Apart from His upcoming crucifixion, this must have been one of the most agonising events in Jesus’ life, and as we go through the account, we can only imagine the emotional and spiritual pain Jesus is going through.
He doesn’t even get any support from those closest to Him as they are busy sleeping. Even though He knows His Father is with Him, this must have been one of the loneliest times in Jesus’ life.
The name Gethsemane means ‘oil press’, which suggests that the garden was a grove of olive trees in which was located an oil press. The Garden of Olives as it is also called is located to the east of the Kidron Valley, between the path up the mountain and the busy Jericho Road.
This wasn’t the first time Jesus came here to pray, Luke 22:39 / John 18:2 and so, it’s easy to understand why Judas knew exactly where Jesus would be when it comes to Him being arrested.
Mark tells us that whilst they were in the garden, Jesus left the other eight disciples at a distance, but took Peter, James and John, in their inner circle of friends with him to a quiet isolated place in order for Him to pray, Mathew 4:21 / Matthew 17:1.
Matthew tells us a little more detail about Jesus’ emotional state, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ Matthew 26:38
It’s clear that even though the disciples seem to be oblivious to what Jesus was going through and about to go through, Jesus Himself knew exactly what was coming up. He knew that the cross was awaiting Him, and He knew He was about to carry the sin of the world on His shoulders, John 12:27 / Hebrews 5:7.
It was time to express exactly what was going through His mind, it was time and go and pour His heart out to His Father, and so He asked Peter, James and John to stand guard and keep watch because He knew that the mob was coming with Judas, His betrayer, to arrest Him.
Jesus’ outpouring of His heart towards His Father, shows the real love He had for His Father, Matthew 6:9. This highlights the closeness of their relationship, a Father and Son relationship.
Remember earlier Jesus taught the disciples to pray, ‘our Father’, Matthew 6:9, but notice here that Jesus addressed the Father as ‘My’ Father, if this doesn’t show us that God the Father was the unique Father of the Son, and the Son was the unique Son of God the Father, I don’t know what will, John 3:16.
We know that all things are possible for God, but if mankind was to be saved, then this couldn’t possibly be removed. Jesus knew exactly what was coming up, ‘the cup’ symbolised suffering and He knew the eternal destiny of mankind was upon His shoulders, Matthew 20:22. We know that He gladly went to the cross but not without expressing very real human emotions about it, He was fully Deity, but He was also fully human.
His choice which on the surface seems simple enough, His Father’s will or His own, Luke 22:42 / John 6:38 but His human side was full of sorrow, as God in the flesh He knew what the plan was but as a human, the thought of it was overwhelming, Hebrews 5:7, He knew He had to be obedient even unto death, Philippians 2:8 / Hebrews 5:8.
Notice why the disciples fell asleep, they were ‘exhausted from sorrow.’ Scientists have actually proven that sleeping really helps relieve stress and anxiety. Jesus asks them to watch and pray but notice He didn’t ask them to pray for Him, they had to pray for themselves as they were about to go through their own spiritual ordeal.
The betrayer is coming with the mob and they need to be alert, this isn’t the time for sleeping but a time for spiritual warfare preparation. As Christians we must always be on our guard, we must always watch and pray because our enemy the devil is seeking to destroy us, 1 Peter 5:9.
We often get the impression that Jesus’ left the disciples, prayed and a few moments later comes back to the disciples, but notice that Jesus actually prayed for ‘one hour’, Matthew 26:40, which implies, that the words we have recorded for His prayers were all that He actually said, He obviously must have waited on some kind of reply from the Father and was in agony for that period of time.
Falling into temptation is a real danger for all Christians because the flesh is weak. This is the reality of sin, we may not want to sin or purposely get involved in sin, but we should never underestimate the power of those temptations which can lead us into sin, Galatians 5:17 / James 1:13-14.
While they were sleeping Jesus was receiving another kind of strength, He received strength from an angel, Matthew 4:11 / Hebrews 1:14. The first prayer of Jesus was asking God if it was possible to remove the cup of suffering which was coming His way but here, He acknowledges that it’s not possible, in other words, there is no other way to save mankind, so His Father’s will, will be done, Mark 10:38-39 / Isaiah 50:5.
The commentator Plummer says the following:
We may reverently suppose that He Himself knew that the first utterance of the prayer hadn’t been complete in its success. His human will wasn’t yet in absolute unison with the will of his Father and, in this way, we may trace progress between the first prayer and the second.
In both cases, the prayer is made conditional, but in the first the condition is positive, and in the second it is negative. ‘If it is possible’ has become ‘If it is not possible’, and there’s no longer any petition that the cup be removed. We may believe that in the third prayer, even if the same words were used, the ‘if’ has become equivalent to ‘since’, ‘since this cup cannot pass from me, thy will be done.’
Because the disciples ‘eyes are heavy’ tells us they were under a lot of stress too, probably because of everything which has happened up to this point, especially during the Last Supper. They too were emotional, physically and spiritually exhausted.
Now there is a theory about what’s going on here in reference to ‘drops of blood.’ Although this medical condition is relatively rare, according to Dr Frederick Zugibe, it’s well known, and there have been many cases of it, the clinical term is ‘hematohidrosis.’
Around the sweat glands, there are multiple blood vessels in a net-like form and under the pressure of great stress, the vessels constrict. Then as the anxiety passes ‘the blood vessels dilate to the point of rupture. The blood goes into the sweat glands.’ As the sweat glands are producing a lot of sweat, it pushes the blood to the surface, coming out as droplets of blood.
Now I said that this was a ‘theory’ and I’m not denying this condition exists, however, I don’t believe this is what’s happening here with Jesus. Notice Luke the physician’s words, he says, ‘his sweat was like drops of blood,’ he uses the word, ‘like’ which tells us that it wasn’t actually drops of blood but ‘like’ drops of blood. In other words, His sweat wasn’t literal blood, but the sweat fell from His face as if it were blood.
When writers of the Bible are trying their best to describe something which they find difficult to explain, they often use words like, ‘seems like’, ‘looks like’, ‘sounds like’, Acts 2:1-3.
If this text shows us anything, it shows us the intensity of His anguish, He knew exactly what was coming up and as a result, he’s sweating so hard, Luke writes that it looked like blood falling to the ground. No wonder an angel came to strengthen Him.
Have you ever wondered what Christ’s struggle was all about? What was the source of Jesus’ great stress and anguish? Clearly, He was in intense spiritual agony, but the reason for that anguish is because He has to make a decision. The same decision that Adam had to make and the same decision that you and I have to make.
God asked such a small thing of Adam, He put him in a beautiful paradise, and told him to have anything he wanted, but just don’t touch that one tree, Genesis 2:17, that’s all He asked of Adam.
He asked Him to go and hang on a tree. That’s what Jesus was wrestling with and when He left Gethsemane, we know what His decision was because He didn’t back down.
Do you know why? Jesus died before He was killed. He died to self, He died to personal ambition, He died to personal desire. He died before He was killed, Jesus didn’t moan, He didn’t walk to the cross like a victim. He marched to the cross as a man who had fully embraced the will of His Father, John 10:17-18.
Jesus had to make that decision, but He didn’t have to choose to carry it out. Throughout His ministry, He could have stepped back into heaven at any time. Even the devil knew that, as you know from Matthew 4 after Satan had failed to tempt Jesus, God sent angels to care for Jesus, Matthew 4:11. I believe Jesus could have returned to His Father right there and then. And again, in Matthew 17 when Jesus spoke with Elijah and Moses, He could have returned with them.
He could have avoided the cross, but not if He wanted to accomplish the longing of His Father’s heart. His Father loved the lost children of the world and their only hope, was a perfect substitute, to take the penalty that they deserve. Jesus loved His Father and He knew what His Father wanted.
While the disciples are still sleeping, the time has now come for Jesus to eventually go to the cross, it was the time of the betrayal, the trial and the crucifixion of the Son of God, John 2:4 / John 12:33. It was time for Jesus, the head crusher to fulfil the promise of Genesis 3:15.
As predicted by Jesus, the Son of Man, Matthew 26:1-5, Judas arrives with the mob to arrest Him, Matthew 26:21 / Matthew 20:18. Notice that Jesus has no intention of trying to run away and hide, He’s headed straight towards the mob like a man who’s fully embraced the will of His Father. Jesus chose the will of His Father whilst Judas chose the will of his own pocket, John 12:6 / Matthew 26:15.
We only get a tiny glimpse, and we can only but imagine the agony which Christ went through here in Gethsemane, but we must never forget that He went through it all and chose His Father’s will in order for sinners to be saved, even today. When He was faced with a difficult decision, and His closest friends let Him down, He poured His heart out to His Father.
As Christians today, we too will have many times in our lives when we’re faced with our Gethsemane moments, there will be times when we feel let down by our family, friends, and even brothers and sisters in Christ, but it’s then, we need to fall on our knees and pray from the depths of our soul for guidance from our Father.
The question is, will we accept His will for our lives or will we resist and chose our own?