We are joining Jesus today in one of His favorite places; the Garden of Gethsemane. He went there to pray when He was in the area. It was a quiet spot to get away by Himself and meet the Father. Everyone, including Judas, knew of this special spot.
Matthew shared this event with us in his gospel. You can find that discussion under “Jesus In The Garden.” We took an overall look at what happened that night. Today we are going to look at Jesus’ prayer a bit closer.
We are told that Jesus prayed the same prayer all three times. I believe the words were the same but Jesus’ heart and intent changed throughout the night. The first time Jesus goes deeper into the garden to meet with His Father He tells Peter, James and John that His “soul is very sorrowful, even unto death” (verse 34). Jesus’ heart was breaking. He NEEDED this time with the Father. Judging by His words, we see that His sorrow was tied directly to the horrific process He was facing. But was His sorrow also for what His disciples were about to face as they stood helplessly by? Was it for His mother, who probably witnessed His death? Was it for the hardness of hearts in Israel? All these things were tied into the upcoming events for Jesus.
When Jesus first went into the garden to pray He assumed the only position appropriate to His urgent need. He fell on His face and cried out to God. In His cry He pleaded not to have to endure the cross. “Remove this cup from me” (verse 36). He knew everything that God was asking of Him. He understood all the pain and suffering He would endure. He recognized the humiliation awaiting Him. And He truly wanted NONE of it.
As Jesus prayed this prayer He told God that He knew God could actually stop this process in its tracks. It didn’t matter that the religious leaders had decided to kill Him. It was inconsequential that Judas had just run off to lead a contingent of soldiers right to Him. God could pick Jesus up and take Him to Heaven right then and there, IF He chose to. Jesus also knew that if He told God that He wouldn’t walk the path laid out for Him that God wouldn’t force Him to. Again, Jesus DID NOT want to walk this path. BUT because He was His Father’s Son, He would do His Father’s will.
I’m not trying to put words in Jesus’ mouth but I believe His first prayer focused on the “I don’t want to” more than anything else. He ended that prayer with the commitment of walking the father’s plan but it was a cringing commitment. Like a child pulling back as the doctor readies the shot. “I’m here under protest.”
I KNOW God met Jesus in this prayer time. During this first portion I can see God simply holding Jesus as He cried out. His sorrow soaking His Father’s robe.
Jesus’ second time in prayer, I believe, focused more on the “is there another way” question. Jesus knew His blood would pay for all mankind’s salvation. He knew the penalty for sin. He intimately understood the separation from God that sin produced. But was there another way to accomplish the task of reconciliation of man without the cross. He asked God to “please think it over.” “Is there some other compromise or concession that will work just as well or better?” Jesus deeply desired the end result God’s original plan would bring, but He wanted another way to get there. One that didn’t involve His own separation from God; temporary as that would be. BUT if there was NO other way, Jesus was willing to do exactly as God originally planned. “Let’s look at all the options and trace them ALL the way out before committing to the end. But if NOTHING better can be found I WILL go through with the plan as is.”
I see God here sitting down with Jesus and going over EVERY conceivable option. “No Son, that wouldn’t take care of this part of it. That one would leave room for Satin to slip in this way…” On and on they would go until Jesus was CERTAIN too that there was NO other way.
Jesus’ third prayer, I believe, focused on gathering strength for what was ahead. Jesus had already settled the fact that He didn’t really like the plan, and that there wasn’t a workable alternative. Now He needed God to provide Him with the strength necessary to endure everything that lay ahead.
God more than willingly provided for that need too. God sent Jesus ministering angels directly from Heaven. I wonder what gifts they brought from the Father that night. Because Jesus was tied to this physical earth through a human body, did the angels deliver a physical embrace sent straight from God? Did Jesus feel the physical embrace of His Father, even though God wasn’t there “in the flesh” with Him?
Father God, I long for Your physical embrace. I feel Your presence and Your spiritual embrace at times. I’m so GRATEFUL to Jesus for enduring everything He did to provide me with those embraces. Without all He did I would have no hope.
Jesus, I cannot even begin to imagine the pain You went through that night. I think that sometimes not knowing what lies ahead is easier. You knew everything You would face. But did You know of the separation You would face? Was that the biggest reason for not wanting to go through with the plan? Did You know on an intellectual level only or did You know experientially to? You are part of the Godhead from the beginning so You experienced the pain of separation when Adam and Eve broke fellowship. That must have been painful, but was nothing compared to when Your own Father had to turn away. I’m so sorry I caused You that pain. Thank You for loving me that much. I know I don’t deserve it, but thank You anyway.