Summary: Jesus' praying on the Mount of Olives in Luke 22:39-46 shows us several aspects of Jesus' prayer life.
Jesus’ last night on earth was spent eating a meal with his twelve apostles. He earnestly desired to eat this meal with them, because he knew that he was about to suffer and die the next day (Luke 22:15).
However, the Last Supper was very disappointing to Jesus. Instead of a significant time with his disciples, the evening quickly degenerated into Judas’ deception, the disciples’ dissension, Peter’s denial, and the disciples’ dullness about what was about to happen. Eventually, perhaps around midnight, Jesus and the eleven apostles went to the Mount of Olives where they planned to spend the night. When they arrived, Jesus went further and spent time in prayer before Judas came and betrayed him to the religious authorities.
Let’s read about Jesus’ praying on the Mount of Olives in Luke 22:39-46:
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-46)
Think of the worst time in your life. Think of the worst pain and anguish, discouragement and despair that you ever experienced. Think of a time when you were lonely and afraid, uncertain of what the future held. Think of the worst suffering you endured, perhaps even thinking you might die. Think of a time when you were lost and did not know where to go.
I still remember the first time I got lost. I was only about six years old. My mother and I went into a convenience store. She needed to buy a few essentials, and I wandered over to the candy isle. After a few minutes I realized that my mother was gone. Frantically, I searched the store and could not find her. I felt lost and alone, and I did not know what to do. Meanwhile, my mother had taken the groceries to the car and drove up to the front door. It was probably only a few minutes that we were apart, but it felt like half a day!
When Jesus went to the Mount of Olives on that Thursday night, Nisan 15, 30 AD, he experienced what some call “the dark night of the soul.” Jesus knew that he was about to experience the worst time in his life. He was going to experience pain, anguish, discouragement, loneliness, and abandonment. He knew that he was about to experience the full force of God’s wrath against sin.
Jesus’ extreme suffering was about to begin as he entered the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives that night. He was about to experience far worse than what any one of us has ever experienced. And he did it all because of his love for his Father and because of his love for us. The great Princeton theologian, B. B. Warfield, wrote an insightful essay on “The Emotional Life of Our Lord.” This is part of what he wrote:
In these supreme moments our Lord sounded the ultimate depths of human anguish. . . . The scope of these sufferings was very broad, embracing that whole series of painful emotions which runs from a consternation that is appalled dismay, through a despondency which is almost despair, to a sense of well-nigh complete desolation. In the presence of this mental anguish the physical tortures of the crucifixion retire into the background, and we may well believe that our Lord, though he died on the cross, yet died not of the cross, but of a broken heart, that is to say, of the strain of his mental suffering.
Jesus’ praying on the Mount of Olives in Luke 22:39-46 shows us several aspects of Jesus’ prayer life.
Let’s use the following outline to show the areas of failure:
1. Jesus’ Preparation (22:39-40)
2. Jesus’ Agony (22:43-44)
3. Jesus’ Prayer (22:41-42)
4. Jesus’ Direction (22:45-46)
I. Jesus’ Preparation (22:39-40)
First, look at Jesus’ preparation.
After the conclusion of the last, divinely-sanctioned Passover meal and the first, divinely-sanctioned Lord’s Supper, Jesus came out from the furnished upper room, somewhere in Jerusalem, and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him (22:39). Jerusalem was crowded for the Passover (on Nisan 14) and the Feast of Unleavened bread (Nisan 15-21). There were perhaps as many as 2 million pilgrims in the city and the surrounding areas. Jesus and the twelve apostles had apparently secured a place to stay in the Garden of Gethsemane, which is on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the city of Jerusalem. Most likely, they had been staying there all week. And that is also why Judas Iscariot, who was to betray him later that night, knew where to find Jesus.