Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Luke 22:39-46
The six verses of our text underscore for us that the significance of a text cannot always be determined by its length. Sometimes, as we see here, we must discern the significance of the text by its weight or its density. Several indicators point to the crucial importance of our passage. First, the prominent activity of our passage is prayer. From a combined view of Gethsemane gained by a comparison of the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we find that our Lord instructed the disciples to pray three times. They were to pray that they would not fall into temptation. Jesus prayed and persevered. The disciples did not, and they failed. Jesus spent what appears to be at least three agonizing hours in prayer.
Second, note that this is our Lord’s final act before He is arrested, tried, and put to death. So too these are His last words spoken to the disciples, His final instructions to them. A person’s last words are very often of great import, as these words of our Lord are to the disciples, and to us.
Third, there is an emotional intensity to what is described here. The disciples, Luke tells us, are overcome by sorrow, which is manifested by their drowsiness and slumber. Jesus is, according to Matthew and Mark, “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:34). Never before have we seen Jesus so emotionally distraught. He has faced a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee, totally composed and unruffled. He has faced demonic opposition, satanic temptation, and the grilling of Jerusalem’s religious leaders, with total composure. But here in the Garden, the disciples must have been greatly distressed by what (little) they saw.Here, Jesus cast Himself to the ground, agonizing in prayer. Something terrible was going to happen. Jesus knew it, and the disciples were beginning to comprehend it as well.
Three times Jesus urged His disciples to “pray that they would not fall into temptation,” that is, that they would not succumb to it. Having charged His disciples with their duty to pray for themselves, Jesus went off from them a little way—about a stone’s throw, Luke tells us—and began to pray Himself. Our Lord’s prayer, while it had three sessions, and it took up a fair amount of time, could be summed up in these words, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
The last two verses conclude the section on the Garden of Gethsemane and lead us right to the point of our Lord’s arrest. In verse 47, Luke will go on to tell us that it was as Jesus was saying these words (of verses 45-46) that Judas and the arresting party arrived on the scene. In a general description of the disciples as a whole, Luke informs us that when Jesus returned to the place where His disciples were to be “watching and praying” He found them asleep. Luke alone tells us that their sleep was induced by sorrow. This was not merely physical fatigue, or the lateness of the hour, nor apathy. The disciples, I believe (cf. “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak,” Mark 14:38) wanted desperately to “stay awake” and to “keep watch” with Him, but could not. Their sorrow, perhaps somewhat vaguely understood or recognized by them, was too much for them.
The human weakness of the disciples did not totally excuse the disciples, however, and thus the final rebuke of the Savior in verse 46. They were urged, one final time, to awaken, to arise, and to pray, so that they would not fall into temptation. There was no more time.
1. Christians are either alert or asleep. What are key characteristics of an alert leader?
2. The disciples had many reasons to be exhausted or tired and yet Jesus’ final rebuke to his disciples was to wake up. What areas do you believe that Jesus would say to modern day business owners to “wake up?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ken Gosnell serves leaders by helping them to have great experiences that both transform them and their organizations. He has worked with hundreds of CEOS and their leadership teams to enhance their strategic, operational and people accomplishments. He is an author, coach, and strategic partner with CEOs. He is married to Shonda, and they have four children. You can connect with him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kengosnell/
Take the CEO Experience Impact Score. Learn what areas of your leadership holding you back and what areas can push you forward. Get your score by taking the assessment here.