Insert text here.
Many had shared the table of our Lord, but who will help him shoulder the burden of his suffering?
Then Jesus came with the disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and said, "Sit here while I go and pray over there." He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with me."
He went a little farther and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."
Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Again, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done." And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So He went and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
Then He came to His disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping? Behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand." Matthew 26:36-46 NKJV, condensed
Passover began at sundown. It was the holy day when families gathered together to share a meal and retell the timeless story of how God delivered their ancestors from slavery in Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and sent them on their way to freedom in "the land of promise". This year, on this night, the disciples could not concentrate on those traditional thoughts. The immediate situation was too troublesome. Jesus was telling them he was going to be killed, Judas would betray him and the rest of them would flee in fear. Before the sun sets again, Jesus would be dead.
Everything that needed to be said was said and all that remained was the waiting. Gethsemane was a olive grove. For Jesus it was a last refuge before his arrest, the final opportunity to get his mind, heart and soul in order. Talking about his death from a distance was one thing. Now, in the garden, he confronted the harsh realities.
As we watch and listen, we see how agonizing it was, also how imperative for Jesus to make his will one with his Father's. Jesus fell to the ground facedown to plead his case. "My Father, can't you think of another way! But what am I saying? This is why I was born!" There was but one way to resolve the inner conflict. "Not my will, but thy will, be done." Had there been another option, he would have welcomed it.
The disciples fell asleep; body triumphed over will. In contrast, Jesus got it right the first time. He didn't have to live it again and again like we do with mistake after mistake before we wise up. The "cup" he must drink will require the last full measure of devotion. There was something odious and foul in that vessel. Just the thought of it horrified and overwhelmed him. He begged, he pleaded, he cried out in anguish. The dread Jesus felt that night was more than fear of death
This text is a difficult one for me. I struggle much as I read and reread the words, and like the disciples I escape into sleep more times than I want to admit. The circumstances, the mood, the impending doom, and the meaning of it all--I have no adequate response. The theology of the cross is a labyrinth and I find myself retreating from every path I take.
What is it, O Lord, that you want to say to the people who read this? First and foremost, the answer is always, "I love you, my child." But in this text, that love is clothed in mystery. The cup is gross and undesirable, yet he must drink it. Some call it a cup of wrath, God's wrath. Could that be? Not in the sense of an angry vengeful God, but anger at sin itself because it binds and steals and kills the good which God creates. I would call it the cup of God's sorrow.
Our sin, yours and mine--collectively and individually we recognize it--all those destructive things we do to ourselves and each other. When God created the world, he hovered over the chaos and gave it order. Again and again in the creation story we are told, "And it was good." But our sin takes the benefits of that order and turns it back into chaos. Sin is a wall of separation. It nullifies the works of God and blocks the dreams God has for us.
Jesus came to earth to tear down that wall and bring us into joyful fellowship with our Father in heaven. But how was he going to do that? Calvary is the answer. The cross of Jesus is a bridge over those troubled waters; it is a gift of grace, ours to accept and use to get ourselves to the other side.
Jesus bowed voluntarily to the directives of his Father. He was not coerced. He made the decision to love the world as his heavenly Father did, and give up his life so that those who believe and turn from their sinful ways may walk in newness of life. How shall we approach this amazing story of our Savior's passion? How about on bended knees in deep humility and grateful love.
Jesus, when my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow, please keep watch and pray with me. Perhaps the better petition from a heart of love is that I may pause and keep watch with You.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Describe your favorite retreat spot, or where you would prefer to spend your final hours.
Many of us have seen Gethsemane in works of art showing Jesus in a colorful robe praying with hands atop a large rock. Do you have any memories associated with such a picture? Are these pictures an accurate depiction? If not, what is missing?
Jesus moved back and forth between solitude and community, praying alone to God and then returning again to his disciples. Is this a good pattern for us to follow? Why or why not? What did he want and need from his disciples as he prayed?When have you prayed the "Gethsemane prayer"? Did you have friends who stayed close by as you prayed?The emotion Jesus expressed was not fear, but sorrow. How do you explain that?
What is the temptation which concerned Jesus so much regarding Peter? Do you think had Peter prayed the same prayer as Jesus he still would have denied knowing Jesus later in this chapter? Watch and pray--these words have been called the sentinels. What does "watch" mean in this text?How do watching and prayer stand guard and protect you?
The disciples were napping on the job. Are you able to sympathize with that? How common is it to fall asleep when we pray? Is there a remedy?
Submission, surrender, sacrifice, obedience--these sound like negative words to most people, but not to Jesus. Explain why these words are used in Christian teaching and what they mean to people of faith?
Do you have a clear understanding of the will of God for your life?Do you believe there is such a thing as God's will for every individual?Are God's dreams for you general or specific?How well are you fulfilling the plan your heavenly Father has for you?When do you feel most in tune with what God wants from you?
Think of an example of a time when you misused or abused the good which God created and you ended up with chaos. Picture that sin being nailed to the cross with Jesus. Ask for forgiveness and watch as God's grace flows into your being. Then picture God hovering over the chaos and bringing forth something of value again.