able to provide Him with the support He was seeking. He certainly knew that they couldn’t provide Him with the answer or relief He was seeking.
I believe Jesus was physically, emotionally, and spiritually weary when He entered the garden. In Matthew’s account Jesus stated, “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt. 26:38). What lay just ahead weighed on Jesus to the point that He voices it to His closest disciples. I’m not saying that Jesus was depressed, but the weightiness of what was to come was tremendous. Sometimes when I’m feeling especially low I say, “I’m so low I have to look up to look down.” What Jesus would have been saying this night might be, “I have to look up to keep Me from going further down.”
Up was where His only source of strength would come from. It wouldn’t come from His follower’s support. It wouldn’t come from internal fortitude. It wouldn’t even come from the knowledge of what all His hard work would accomplish. It would come directly from Heaven.
While Jesus was praying in the garden that night, His Father sent ministering angels to Him. They strengthened Him. Luke, through the Holy Spirit, tells us that the angels came BEFORE His earnest prayer. They actually brought Him strength to pray. Once He received that gift of strength from the angel He deepened His prayer. “And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like drops of blood falling down to the ground” (verse 44).
I have experienced a few times in my life when I felt like my heart was bursting with the need to pray. It was like my whole being was being driven to pray. Something was weighing on my spirit and there was no other recourse but to pray. I imagine my experience pales in comparison to this night for Jesus. In these times for me, I continued to pray until my soul received peace. Sometimes this happened quickly and other times it took quite a while. But afterwards I could feel in the spirit that the crisis or whatever I was praying for had experienced a change. This kind of prayer is intercession.
This night was similar for Jesus. The weight of what was to come was so heavy that His only place He could go was to the Father. He sought the only hope He had. He asked His Dad, “Is there any other way?” Knowing there wasn’t, He sought peace with it instead. Jesus prayed so fervently that His sweat was pouring off Him like great drops of blood. Peace didn’t come quickly or easily with this prayer. What He received instead was resolve. The absolute determination to walk the road the Father set before Him.
Father God, thank You for giving Jesus the strength He needed both to pray and to walk the final steps of Your plan of salvation. I believe You spoke to me through this story just now. What I received was that when I feel too weighed down to even pray, start by praying for the strength to pray. Follow Jesus’ example. That’s the place to start. Thank You that I know You answer that prayer through Your Holy Spirit too. When I don’t know what to pray, Your Spirit prays for me. THANK YOU for that gift!
Thank You Lord Jesus for staying in the garden until You found the peace and resolve that You needed that night. I wish those of us who love You could have been some comfort to You that night too. I’m sorry we failed you again. Peter, James and John’s slumber represents all of us that night. We contributed nothing even though we gained SO much. Please forgive me Jesus.