Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with Him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26: 36-39
As we read and learn more about His life, we see how important it was to Jesus that He be in prayer with His Father. We see many instances in Scripture of Him going to spend time alone with God. And if ever He needed the love and strength of His Father, it was on this night in the Garden of Gethsemane.
One of the most heartfelt and tender moments of the Easter story is this one when Jesus went with His disciples into the garden to pray after their “last supper” together. He had just shared with them the events that were to come: Judas would betray Him, Peter would deny Him, and He would be arrested and tried.
And in Matthew 26:2, we see that 2 days earlier, Jesus had told the disciples that He would be handed over to be crucified. He had deep concerns for them, but now His own heart was becoming heavy with what lay before Him. And just as we often do, He began to feel much sorrow, fear, loneliness, and even desperation. With much grief, He humbly lifted up His prayers to the only One who could carry Him through.
Though Jesus was the divine Son of God, He came to earth in human flesh and here we see His humanity more clearly than ever before. We can’t begin to identify with the enormity of what He had to bear for all of mankind or know the depths of His pain or sorrow, but we can understand the fear and emotions He felt as He prayed.
We have experienced and understand times of anguish – when we have come face to face with a painful situation that we, or a loved one must bear, and we too have cried out in desperation and fear for God to take it from us. During these times, it’s as if an emotional battle is going on inside of us as we plead with Him to bend to our will – to answer our prayers that we will be spared the pain.
At times, I’m sure we’ve all eventually had to come to the place where we realized we weren’t going to get the answer we had hoped for. We finally had to recognize that it was His will that must be done, not ours. We know that more of those times will come, and when we do, may we always be able to pray for the faith, strength, and peace to carry us through.
In Gethsemane, Jesus was in a conflict of wills with His Father. He wanted to follow His will, but the weakness of His own human spirit was too great. We find in Luke 22: 43 – 44, that Jesus was in such pain, that “An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
He knew what was before Him, and He humbly asked in despair if there was another way. Finally, He was able to say, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
With what tenderness He prayed with the words “My Father” as He placed His trust in Him. What a moment in time when the Son of God prays to His loving Father for strength and acceptance of His will. And God provided. He sent an angel to comfort and strengthen Him, and He filled His heart with the determination, resolve, and courage to go forward.
Jesus was able to face the pain, humiliation, and ultimate death that was to come on the cross. Because of the burdens He had to bear and the pain He had to suffer, He understands our difficulties, our fears, and our pain. When our own situations seem so unbearable, what a comfort that can be to know He understands our tears.
Our most loving Father, we thank you for understanding our pain, our fears, and our weaknesses, and for filling us with strength and your assurance that your presence will always be with us, no matter what we face. May we be reminded each and every day of the redeeming grace and love of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen