Summary: Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane is an example to us of the power of prayer.
In the Garden
It has been about three years since Jesus began his ministry in the waters of Jordan. He has taught, healed, inspired, prophesied, challenged and confronted. He has had a last supper with his closest followers and gave them a lesson in humility by washing their feet. Jesus watched Judas as he left Jesus’ side to betray him to the Jews and set in motion the event that will be the culmination and climax of his time on earth.
He is standing face to face with the cross and all that it represents, all the physical pain and agony as well as the surpassing pain of the sins of the world that he will carry when he is nailed to that cross of wood. How can he possibly prepare for this greatest crisis in his life? He will prepare for this crisis the same way that he has prepared for every event in his life up to this point, by going to his Father in prayer. So he takes his 11 apostles and goes to one of his favorite places, the garden we know as Gethsemane. Tonight we are going to take the three accounts of Jesus in the garden and try to get a picture of the power of prayer in the life of Jesus.
Jesus comes to the garden with his 11 apostles, Judas having departed. As he comes to the edge of the garden he tells 8 of the apostles, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Luke adds in Luke 22:40 that Jesus instructed the 8, “Pray that you may not enter temptation.” It is amazing that even at this time of great crisis, Jesus is still thinking of the welfare of others and he never stops teaching. He then takes Peter, James and John deeper into the garden with him (Matt. 26:36-37). After he has gone some distance into the garden, he tells Peter, James and John, “Remain here and keep watch with me.” Jesus wants his closest comrades to be on guard while he spends time with his Father. He then goes even deeper into the Garden (Matt. 26:39). Luke 22:41 tells us that Jesus “withdrew from them about a stone’s throw.”
I. Jesus needed to pray.
He was in a crisis, the greatest crisis of his life, the impending violent end to his life on the earth. No one wants to go through the dying experience, much less dying by violent means. Jesus is no different. He tells Peter, James and John in Matt. 26:38, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death . . .” Jesus’ feeling of sorrow and terror of the cross was almost beyond endurance. It was as though someone was pressing down on him with a great weight that he could not carry.
II. First prayer retreat. Matt. 26:39
A. Driven to pray.
“Withdrew” Luke 22:41 . . . Passive voice. Literally “was withdrawn”
B. Prayer position.
1. Knelt down. Luke 22:41
2. Fell on his face. Matt. 26:39
3. Was falling on his face. Mark 14:35
C. Lengthy prayer. Matt. 26:40
D. Purpose of prayer. Matt. 26:39
1. “Let this cup pass.”
2. “Yet not my will but yours.”
E. Agony of Prayer. Luke 22:42-44
As Jesus begin to pray in agony, Luke 22:43 relates that there came “an angel from heaven to strengthen him.” This may well be considered an answer to his prayer, for though the cup was not taken away, he was given strength to take it to his mouth and drink it until it was empty. In the next verse Luke also states that “being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.”
In connection with Christ’s sweat becoming like thick drops of blood, it is natural that Luke as a physician would record this occurrence of hematidrosis. It took place while Jesus, suffering intensely, was engaged in fervent prayer. The resulting strain caused subcutaneous capillaries to dilate to such an extent that they will burst. And when this happened, as it is almost bound to do, in the vicinity of sweat glands, blood and sweat will be exuded together. This can happen over a large part of the body. The thick drops or clots of blood, imparting a reddish color to the beads of perspiration, will then trickle down to the ground.
Perhaps the best commentary on Jesus in Gethsemane is found in Heb. 5:7-8. “In the days of his flesh, he offered both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the one able to save him from death and he was heard because of his piety. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered.”