What we can learn from Jesus’ time in the garden of Gethsemane
We never come to a point in our lives when we outgrow our need for prayer. If anything, we’ll see our need for more and more prayer.
We have a tremendous example of this when we read John’s gospel and look at Jesus himself praying in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was in anguish and deep sorrow, so what did he do? He prayed.
Before he shed his precious blood on the cross, he experienced anguish and suffering in the garden. And he gave us an example of what we ought to do when it seems as though our world is ending.
Chapter 18 of John gives us a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the personal struggle of Jesus as he contemplated the cup that he had to drink. In fact, the prophet Isaiah described him as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).
The sorrow Jesus experienced in Gethsemane on the night before his crucifixion seemed to be the culmination of all the sorrow he had ever known, which then accelerated to a climax the following day.
I don’t think we can begin to grasp the anguish that Jesus experienced at this moment. Being omniscient, Jesus was fully aware of what lay ahead. It has been said that ignorance is bliss, and in some ways that is true. Jesus, being God, knew everything. And he knew that in just a few hours he would be whipped and hung on a Roman cross.
He also knew that his disciple, Judas Iscariot, would betray him, and another disciple, Simon Peter, would deny him.
Jesus’ Loneliest Moment
Jesus knew that he would bear all the sins of the world. Next to his suffering on the cross itself, this was the loneliest moment of his life.
Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives, was familiar terrain. Overlooking the city of Jerusalem, it was a place where Jesus had spent some time. But on this night, he came to the garden in anguish the disciples had never seen. And there in the garden as he prayed and suffered, Judas Iscariot arrived with the temple guard and Roman soldiers to arrest him.
There’s a gap between the first two verses of John 18 that other gospel accounts fill in for us. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Jesus singled out Peter, James and John, and said, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matt. 26:38).
In other words, “I would like a little companionship right now.” I find that amazing. Jesus didn’t need a sermon or an explanation. He simply wanted Peter, James and John to be there with him in that time of conflict.
So, what did they do? They fell asleep.
And what did Jesus do? He prayed. Jesus was fully God and fully man, and here we are given a glimpse into his humanity. He prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Matt. 26:39).
Why was this so harsh and difficult for Jesus? He identified the spiritual battle that was raging at this moment when he said to those who came to arrest him, “Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there every day. But this is your moment, the time when the power of darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53).
This was hell’s hour. The Devil was on something of a roll at this point. Everything was lining up. He had his betrayer in Judas and the cooperation of both the religious leaders and the civil authorities.
We can’t fathom what Jesus was experiencing at this moment. Luke, the physician, wrote that Jesus “was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44).
The disciples had never seen Jesus behave like this before. It was because he was standing at the very edge of the abyss, and he was contemplating its horrors. He knew he would bear all the sins of the world, all the wickedness and perversion. All of it, including your sins and mine, were about to come upon him. And understandably, he recoiled.
Help Through Prayer
Jesus had never spent a single moment out of fellowship with the Father. But he knew what was going to happen to him. He knew that his own would turn on him. He knew that he would be vilified in a kangaroo court of injustice.
That is why he prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.”
We need to remember this in our moments of loneliness, when it seems like our friends and family have let us down—and when it seems as though even God has let us down, Jesus has been there. And he is there for us now. He knows what we are going through.
The Bible says of Jesus, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testing we do, yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:15).
When we face our personal Gethsemanes, those times of ultimate stress in which the cup we are to drink seems like too much to bear, when we seemingly can’t go on another day, that is the time to pray (see 1 Peter 5:7).
We all will face our own Gethsemanes, those times when life just isn’t making sense, when our problems seem too great to bear, when we are seemingly overwhelmed.
When this happens, there will come a point when God wants us to say something very important, something that Jesus himself modeled for us: “I want Your will to be done, not mine.”
Maybe you’re in a Gethsemane moment right now. Maybe it seems as though the world is crashing in on you, and you’re afraid. Would you be willing to take your future and place it in God’s hands?
Would you be willing to say, “I want your will to be done, not mine”? If so, just watch how God will intervene.