36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” 39 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.” 40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, a second time, 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.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour [b]is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”
There was once a small girl who had never seen her father anything but cheerful. As long as she could remember, he seemed to have been smiling at her. He had smiled when she was born, the daughter he had longed for. He had smiled as he held her in his arms and helped her to learn to eat and drink. He had laughed as he played with her, encouraged her with games and toys as she learned to walk, chatted brightly as he took her to school. If she hurt herself, his smile and gentle kiss helped her to relax and get over it. If she was in difficulties or trouble, the shadow that would cross his face was like a small cloud which hardly succeeded in hiding the sun; soon the smile would come out again, the eager interest in some new project, something to distract, to move on to new worlds. And then one day it happened.
To begin with she wasn’t told why. He came back home from a visit, and with a look she’d never seen before went straight to his room. Ever afterwards she would remember the sounds she then heard, the sounds she never thought to hear. The sound of a healthy, strapping 30-year-old man weeping for a dead sister.
It was of course a necessary part of growing up. In most families, grief would have struck sooner. Looking b ack, she remained grateful for the years when smiles and laughter were all she could remember. But the shock of his sudden vulnerability, far more than the fact of the death of her aunt and all that it meant, were what made the deepest impression.
I think Gethsemane was the equivalent moment for the disciples.
Church… lets us not forget the true meaning of this special day. Up to this point in the gospels, Christ has been surrounded by 100’s – so many different characters, so much activity, so many healings, so many miracles. The gospels paint a picture of a Jesus who interacts, cares and loves the world, yes spending time on His own. Here in this story, we begin to see the characters surrounding Jesus melt away into the background. Vs 36 (The disciples are told to stand aside) – 3 are left (Peter, James and John). Then He shares with them these astonishing words, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.”
Jesus wept, Jesus embraced others, Jesus healed, but nowhere have we read before such sentiment as this. Something is different, in this story we are entering into new territory, and just as the crowds around Him peel way, almost the layers upon Jesus are peeling away, and we are invited into an even greater depth of who He is than ever before.
Even then He leaves a distance between them. Asking them to “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And then He prays alone. This is the first picture I want us to hold on to – The Christ who goes on alone. And we see in the later verses how even the disciples fall asleep. The hour is late – this follows the Last Supper, and the disciples are tired, and here in the depths of the night Jesus is alone – pouring out His heart to the Father.
Why is He alone – in virtually all His other ministry He has invited His disciples alongside to get involved to share the work. Yet here He is alone. Why is this so important??
Only He can take up the Cross and die for the world, only the Son of God can be hung on the cross for the sins of the world. No other can walk this path, no other can go this way. Only Him. Some have said that Christ is in sorrow because He will die. Yet how foolish, there are many times He has been in danger for His life, and yet showed no fear, surrounded by Pharisees who wanted to stone Him and yet we read of no frightened man. Yet here alone we see a man frightened and troubled. There can but be only one reason – because He knows that His life mission has come to save each one of us by dying on a cross and suffering for our sins, that we might be forgiven.
Let us never forget this picture of the lonely Christ. At every stage of life – we can feel that we are alone. As a teenager – we can feel no-one understands. As a 20 something, we can sense people don’t know the pressures that confront us, as a married couple – we can feel alone in times of pain and trouble, as a family we can feel the weight of burden to provide, or to care and look after the household, and as we get older – there is that very real sense that we are alone – when others are no longer there. At each stage of life and in the different circumstances we can see, they don’t understand, others cannot fathom what this is like to bear this burden, to face this problem.
Yet here we have Christ who stood alone in the knowledge that He bore the sins of the world. Christ went through this alone –that we might never be alone from Him. The Christian promise is that when we become Christians, Christ promises to live in us, by His Holy Spirit – that “I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
In Christianity we can proclaim of a God who stood alone – that we might never be alone – whatever our circumstance in life. Yes, I would hope as a church we would stand together with each other in the circumstances and situations that we face. So this is the first picture I want us to remember on this special day – that of, the loneliness of Christ (that we may not be alone).
Secondly, I want us to consider the prayer of Christ “Your will be done”,
Look at the 2 prayers in between v39 & v42. 39 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.”/ 42 Again, a second time, 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.” By looking at the contrast between these 2 prayers, you can see how Christ moves from “if it is possible” to the realization “if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it”. This phrase “your will be done” should sound familiar – as it comes straight from Matthew 5 where Jesus is teaching the disciples how to pray. So here, we have Christ living out the Lord’s prayer as He faces death.
But here at the very heart of Easter – at the place where the battle was fought – will the Son submit to the will of the Father – we see this prayer “thy will be done” – Do you remember the Lord’s prayer “your kingdom come, your will be done”.
In a very real way God’s kingdom could not have come unless Jesus was willing to do the will of the Father. But also, we should not expect God’s kingdom to come, to transform our lives, our neighbors lives, we shouldn’t expect to see healings, and answered prayer unless we are willing to seek the Lord’s will. I fear that far too often we expect God’s kingdom to come and great things to happen to us in our church and our lives without submitting to the will of God. Yet often we run our lives as if God doesn’t exist – so often we will get up and decide to do this and that –and we to remind ourselves, “have you sought the Father’s will”.
Let me give you an example of how this could work out. One of the major steps to remember Easter, is to remember “thy will be done”. The way of Jesus was the way of obedience to the Father’s will (the way of the cross)
Finally, the last picture I want us to consider is that of the sleeping disciples and the words of Christ “Lead us not into temptation”.
We must have much sympathy with the disciples – the hour was late, they had shared a meal together so would likely have full stomachs, and Jesus is calling them to watch and pray. Jesus tell His disciples in v41 “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” In the gospel of Matthew these are the last request that Christ makes to His disciples before He is taken, and the trial and the journey to the cross commences.
Clearly as we have thought about earlier, Christ wanted others to stand with Him as He faced the cross, to watch and pray, but the disciples show their humanness – by failing to do so. In His moment of need He wanted them to stand with Him, to pray with Him. But He was to tread a path that only He could tread. By sleeping they revealed their own sinfulness and it stands as a picture of the uniqueness of Christ to stand in our place. So, in these words – there is a very real short term meaning. It was here in Gethsemane, without the Holy Spirit – when asked to keep watch that they failed.
But I also believe there was a longer term meaning. Jesus knew that they would face beatings, persecution, that their faith would be tested after He had gone (Matthew 24: 9-13). So, they may have shown their weakness this night, but never again.
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation”
Acts 2:42 – They devoted themselves to prayer.
Acts 12: Peter was in prison and what was happening “the church was earnestly praying to God for him”- all night.
Christ knew what was needed. If anyone dare say that Christianity is a man-made religion – I would challenge them to look at the disciples before and after the resurrection. Here in Gethsemane – we see a Christ pleading with them to stay with Him, to pray with Him, that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, and yet they fail Him. Just a few weeks later we see a Spirit filled people who can’t stop praying.
As we see Gethsemane – we can see the picture of Christ standing alone, praying thy will be done – but urging the disciples to “Stay awake and pray.” That they might be a people who did not fall asleep and became self-reliant, but would be committed to prayer – How true it is that though the flesh is weak – we have a Spirit that is more than willing to help us in our prayer. I believe we live in an age where these words of Christ are more relevant than ever. Temptation is around every corner. Temptation to be unfaithful to one’s partner, temptation to put one’s job above all else, temptation to strive after the bigger and better, temptation to hide Christ from those who need Him.
Yet the words of Christ come back to speak to us “Watch and pray, Watch and pray” – Every day we should let these words of Christ ring out -watch how you live, watch what you do, watch who you are copying, watch our lives and commit them in prayer to Jesus. “Watch and pray”, “Watch and pray” Will we listen to these last words of Jesus to us. Yes – the body is weak – but how good it is that the Spirit is stronger. Christ died to rescue us from the penalty and consequence of sin and temptation and urges us to watch and pray so that we will not fall.
One night an Arab had settled in for the night and had just fallen asleep when his camel stuck his head in his tent and explained that it was awful cold and asked permission to just stick his legs inside the tent to keep them warm. Granting him permission the Arab went back to sleep. A little while later the camel woke him up a second time and asked permission to stick his head in. Again permission was granted. This continued on throughout the night until finally the Arab woke up to find the entire camel in the tent with him. When he told the camel that there just was not enough room in the tent for the both of them the camel suggested that the Arab might want to leave.
This is exactly the same with temptation, it can slip into our lives a little at a time and one day we wake up and find there is no room for Jesus in our lives. Let us not let the current events of this world rob us of what we have in Christ. Let us not forget what happened in this special day.
We have looked at the loneliness of Christ (that we may not be alone). He prayed alone on a garden, and hung alone on a cross, that you & I might be forgiven, and not be alone from God. But you may feel alone in a situation and a circumstance. Christ has stood alone in a garden for you to bear your sins and that of the world, come to Him in your aloneness.
We have looked at the submission of Christ to the Fathers will – maybe there is a situation or a circumstance where you are trying to do it on your own – or a situation you are struggling with – Christ’s example calls us to pray thy will be done!
Finally, we have looked at the command of Christ to “watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation.” Maybe there is a temptation upon you at the moment that you are finding hard to bear. Maybe the flesh is weak – Christ calls us to pray with him.
Is there a situation you feel alone in.
- Is there a situation you may fall in
- Are you willing to pray “thy will be done”.
Pastor Richard Santos
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