Luke 22: 39-46
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
Exhausted from sorrow (NIV)
Drugged by grief (Message)
Worn out from being so sad. (CEV)
Luke has a shortened version of this account. He doesn’t include as Matthew and Mark do that Jesus could Peter, James and John with him away from the others nor that Jesus went back to the disciples 3 times and found them sleeping. Yet his account seems to reveal a greater intensity of the battle what was going on in that garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus knelt down and prayed. (We read this within Western eyes. This is shocking. He only knelt once and this is it. The battle for his will has begun and he demonstrates by choosing a posture of surrender.)
His prayer. (We can never understand the full weight of the burden he was carrying knowing that the next day he would not only endure an excruciating death but he would take the weight of the sin of the world. On top of this he brought to the surface what he wanted, his will in this ordeal, then he surrendered it, he said that’s not what is going to happen, there is no greater prayer than that! Above all in this painful prayer time he knew he would be separated from his Father which had never happened before.)
An angel appeared to strengthen him. (He was strengthened by angels after his wilderness temptations and he knew could call down a legion at any time. Maybe we don’t talk enough about angels because we don’t want to dishonour Jesus who seemed to benefit from them a lot, or maybe we just haven’t recognised them when they have arrived.)
He was in anguish. (On his face, in his gestures and in his words, he was in anxiety and agony. This was not just a struggle, this was a war. Accentuated by how he then prayed and what happened to his body.)
He prayed more earnestly and he started to sweat. (He began to sweat profusely and Luke records the sweating in terms of if someone is cut and the blood is running out and falling to the ground.)
This was not a pleasant sight. Watching someone suffering isn’t. When you cannot enter into their battle and fight for them it can cause emotional tiredness.
Even though they didn’t fully know what was going on they were ‘exhausted from sorrow’ for their friend and master.
And Jesus’ response? “This is not the time to drift off. Just as you have seen me battle to not fall into the temptation of not doing the will of the Father, so you too will have your own battle. You should be following me. You should be doing what I am doing.”
We all are in a battle for the will, our will. We want what we want. We are followers of Jesus but we come with an agenda. That agenda is us. Within all of this battle is the temptation to say No to the Father and Yes to us. The only way through is prayer. That is where we lay down what we want and our ideas and say we are not going to do it my way but YOUR way.
Watching someone battle with this is not easy. The grief can be overwhelming. It becomes like a sedative. We need to keep watch because the battle may move quickly into a new chapter and our involvement may increase. We must not fall away.