Prayer at Gethsemane

“And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-46)

This Friday in Good Friday and we now approach Easter Sunday. Christmas is a great holiday but Easter is my favorite. It signifies the day that Jesus paid the price for our natural rebellion against God. We are all born into that rebellion by are very nature since the Garden of Eden and now journey with me to another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane.

It was on the Mount of Olives that Jesus and eleven of His disciples went after celebrating the Lord’s Supper. He left eight behind at a distance and took three, Peter, James and John a little further to the Garden of Gethsemane. The word Gethsemane means winepress. It is the place where the oil is crushed from the olive, where the juice was crushed from the grape. Gethsemane signifies a place of agony and suffering. Here in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus experienced great suffering and agony.

When Jesus and the three disciples arrived in the garden he told them to wait for Him there while He went on pray. Before about a stone’s throw further from them Jesus instructed them to “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:40) Then Jesus went on a little further and knelt down to pray to His heavenly Father.

Three times Jesus prayed, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) In the words of His prayer, Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me, Jesus seems to be drawing back from the cross. He knew that this was His purpose for coming into the world. That He had come into the world to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Now, His hour was near and His soul was exceeding sorrowful for He knew what suffering and agony lay just hours away. It isn’t unexpected that a man would wish to be excused from the torture and pain that He was about to endure? We must remember that Jesus was fully God and yet He was also fully man. “Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” (Philippians 2:6) Jesus was God but He must endure this world as a man. Sometimes it is the anticipating of suffering that is worse than the actual suffering. Thinking about the trip to the dentist is sometimes worse than the actual visit. Jesus knew that He was about to suffer unbearable pain to His physical body. Perhaps in full view and knowledge of what was about to come upon Him He sought His Father to ask if there was another way to fulfill His mission.

There was also the mental pain of having His royalty mocked by the Jewish leaders and governmental rulers. He once walked the golden streets of Heaven with angels praising Him. He had all authority and wore the Purple Robe and the Holy Crown. Jesus had the heavenly Host at His beckoning call and soon He would rule the world as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus the Son of God, King, and Lord should be treated so brutally by mere man. Jesus, the Lord and Savior should be mocked by the Jewish leaders, the leaders of His chosen nation. Jesus the King of the Jews should be falsely judged by a governor of a Gentile nation. Jesus, who had healed the blind and dumb, caused the lame to walk, and raised the dead from the grave, should be beaten, whipped, and scourged by Roman soldiers. Then led out of His Holy City and nailed to the tree of shame, while the crowds jeered at His passing. Do we think that we suffer mental anguish, compared to who?

There was, I think worst of all, the spiritual pain. The cause of spiritual pain is sin. Sin, once realized, crushes the soul of a man. We know that sin bears weight upon our spiritual being. As Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Yet Jesus knew no sin, He had lived a perfect righteous life as we are trying to do. Jesus was tempted as we are and resisted the wiles of the adversary. Now on the morrow, Jesus was to be the sin bearer for us all. Jesus, who knew no sin was to be made sin for us. To hang on a tree of shame bearing the weight of the sin of the world. Who can fathom the depths and meaning of taking on every sin that has, will or be committed by mankind. Remember back if you will to the days before Jesus came into your life. You know how you used to live, you remember the things you used to do, and you remember how little you cared about the woes of others. When I think back of all the things I have accomplished in life I am so relieved that I do not have to confess them to anyone but my Lord and Savior. Happier still that they have been removed from the record as far as the east is from the west. Happier still is that the debt I owed for my rebellion from God’s Word has been paid in full by the blood of Jesus Christ. Today you find those sinful behaviors of the past repulsive to you as mine do to me. The closer we get to Jesus the more repulsive sinful behavior becomes to us. If you were as righteous as Jesus, how would you accept the sin of the world in your spirit? As He saw the burden of man’s sin falling upon Him, His whole Spiritual being drew back from being “Made sin.” Jesus who knew no sin was completely obedient to His Heavenly Father’s will, as He prayed, “yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) His Father answered His prayer as “an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.” (Luke 22:43)

When Jesus withdrew from His prayer He went back to where He had left Peter, James and John to watch and pray finding them asleep. But now the events were about to unfold as Judas was already near to betray the Lord. Jesus awoke them and they went to join the other disciples. The Roman guard came along with the Temple police and with the blasphemies kiss of Judas they took Jesus away to be tried by the High Priest and Roman governor. “And they all left Him and fled.” (Mark 14:50)

John and Peter followed from afar to the court of the High Priest where a mock trial was held against Jesus. During that trial Peter denied Jesus three times. As the rooster crowed the third time, Jesus looked at Peter. “The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:61-62) Peter, who just a short time earlier with the sword was willing to take on the Roman cohort in defense of his Lord, now denied Him three times.

The story of Easter is the greatest message to be heard. On that sorrowful day man received His greatest hope, a breaking of the chains of sin, the free gift of salvation from the wrath of God, a rightful place at the Throne of God’s Grace. But I think a strong key to achieving a fruitful victory is in the Garden of Gethsemane.

We must remember that Jesus was fully God but not let us forget that He was fully man. As a man He experienced and overcame the same temptations, the same trials, and the same emotional stresses as we. Never has any man faced the cross as He and no man could bear the guilt and shame, no man could carry the burden of the world’s sin within the spirit as He, and no man but our Lord Jesus the Christ could be worthy enough to have done so. Yet when the hour was near He prayed that this bitter cup could pass from Him and the Father answered by strengthening Him through that prayer. This then is the lesson of our Lord that in our hour of greatest need through prayer with our Heavenly Father He will strengthen us, and in our human weakness be given the power to overcome the greatest of our fears.

Peter slept when His Master told him to “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:40) Perhaps if Peter had done as the Lord commanded he would have boldly stood with his Lord in the hour of His greatest need. Too many times we wait until the trials of life overcome us before we go to our knees in prayer to our Heavenly Father through our High Priest Jesus Christ. Too many times, like Peter, James and John we are asleep when we should be watching and praying. To gain the victory in this spiritual war that we are all in and we need to get ahead of the curve and make straight the path of the Lord. Ahead of the devils darts we need to pray, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13) Jesus is our friend, closer than a brother or sister, and He is with us always. (Matthew 28:20)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, April 16, 2014

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