32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour?38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
(Mark 14:32-42 NIV)
Jesus and His disciples have celebrated the Passover together earlier in the evening, then made their way to the Mount of Olives. Jesus told His disciples that they would all abandon Him; Peter takes great offense to Jesus’ statement and proclaims his unconditional loyalty to Jesus. Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed twice.
As we pick up today’s text, we find Jesus and His disciples at the entrance to the Garden of Gethsemane. This was likely a privately owned property on the Mount of Olives to which Jesus had been given access. Jesus posts eight of His disciples at the garden entrance, then takes Peter, James, and John further into the garden to pray.
Jesus then shares His deep distress with the three disciples. Mark captures Jesus’ emotions as He communicated His anguish with Peter, James, and John. Let’s be clear – Jesus was not a victim – the seriousness of these impending events did not take Him by surprise. Jesus knew full well the hatred of the Jewish religious leaders toward Him, as well as the callous brutality of the Romans that awaited.
Jesus parked the three disciples, then went a few more feet into the garden to pray. As was the custom of His day, Jesus prayed aloud and the disciples heard His prayer. Here we see Jesus feeling the full weight of the struggle between His will and His Father’s will. Jesus did not wish to endure the pain and suffering that was about to take place, nor did He wish to die. But in the end, Jesus surrendered His will to His Father’s.
Jesus then gets up, goes back and finds the three disciples asleep. Jesus chides Peter for sleeping. The same Peter who had proclaimed His unconditional loyalty to Jesus an hour earlier could now not even keep his eyes open while Jesus prayed a few feet from him. Jesus knew Peter’s frailty and tells Peter to pray so he won’t fall into temptation.
Jesus goes back to pray two more times, and two more times He finds the three asleep. After the third time, Jesus says “enough!”, and orders the three to get up as He hears the mob coming through the olive grove and sees the shadowy flickers of their torches through the trees.
When we face a trial or suffering, how does Jesus find us? Are we awake and praying, or asleep? If we are praying, are we asking for an escape, a hideout, a way out, or are we facing that fear head-on?
Are we mad at God for allowing suffering in our life, or do we call out to Him as Jesus called out to His Father, addressing Him as our “daddy” (“Abba”)?
May we remember that while sin and death may have started in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-9), Jesus’ submission to His Father’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane began the path that ultimately led to Jesus defeating death itself (Hebrews 5:7-10).