JESUS PRAYS IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE
Key Verse: 26:39b
"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.
Yet not as I will, but as you will."
1. Read verses 36-38. How and why did Jesus share his sorrowful and
troubled heart with his disciples? Read verses 39-46. How did Jesus
encourage his disciples? (41,42,45) What did they do? Why?
2. What was Jesus' prayer request? What was "the cup"? Why was he
"overwhelmed with sorrow"? (cf. Jn 1:29; 2Co 5:21; Gal 3:13) What
was his struggle? How did prayer change things for Jesus?
3. Read verses 47-51. Who sent the large crowd armed with swords and
clubs? Who led them? What was his signal? How did Jesus respond?
What does this reveal about him? How did his disciples respond?
4. Read verses 52-56. What did Jesus teach his disciples? What did he
teach the crowd? Why did he not save himself? Why was it important
that scriptures be fulfilled?
5. Read verses 57-67. Who tried him? What was the purpose of this
trial? (59) What were the charges they brought against him? How did
Jesus respond to the false charges? What was Jesus' faith and
glorious hope? What was their decision?
6. Read verses 33-35,40,41,58,69-75. Why did Peter disown Jesus?
Contrast Jesus with Peter. What does this event show about the
efficacy of prayer?
During the Last Supper, Jesus said to his disciples, "This is my
blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness
of sins" (Mt 26:28). Jesus gave his people the blood covenant. Thus he
made his people covenant people newly. Jesus knew that death as the
Lamb of God lay before him. At a time of distress, no one can do
anything. Nevertheless, Jesus did not remain helpless. He prayed in
the Garden of Gethsemane. Let's learn what Jesus did through his
prayer. After prayer, Jesus was arrested and tried before the Sanhedrin
in our place.
First, Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane (36-38). Look at verse 30. "When
they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." Before
going to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn.
Most probably, they sang the Lord's prayer: "Our Father in
heaven...Your kingdom come, your will be done..." What a marvelous act
of faith! What can we do in a helpless situation? We must not remain
helpless; we must sing a hymn and go to the Garden of Gethsemane to
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus left eight of his disciples in
a place where they could rest. Then he took Peter and the two sons of
Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. In
verse 38, Jesus said, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point
of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Before the cup of
suffering and death, Jesus' soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the
point of death. Jesus needed some people to support him. But there was
no one who supported him in prayer.
But Jesus did not give up. He prayed. Look at verse 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.'" Jesus prayed to obey God's will to take the
cup of suffering, even though it was so distressing for him even to
think about. We learn two things from his prayer.
Firstly, Jesus prayed to overcome himself (39-40). "My Father, if it is
possible, may this cup be taken from me" (39). Jesus was fully human.
In his manhood, if possible, he did not want to drink the cup of
suffering and death. So he said, "My Father, if it is possible, may
this cup be taken from me." Jesus was around 33 years old. He was too
young to die. Jesus had many unfinished tasks to complete. Jesus had
his mother and many brothers and sisters to care for. It would have
been good to die naturally, but it was painful for him to be sentenced
to death by capital punishment and die as a criminal. Most of all,
Jesus was too young to die. He was only 33 years old. At that time, it
was a most painful and shameful way of death to die on the cross.
Because of his impending death, Jesus was sorrowful and lonely.
Jesus was apprehensive about his impending death. Jesus was sorry
because he had to be treated like a sinner even though he was sinless
(2Co 5:21). To Jesus, becoming a curse to redeem his people from the
curse of the law was unbearable. It was because Jesus' relationship
with God would be broken during the time he was under the curse of
death. Jesus would not see God's face. Jesus would be in a completely
forsaken state. The thought of having a broken relationship with God
grieved him more than the physical torture he would undergo on the
cross. In this situation, Jesus prayed to decide to follow God's will,
overcoming his own will. Jesus prayed to make a decision of faith.
Secondly, Jesus won the victory over his soul's battle (41-46). It is
obvious that Jesus began to pray from the time of 11:00 p.m., and he
finished the first period of his soul's battle in prayer. Then he
returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. He said to them,
"Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" He went on to say,
"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit
is willing, but the body is weak" (41). Most people are willing to
pray, but in actuality, not many people can pray. Many sleep instead
of praying. When they don't pray, they fall into Satan's temptations.
No one can withstand Satan's temptations without praying.
Look at verse 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.'" Basically, the content of his prayer
was the same as the first time. But when Jesus prayed the second time,
there was a progression. At first, Jesus prayed in order to decide
whether to follow his own will or his Father's will, saying, "My
will, but as you will" (39b). When Jesus prayed the second time, he
prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away
unless I drink it, may your will be done" (42). In this verse, "May
your will be done" is added. Jesus was getting ready to drink the cup,
and his decision to take the cup was made through intensive prayer.
Prayer was the source of power to Jesus.
It is easy for us to wander, saying, "To be or not to be, that is
the question." But to make a decision is not easy at all. To make a
decision requires strenuous effort and a tremendous consumption of
energy. This is why many avoid even to make a decision to marry. But
when Jesus prayed, God empowered him to make a decision to take the
cup. God strengthens those who pray. Praise God! When Jesus came back,
he again found his disciples sleeping because their eyes were heavy.
Jesus understood them, that the spirit is willing, but the body is weak
(41). So he left them and went away once more and prayed a third time,
saying the same thing (43,44).
What happened when Jesus prayed a third time? He was fully
equipped with the power of God to drink the cup. On the other hand, the
disciples were still sleeping. Jesus said, "Look, the hour is near, and
the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners" (45). When Jesus
engaged in his soul's battle in prayer to accept God's will, God gave
him the strength to overcome himself. When Jesus decided through prayer
to drink the cup, God gave him the strength to do so. Before prayer,
Jesus had been overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. After
prayer, Jesus was empowered with a sense of victory. Prayer made Jesus
very different. Jesus was ready to drink the cup and said, "Rise, let
us go! Here comes my betrayer!" (46).
Second, Jesus was arrested (47-56). It was Judas, one of the Twelve,
who led the temple police and the mob to find Jesus in the privacy of
the Garden of Gethsemane. The chief priests and the elders of the
people sent a large crowd armed with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus.
"Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, 'Greetings, Rabbi!' and kissed
him" (49). It was the betrayer's signal.
What did Jesus do? Look at verse 50. "Jesus replied, 'Friend, do
what you came for.' Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and
arrested him." Jesus allowed this without resistance. At that moment,
one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it and struck the
servant of the high priest, cutting off, not his head, but his ear
(51). John tells us that this was Peter (Jn 18:10).
What did Jesus say to this disciple? Look at verses 52-54. "'Put
your sword back in its place,' Jesus said to him, 'for all who draw the
sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father,
and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of
angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must
happen in this way?'" Here Jesus plainly says that he was going to
suffer in order to obey the will of God and that his suffering was a
spiritual battle (Eph 6:12). Jesus' people's struggle is not a physical
one: It is a spiritual one. If the battle had been a physical one, then
Jesus would have called more than twelve legions of angels to defend
himself (53). But he did not do that. Jesus only fought the spiritual
battle to fulfill what was said in the Scriptures. It is amazing that
Jesus saw this event, not as bad luck, but as one of the fulfillments
of God's will written in the prophecies. In this part we see that the
mob did not know what they were doing. Yet, Jesus was clear about what
he was doing. Jesus chose to drink the cup of suffering because he knew
that his death was the purpose of God. Jesus took the cup of suffering
because he decided to obey the will of God for him, and prayer enabled
him to take the cup of suffering.
Third, Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin (57-68). God chose his
people Israel and reared them as his firstborn son. God made a covenant
with them that he would send the Messiah of the world from the stump of
Jesse. According to his promise, he came to his people, but his people
did not accept him (Jn 1:10,11). They rather judged him by human
standards (Jn 8:15). It is irony that the Jewish religious leaders, who
had long awaited the coming of the Messiah, failed to accept him when
he came to the world. Jesus healed the sick and preached the good news
of the kingdom of heaven. He taught the word of truth to those who came
to him. But they did not see the glorious work of God through Jesus.
They were spiritually blind men. They completely ignored the work of
God that was done in the hearts and souls of the people through Jesus.
They did not care that the blind were able to see because of Jesus.
They did not care that the lepers were cured by Jesus. They were the
chosen people who were waiting for the coming of the Messiah. But when
the Messiah came to them, they rejected him. Their only hope was the
hope of the Messiah's coming. But when he came, they did not accept
him. Rather, they despised and rejected him. They arrested and tried
him because he taught the word of truth.
Those who had arrested Jesus handcuffed him and tied him up and
made him sit down before the Sanhedrin members (57,58). They looked
arrogant. Among them, Caiaphas the high priest was conspicuous. On the
other hand, Jesus looked humble. The chief priests and the whole
Sanhedrin were looking for false charges against Jesus so that they
could put him to death. But they did not find any.
Finally, two came forward and declared, "This fellow said, 'I am
able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'" After
clearing the temple, Jesus had said, "Destroy this temple, and I will
raise it again in three days." But the temple he had spoken of was his
body. This was a prediction of his resurrection from the dead on the
third day (Jn 2:21). It should have been understood according to its
spiritual meaning. But in their animal mentality they twisted it into a
charge that he had said he would destroy the temple. To the Jews,
destroying the temple was more than blasphemy.
At this false accusation, Jesus remained silent (62,63). Then the
high priest, who had seized the opportunity to have the Sanhedrin
members consent to his charge, asked, "Tell us if you are the Christ,
the Son of God." This question was devious, and by law, criminal cases
were not to be tried during the Passover season. But the high priest
did it anyway, deceiving himself and violating the laws of the
What did Jesus answer? Look at verse 64. "'Yes, it is as you say,'
Jesus replied." Jesus knew that if he said, "Yes," it would cost him
his life. But he said, "Yes."
Look at verse 64b. "But I say to all of you: In the future you
will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and
coming on the clouds of heaven." In this desperate situation, Jesus
talked about the kingdom of God and his coming back as the Judge. In
fact, the high priest was the judge at the trial of Jesus. But Jesus
will be the Judge when he comes again. Then, the high priest who judged
Jesus will not be able to run away, but must come to see Jesus face to
face and be judged by him.
Still, the high priest did not repent. He tore his expensive
priestly clothes and condemned Jesus with a verdict of blasphemy. Those
who were watching realized that Jesus was in deep trouble. So in order
to please the authorities, they spoke up, "He is worthy of death!" Then
they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped
him and said, "Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?" (66-68) Though
Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah of the world, he was tried and
judged by men.
Fourth, Peter disowns Jesus (69-75). Personally, Peter was very loyal
to Jesus. But his human loyalty had limitation. Peter, who did not pray
but slept, had no strength to fight the spiritual battle. He followed
Jesus to the courtyard of the high priest to see the outcome (58).
While he was sitting out in the courtyard, a servant girl came to him
and said, "You also were with Jesus of Galilee" (69). At that moment,
the power of death terrified him. In his fear, Peter denied Jesus,
saying, "I don't know what you're talking about" (70). Another girl saw
him and said, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth." He said with an
oath, "I don't know the man!" (72) After a little while, many of them
went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent
gives you away" (73). Peter did not know what he was talking about, but
he denied Jesus again, saying, "I don't know the man!"
Peter disowned Jesus three times in a row. As soon as he disowned
Jesus the third time, a rooster crowed. What did Peter do at that
moment? Look at verse 75. "Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had
spoken: 'Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.'
And he went outside and wept bitterly." Though Peter completely failed
as his disciple, he revealed that he was a good disciple of Jesus
because he remembered what Jesus had spoken. He did not remember Jesus'
Sermon on the Mount, but he remembered with the help of a rooster, "You
will disown me three times" (26:34). He failed, but he did not give
himself away to Satan's attack. He went outside and wept bitterly. His
action reveals that he repented for the first time.
In this troubled world, prayer does not seem to work. But in this
passage we learn that Jesus was empowered by prayer to make a decision
to take the cup of suffering. May God help us to pray as Jesus did.