Pastor Bruce Simpkins
Renewal Community Church
Preached: May 23, 2010
This is the 5th of 7 messages about the prayers of Jesus. So far, we have focused on how to pray in our everyday lives. Today we will look at Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. It was there that He prepared for His suffering and death with prayer. Next week we will look at His seven last words from the cross as He actually suffered and died.
36 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.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 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.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Here at Gethsemane, Jesus knew that Judas was in the process of betraying Him and that it was only a matter of hours now until He would have to make the biggest decision of His earthly life. It is not called a temptation in scripture, but He was surely thinking about the possible alternatives to the suffering He was about to endure. I don’t say that just because He was praying for an alternative if it was possible. A few verses after this prayer when Peter tries to take a stand and cuts off the ear of a servant to the high priest, Jesus says,
Matt 26:53-54 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
Jesus was clearly thinking about the alternatives when He prayed His prayer. But by the end of the prayer, it was also clear that there was no other alternative. Another way of praying His troubled prayer could have been, “If it is possible to send 12 legions of angels to protect me and still save the world, Father, do it so I will not have to endure this suffering. If not, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Do you see how important this prayer time was for Jesus? He had a choice. He didn’t have to go to the cross. He could have asked for the legions of angels and saved Himself, but then He would have lost all of us. He had to be in touch with God the Father so He would not have the slightest doubt about what He was called to do. And so it is for you and me. We need prayer more than anything during our darkest hours, because we also often have choices . . . do what we KNOW God’s will is or do what will be easy and safe for us. God’s will is not always easy and safe. God’s will is not t always suffering either, but we need to pray to discern what it is.
<<< SLIDE OF GETHSEMANE >>>
It is interesting that He went to Gethsemane to pray this prayer. We call it the garden of Gethsemane, but it was really more like an orchard of olive trees. It was at the base of the Mount of Olives. The word Gethsemane means, “Oil Press”. This was the spot where they brought the olives to be pressed and crushed for their oil. Olive oil was a primary commodity of Jesus day. It was used for everything from food to grooming to health remedies.
I find it an interesting metaphor for what Jesus was about to do on the cross. The prophet Isaiah said : 53:4-5
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
What an interesting metaphor for Jesus to pray in a place where life giving oil would be produced by crushing the olives. Jesus would offer His life giving blood by being crushed for our iniquities.
Lets look at the specific prayer of Jesus. He prays basically the same thing three times. My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.
It seems like a simple and quick prayer, but it took Him a whole hour to pray this prayer. Notice in verse 40 Jesus says, Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?
Then He goes back and takes another hour to pray the same basic thing and returns to find the disciples sleeping again. This time, He did not even wake them up. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
He kept praying the same thing again and again, because that is what was on His heart. God does not get tired of hearing the depths of our heart, even if it is the same thing over and over. But Jesus also kept His prayers focused on what was important. He didn’t get angry with His disciples , or hold a grudge, or complain about them to God. He simply went back again and focused His prayers on the purpose for which God had called Him. He told us in John 3:17-18 what His purpose was: God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned
So, even though He was troubled to the point of death, He prayed about completing His purpose to save the world. And these repeated prayers of Jesus lock in the connection to what He had just taught the disciples at the last supper about His body and His blood. He taught them, prayed FOR them, they sang a hymn, and they walked to the oil press . . . the place for crushing.
Judas knew this was the place where the disciples often went with Jesus and he led the soldiers there to arrest Jesus. This would be followed by two illegal trials. One in the middle of the night with the religious leaders and the other in the morning before Pilate the Roman governor. It was an unholy alliance between the government and religion to find Jesus guilty even though there was never a more innocent person in all of history.
Here is something I would like you to notice. Everything about Jesus is complete and connected. This passage of scripture connects perfectly to the Lord’s prayer that Jesus gave us way back in the beginning. There are 2 sections to the Lord’s prayer and each section has 3 imperative statements. The first section connects us to God the Father . . . Hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done. 3 imperative statements. Jesus takes the third imperative and uses it in Gethsemane . . . Your will be done. In Jesus’ prayers He always ended with “Your will be done”. It is this willingness to be obedient even unto death that saves us and sets the example for our obedience . . . even unto death.
The second section of the Lord’s prayer we pray for ourselves . . . Give us bread, Forgive us our debts, Lead us not into temptation. Of these 3 imperatives, Jesus again takes the third . . . Lead us not into temptation. Jesus reminds Peter to Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.
This is an admonishment of Jesus to be alert and awake to the spiritual salvation that is a work in our lives. We can get sleepy about spiritual things and without rebelling, just give in to temptation and ignore our spiritual lives. We need to pray that we not fall into this temptation, because our fleshly bodies are weak.
It is interesting to note that Jesus was sorrowful and troubled. In fact He told Peter, James and John My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. I don’t often think of Jesus being emotionally overwhelmed. Sometimes I think that being overwhelmed means that my faith is weak . . . but it is not a sin to be troubled by circumstances or pain and suffering. The important thing is the way we handle the trouble that comes our way. Jesus again sets the perfect example for us of what to do when our souls are overwhelmed. We pray. And we ask others to pray, just as Jesus asked His disciples to pray.
Jesus prayed through the night and fully prepared Himself for what was about to come. Prayer is the response to our feelings. The Psalms is a book full of expressed feelings through prayer. Jesus was ready for the arrest, and the two trials, and the beatings, and the cross, and His death. The disciples slept through the night and were left completely unprepared for what was coming.
All of the disciples ended up abandoning Jesus because they were not prepared with prayer. Prayer prepares us for what is coming in our lives as well. And a lack of prayer leaves us as unprepared as the disciples. Prayer works out within our hearts and spirits and souls what we later LIVE out in troubles and difficulties. You can NOT do it by just keeping a stiff upper lip, or having a fierce resolve, or living a perfectly sinless life. Even Jesus could only do it through prayer while He was in the flesh.
The problem we have with prayer is that we are addicted to “results”. We lose interest in praying because we often don’t see immediate results. But when we pray, we choose to willingly participate in whatever God is doing . . . even without knowing exactly what He is doing, or how He is going to do it, or when He is going to do it . . . and we may never know!
The truth is, people can accomplish a lot of things that look very good to the world and even to ourselves, just by putting together a really good plan and executing it. But that success becomes hollow without prayer. It will be like eating cotton candy. It just disappears and there is no satisfaction. So we go on to the next plan and then the next and the next until one day we look back and say, “life is a waste of time”. There is an old secular song that says, “is that all there is my friend, then lets keep dancing”. And continue be disappointed.
With constant prayer though, there is a depth of intimacy with God that satisfies our souls and we soon desire to glorify God more than ourselves. We are assimilated into the trinity and become one with God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit . . . and with each other. Which is exactly what Jesus prayed FOR us in His prayer at the last supper.
May you become an expert at using all of the attributes of prayer that Jesus gave us. May you thrive on the foundation of the Lord’s Prayer and breathing spiritual life in and out of your life constantly. May you humble yourself to become transparent and allow others to pray FOR the areas in which you are weakest. And may you not become sleepy about your spiritual life, but be prepared for what is coming through prayer and the through the Holy Word of Truth and through Jesus Christ our Lord. Forever and ever.