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Luke 22:41-53 Notes

Luke 22:41-53 - Exegesis


39 And He came out and went, as was His habit, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. 40 Now when He arrived at the place, He said to them, "Pray that you do not come into temptation." 41 And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, 42 saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." 43 [Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground]. 45 When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, 46 and He said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you do not come into temptation."

 "He came out, and went, as his custom was, to the Mount of Olives. His disciples also followed him" (v. 39). Luke includes all the disciples in this scene, unlike Matthew (26:37) and Mark (14:33), who include only Peter, James, and John. Luke previously used this phrase, "as his custom was," to describe Jesus' regular worship in the synagogue (4:16). In his life, Jesus combines the power of public worship (the synagogue) with private worship (prayer on the Mount of Olives), an excellent model for our own lives.

"Pray that you don't enter into temptation" (v. 40). Jesus knows that Satan has demanded the opportunity to "sift" the disciples, and this is their opportunity to pray for help.

"He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and he knelt down and prayed" (v. 41). The usual posture for prayer is standing (18:10-14). Perhaps by kneeling, Jesus is demonstrating his humility in the presence of God or his submission to God's will.

"Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done" (v. 42). This beautiful prayer encapsulates in one sentence both Jesus' desire not to suffer and his submission to the Father. It is an important prayer for us to emulate. God sometimes responds to prayer by granting our petition as requested. In other cases, God permits a different outcome than requested, but transforms that outcome to something desirable. God often transforms our Good Fridays into Easters-but first allows us to suffer the Good Fridays. When we can honestly pray, "Thy will be done," we open the door to the full exercise of God's power and providence in our lives.

"An angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him. Being in agony (Greek: agonia) he prayed more earnestly. His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground" (vv. 43-44).  Some of the earliest manuscripts omit these verses.  Luke omits the angel at Jesus' temptation (4:1-13; see also Matt 4:11; Mark 1:13), but adds it here.

When we use the word agony, we mean extreme suffering.  Some translations use the word anguish, which is extreme emotional suffering.  Neither agony or anguish conveys the full meaning of agonia, which refers to the mixture of excitement and anxiety that a person might experience in a sporting match or a battle.  Jesus' experience on the Mount of Olives is like that of Jacob, who wrestled with the angel (Genesis 32:24-32).

"When he rose up from his prayer, he came to the disciples, and found them sleeping because of grief" (v. 45).  Matthew (26:40-45) and Mark (14:37-41) have Jesus finding the disciples asleep three times, but Luke only once.  Luke also softens the disciples' failure by adding the phrase, "because of grief."  Overwhelmed by circumstances that they can neither control nor understand, they fall asleep.

"Why do you sleep? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation" (v. 46). Every parent knows the frustration that lies behind Jesus' words to the disciples. He knows the hour is critical, told the disciples to prepare, and they failed. Now it is too late. He tells them again to pray, but will be interrupted by the arrival of the crowd.


47 While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading the way for them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. 48 But Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" 49 When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?" 50 And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus responded and said, "Stop! No more of this." And He touched his ear and healed him. 52 And Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, "Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a man inciting a revolt? 53 While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours."

 "Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?" (v. 48). This betrayal is made even more treacherous by Judas' gesture of friendship.

"When those who were around him saw what was about to happen, they said to him, 'Lord, shall we strike with the sword?' A certain one of them struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear" (vv. 49-50). The disciples ask for guidance, but then one of them, without giving Jesus a chance to respond, strikes with his sword. It is easy, from our Monday-morning perspective, to criticize the disciples. However, in a tight spot, confused and afraid, they act like confused, fearful people act. We have to admire their loyalty to Jesus, whom they are trying to defend.

"But Jesus answered, 'Let me at least do this'-and he touched his ear, and healed him" (v. 51). Jesus, of course, knows that God is in charge, and keeps his head amidst the confusion. He stops the violence and repairs the damage. Even now, Jesus is a healer.

We might wonder how the slave feels. A moment ago, he was Jesus' enemy. Now Jesus heals him. Is he grateful? Is he surprised that Jesus would help his enemy? Is he convinced by this demonstration of Jesus' healing power?

What about the disciples? If Jesus had not healed the slave, the authorities would likely have numbered them among the lawless and arrested them. Jesus' attention to the slave's injury allows the authorities to focus their full attention on Jesus, which gives the disciples an opportunity to escape.

"Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and elders, who had come against him, 'Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you in the temple daily, you didn't stretch out your hands against me'" (vv. 52-53a). Jesus draws attention to the fact that they did not act publicly because "they feared the people" (22:2) who would likely come to Jesus defense.

"But this is your hour, and the power of darkness" (v. 53b). Luke told us that, after the temptation, the devil "departed from him (Jesus) until another time" (4:13). The opportune time has come. Not only is the night dark, but it would appear that the powers of darkness are in control.

UTLEY - Bible,org


 39And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. 40When He arrived at the place, He said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation." 41And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, 42saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." 43Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. 44And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.  45When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, 46and said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation."

22:39 "as was His custom to the Mount of Olives" Apparently Jesus used this place often for prayer. There is also the possibility that this was His camp site while in Jerusalem.

The Mount of Olives is really a ridge to the east of Jerusalem running about 2.5 miles. It is about 300-400' higher than the city. This makes it a beautiful place to overlook the holy city and the temple. Jesus apparently camped out here while in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 21:37).

22:40 "When He arrived at the place" Luke never mentions the garden of Gethsemane as Mark (cf. Luke 14:32) and Matthew (cf. Luke 26:36) do.

▣ "Pray that you may not enter into temptation" "Pray" is a present middle (deponent) imperative, which denotes an ongoing command. Jesus faced His hour of trial through His constant fellowship with the Father in prayer. Luke, of all the Gospels, emphasizes Jesus' prayer life.

The term "temptation" is the noun form of the verb peirazō. See Special Topic at Luke 4:2.

22:41 Jesus came to Gethsemane with all His Apostles (except Judas) to pray. Apparently He left the larger group as well as the inner circle of disciples, Peter, James, and John. He then left them and went a short distance away and began to pray (imperfect middle [deponent] indicative), which denotes the beginning of an action in past time or the recurrence of an action (cf. Matt. 26:39,42,44).

▣ "knelt down" Matthew and Mark have Jesus prostrate on the ground (cf. Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:35). Luke has Jesus kneeling. The normal position of Jewish prayer was standing with the eyes and hands lifted to heaven. This experience was not normal in any sense!

22:42 "Father" See Special Topic below.


▣ "if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which implies Jesus' request was possible. This phrase is repeated in all three Synoptic Gospels (cf. Matt. 26:39 and Mark 14:35).

▣ "remove this cup from Me" We are on extremely holy ground here as Jesus' human nature struggles with the Father's will.

This was an OT metaphor for one's destiny (cf. Ps. 16:5; 23:5; Jer. 51:2; Matt. 20:22). It was usually used in a judgmental (i.e., negative) sense (cf. Ps. 11:6; 75:8; Isa. 51:17,22; Jer. 25:15-16,27-28; 49:12; Lam. 4:21; Ezek. 23:31-33; Hab. 2:16). This idiom is often associated with drunkenness, which is another OT metaphor for judgment (cf. Job 21:20; Isa. 29:9; 63:6; Jer. 25:15-16,27-28). Jesus wants out! Fear is not sin. He faced fear with faith; so must we!

▣ "yet not My will, but Yours be done" In this context the true humanity and faith of Jesus shines forth! Though His human nature cries out for deliverance, His heart is set on fulfilling the Father's eternal plan of substitutionary atonement (cf. Gen. 3:15; Isaiah 53; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 2:11-3:13).

The "to be" verb is a Present middle (deponent) imperative. The temptation was to bypass the cross! This was exactly Satan's temptation in the wilderness in Luke 4 (see James S. Stewart, The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ, pp. 39-46).

22:43-44 These verses are found in the ancient manuscript Greek uncial א*, אi2, D, K, L, X, and Delta. They are also found in the quotations of Justin, Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Eusebius, and Jerome. However, they are omitted in MSS P69 [probably] 75, אi1, A, B, N, T, and W, as well as the manuscripts used by Clement of Alexandria and Origen. The UBS4 ranks their omission as "certain" (A).

Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp. 187-194, assumes these verses are an early second century addition to refute docetic (Gnostic) Christologies who denied Christ's humanity and suffering. The church's conflict with Christological heresies was the possible source of many of the early manuscript changes.

The UBS4, NASB, and NRSV bracket these verses, while NKJV, TEV, and NIV have a footnote which says, "some ancient manuscripts omit verses 43 and 44." This information is unique to Luke's Gospel.

22:45 "sleeping from sorrow" Only Luke adds this note to explain why the disciples could not stay awake.


 47While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. 48But Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" 49When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?" 50And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51But Jesus answered and said, "Stop! No more of this." And He touched his ear and healed him. 52Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, "Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber? 53While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours."

22:47 "a crowd" Luke often mentions the crowd of people who followed Jesus to hear His teaching and observe His miracles. It is ironic that now in this verse and 23:4 they are enemies, but in Luke 23:48 (the cross) the crowd who came to watch, grieves and disperses.

▣ "and he approached Jesus to kiss Him" This was a typical greeting of a student for his rabbi (cf. Mark 14:45). It was a sign of affection (cf. Luke 22:48), but here it was a way of pointing to Jesus so that He could be arrested (cf. Mark 14:44; Matt. 26:49).

22:50 John 18:10 names the disciple (Peter) and the High Priest's slave (Malchus).

22:51 This is a present active imperative. This has three possible meanings.

  1. if He is addressing the disciples, it means allow this to happen to Me
  2. if He is addressing the crowd, it means we will put up no more struggle
  3. the NASB (1970) footnote relates this phrase to Jesus' healing of the severed ear, also implying no more violence

 ▣ "and He touched his ear and healed him" Matthew, Mark, and John all mention that Peter cut off the High Priest's slave's ear. Only Luke records the healing. It is uncertain whether Jesus (1) stopped the bleeding or (2) restored the ear. Luke the physician is interested in this.

I wonder whether Malchus became a believer. This must have been a very dramatic moment for all of these men sent to arrest Jesus!

22:52 "chief priests" The reason for the plural is that since the Romans occupied Palestine, the High Priesthood had been a political plumb purchased by a family. It is doubtful that the High Priest himself came to the garden, but probably his representatives from the Sanhedrin (elders).

▣ "with swords and clubs" The Romans would have had swords and the Temple police (officers, see note at Luke 22:4) would have had the clubs.

22:53 This verse relates to the temple police and the representatives of the Sanhedrin. It is a penetrating question and accusation. As Jesus had His prophetic "hour" (definite article, cf. Matt. 26:45; Mark 14:35,41), so too, did these forces and pawns of evil (authority of darkness). Jesus' arrest, trials, death, and resurrection were all part of God's plan of redemption.


JW Commentary - Luke 22:39-43

Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39)

"Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him." (Luke 22:39)

The phrase translated "as usual" (NIV) or "as he was wont" (KJV) is Greek kata ho ethos. The noun is ethos, "habit, usage."1040 The Greek phrase means, "according to his habit or custom." Earlier, Luke explains,

"Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives" (Luke 21:37).

It was a rhythm of life that week of the Festival -- days in the temple, evenings on the Mount of Olives, located across the Kidron Valley from the city.

The Brook Kidron runs along a shallow canyon on the east side of Jerusalem. Across that brook begins a mile-long ridge paralleling the eastern part of the city, a hill that rises about 150 higher than Jerusalem itself. Near the base of that hill is the traditional location of Gethsemane. Luke does not use the term Gethsemane, "olive press;" the term is found in Matthew and Mark. Instead Luke calls it the "Mount of Olives." John calls it a kēpos, "garden" or "orchard" (John 18:1), an olive orchard that had just leafed out a month or two before.

Notice the phrase, "his disciples followed him." The verb in Greek is akoloutheō, "to follow someone as a disciple, be a disciple, follow."1041 The disciples followed him when the crowds acclaimed him and when life was filled with miracles. They also accompanied him -- indeed, were invited to join him -- when his humanity was showing, when he faced temptation in deep turmoil and anguish. Jesus was not a loner-leader, he was a leader who allowed his disciples to be close to him -- even though that openness allowed one to betray him, as followers sometimes do their leaders.

Pray that You Resist Temptation (Luke 22:40)

"On reaching the place, he said to them, 'Pray that you will not fall into temptation.'" (Luke 22:40)

Jesus gives his disciples the same advice that he himself will shortly follow: to pray in the crisis, that the temptation will not get the better of them.

The verb "pray" is the common Greek word, proseuchomai. The content of the prayer is expressed by a Greek verbal infinitive, eiserchomai, "enter," figuratively "come into something = share in something."1042 Jesus doesn't encourage them to pray that they won't be tempted. They are tempted. Temptation is a fact of human life that neither we nor Jesus can escape. But they pray that they won't "enter into" or give into the temptation. Disciples, how do we resist temptation? Through prayer. That is the simple but vital lesson of this passage.

Kneeling in Prayer (Luke 22:41)

"He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed." (Luke 22:41)

Matthew and Mark mention that Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with him, and then moves a bit farther from them, but Luke omits this detail. Luke uses the Greek verb apospaō, "draw or pull away ... withdraw,"1043 and describes the distance as "a stone's throw." How far is a stone's throw? my precise mind asks. A little ways. Luke doesn't tell us exactly. The point is that Jesus is alone -- within hearing distance, but alone.

His posture here is different from any other time we see Jesus. The typical Jewish prayer posture of the day was standing, with eyes open and lifted to heaven.1044 Here Jesus kneels, perhaps to reflect his urgency and humility. The Greek expression is "to bend the knees" and is found occasionally in the New Testament.1045

It is remarkable that we see Jesus in this posture only once, but that in our day kneeling is considered by some traditions preferable over standing for prayer. Our prayer posture should not be decided by tradition but by our relationship and the needs of our communication with God. If standing or walking suits the situation, then that is proper. If kneeling or bowing or lying prostrate fits, then that is appropriate. Most artistic renderings of Jesus in the Garden show him with hands folded or fingers entwined, but I doubt that it was so. I know of no Jewish precedent for folding hands in prayer, and much indication that hands would be lifted in prayer.1046 The verb for prayer in this verse is the common proseuchomai, "pray."

Father (Luke 22:42)

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)

The content of Jesus' prayer, no doubt heard and remembered by disciples who later fell asleep, is remarkable.   The prayer has four parts:

  1. Address. "Father"
  2. Condition. "... if you are willing..."
  3. Petition. "take this cup from me..."
  4. Submission. "... yet not my will, but yours be done."

Let's look at each part in turn.

Address: Father (Luke 22:42a)

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)

When you can observe a person under pressure, you learn a great deal about him or her. The disciples had the privilege of observing Jesus near the cracking point of intense pressure. Isn't it wonderful that at this point, Jesus' assured address is simply, "Father"? Mark's Gospel includes the more intimate Aramaic word, "Abba."

When you and I are desperate before someone who can change our situation, we are tempted to grovel. We employ the official language used to herald monarchs -- trumpets blowing, citizens bowing:

"Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith."

But Jesus is Son of God, King of kings, Lord of lords, Only Begotten, Suffering Servant, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Bright and Morning Star, Alpha and Omega, Lamb of God -- Jesus has nothing to prove.

"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped...." (Philippians 2:6-8)

When he prays, he calls him simply "Father," and invites you and me to do the same (Luke 11:12). 

There is something wonderfully comforting about the immense privilege of calling God "Father." He is our Father when our whole world is awry, when we are the point of death -- and beyond. He is forever Father.

Condition: If You Are Willing (Luke 22:42b)

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)

Jesus states a condition in this desperate prayer: "If you are willing...." This is a bit different from Matthew's and Mark's accounts:

"If it is possible...." (Matthew 26:39) "Everything is possible for you." (Mark 14:36)

But the difference is only on the surface. What the Father wills is possible. Jesus is asking if the Father can, in the realm of his will and purpose, create a way for Jesus to avoid the cross. Luke records the absolute condition of his prayer, "If you are willing...." The Greek word is boulomai, used primarily in the New Testament, as in Hellenistic Judaism, in the sense of "wishing, desiring, intending."1047

Yes, the will of God is great and creative. We can fail and get out of the will of God, and when we surrender again, God can create a whole new future for us. But Jesus' desire is for the Father's best, for the Father's highest, for the Father's desire and intention. Only if Jesus' prayer can be answered within the scope of his Father's intention does he want it answered. Only then. Only if you are desirous, my Father.

Jesus takes time to listen. Matthew and Mark record the fact that Jesus prayed this prayer three different times on that long, long evening in Gethsemane. Three times.

We are content to bop into the throne room, toss God a contract bearing our plans, and ask for his signature. Please rubber-stamp this, God, and I won't bother you. It's just a formality anyway. How blasphemously we trifle with the Father's will! Not Jesus. He doesn't ask if the Father will permit it; he asks if the Father desires it -- a huge difference. Only, Father, if you desire it, do I make this petition.

Petition: Take This Cup from Me (Luke 22:42c)

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)

This is the petition: Jesus asks the Father to remove the cup from him. The verb is Greek parapherō, originally "carry beside," but in the New Testament it means "take away, carry away, remove."1048 The Greek word for "cup" is poterion, "cup, drinking vessel," and is used in the Old Testament as an expression for destiny in both good and bad senses.1049 But especially it refers to the infliction of punishment associated with the wrath of God, to-wit:  Awake, awake!  Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger." (Isaiah 51:17)

"This is what your Sovereign Lord says, your God, who defends his people:   'See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again." (Isa 51:22)

"This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: 'Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrathand make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.'" (Jeremiah 25:15)

"Jesus said to [James + John], 'Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?'  'We can,' they answered. Jesus said to them, 'You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant.'" (Mt 20:22-23)

"Jesus commanded Peter, 'Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?'" (Jn 18:11)

Jesus has a mission, a destiny. On earth, Jesus wasn't all knowing. This was part of the glory of divinity that he had voluntarily laid aside for a time (Philippians 2:7) when he "emptied" himself (Greek kenoō). As a baby, of course, he did not know all things; he learned them (Luke 2:52). As a boy he began to comprehend. In his teen years he knew more (Luke 2:49). And as he prepared for his ministry before and after his baptism, and then in the desert, the Father revealed to him the full scope of the "cup" that he would drink, the destiny to which he was called, the mission he was sent to accomplish. The Scriptures spoke to him as his Father interpreted them to him.

The Destiny of the Sin-Bearer

As Jesus reads Isaiah 53 in synagogue school, he begins to understand. He is not just a teacher, an expounder of truth. He is the Redeemer.

"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.   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.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all....  He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.  For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:4-6, 12)

He is the Sacrifice itself. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He doesn't come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a Ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He is the Sin-Bearer for the people. He is the Righteous One who dies for the sins of the unrighteous to bring them to God (1 Peter 3:18).

But the destiny of the Sin-Bearer is utter desecration as the gross and despicable sins of mankind begin to weigh upon him with an unbearable weight of filth before the Lord -- lust and hatred, greed and deceit, theft and blithe promiscuity, anger and murder, selfishness and betrayal. Sins that deserve death, iniquities that inevitably drive their perpetrators into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Revelation 20:14-15; 21:8; Matthew 25:41).

In the Garden he can almost feel what it will be like tomorrow when the sheer weight of the sins of his people literally crush him and snuff out his life.

And what of his blessed communion with his Father? How can that continue while he becomes fatally infected with sin, and sins, and innumerable sins of billions and billions of his kind who had inhabited and do inhabit and will inhabit this globe? What of sweet fellowship and trust? Of prayer and joy in his Father? There is no fellowship with sin or the sin-bearer. No wonder that he in agony shouts out on the cross the cry of desolation that begins Psalm 22: "My God, my God, why have you utterly forsaken me!" (Mark 15:34)

I do not know, nor can you, what this means. We have felt pain and agony perhaps, and might imagine what it might be like to be tortured to death until we suffocate upright, too weak to lift our bodies to take another breath. But the crushing load of sin? How can we understand? We cannot.

Is Jesus' plea to the Father one of weakness? Perhaps. But perhaps not. Perhaps it is a prayer to spare the Father what it will cost him, too. We can imagine the pain to the Son, but can we imagine the pain to the Father? Can we imagine how the very unity of the Trinity is threatened by the cross? Can we imagine the tension of love stretched to its very limits in putting to death the Son for sin? We cannot. Does Jesus pray this prayer to spare the Father the pain of separation? Perhaps. We cannot know.

But we do know that "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

We do know that Jesus, "for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).

We do know that Christ Jesus, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:6-8)

His cup was drunk down to the very dregs, to take on himself the wrath of God that we deserve for our sin. Can we fault him for praying, "Take this cup from me"?

Submission: Not My Will but Yours (Luke 22:42d)

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)

And now he prays the fourth part of this prayer of desperation:

He prays, "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done." In this last part of 12:42, the noun "will" is Greek thelēma. By New Testament times, the thelō word group means much the same as the boulomai word group discussed above on the first part of verse 42a. Here, thelēma means, "preference, will."  The conjunction used here is Greek plēn. It is part of a grammatical construction that indicates "on the one hand ... nevertheless" or "indeed ... but." It is a strong adversative.  In spite of Jesus' petition, this clause stands: Your will is primary, mine is secondary. Jesus yields, submits, surrenders to the Father's decision. Jesus has a preference -- that the cup be removed. But he voluntarily surrenders that preference if the Father's will differs.

Too often we make the mistake of praying surrender prayers without ever owning up to our own will in the matter. Instead of petitioning God to do any specific thing at all, we pray: "Let your will be done." That is good, but that is not real petition, and sometimes it can be a cop-out for determining how we really should pray. It is not wrong to come to God with a preference. But, following Jesus, after we have clearly stated our preference openly, it is then appropriate to pray, "yet not my will, but yours be done."

If we never surface and state -- and deliberately set aside for the moment -- our own preference, we run the risk of "hearing" God say what we want him to say. It is important to sort out what we want and ask for that -- it is not wrong -- before submitting to God's will, whatever that might be. Our will may very well be God's will. But it may not be. To discern God's will, we must state our own will and then surrender it to God -- become neutral about the outcome if God were to desire some other outcome than ours. That is real surrender.

In this prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane, we have one of the foundational prayers of the entire Bible. Let us learn its lessons well.

Strengthened by an Angel (Luke 22:43)

"An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him." (Luke 22:43)

Verses 22:43-44 don't appear in a substantial number of ancient Greek manuscripts, though most modern versions include them in the text.1053 Both verses are remarkable in what they add to the picture of Jesus in Gethsemane beyond the story related by the Matthew and Mark.

Angelic help is found in various places in the Bible (1 Kings 19:5-6; Daniel 10:17-18; Isaiah 41:9-10; 42:6). Jesus is strengthened by angels after his temptation by Satan in the desert (Mark 1:13; Matthew 4:11). Here the text says that the angel "appeared to him," using the passive Greek verb oraō, "become visible, appear."1054 Jesus saw this angel. But the angel also assisted him, Greek enischuō, "cause to recover from loss of strength, strengthen."1055

This raises a question. Is Jesus the only one who rates being strengthened by angels? How about his followers? I have no doubt that many believers have been visited and strengthened by angels at the times of their extreme struggles. We may or may not be aware of the angels. They may appear as human encouragers. Indeed, I am sure that God sends humans as well as angels to strengthen his children. All this is part of God's promise for us, "I will never leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

A few minutes after Jesus' prayer in the Garden, he is strongly aware of angels, for he admonishes his disciples not to resist his captors:

"Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" (Matthew 26:53-54)

God's answer to Jesus' prayer was not to remove the cup but to provide strength for the ordeal.1056

Sweat Like Drops of Blood (Luke 22:44)

"And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."

Jesus' need for strength is underscored by the degree of stress he was under, and as he received strength from the angel, he was enabled to pray even harder.

The word "anguish" translates Greek agōnia. Initially, the word was used similarly to agōn, "an athletic contest" and then, generally, as a "struggle, fight." In the New Testament agōnia means "agony, anxiety."1057 The depth of that stress is matched by Jesus' earnest prayer, Greek ektenēs, "eagerly, fervently, constantly," from the verb ekteinō, "stretch out, stretch forth."1058

Luke describes Jesus as sweating profusely in this earnest contest of prayer. While instances have been cited of blood appearing in one's sweat at times of stress or terror,1059 I think it is more likely that the analogy is more with the dripping of the sweat than to its color or content. In other words: sweat was falling like drops of blood fall.1060

Why Are You Sleeping? (Luke 22:45-46)

"When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 'Why are you sleeping?' he asked them. 'Get up and pray so that you will not fall (eiserchomai) into temptation.'"

 Jesus has been pouring out his heart in prayer, but his disciples have fallen asleep. Why does Jesus come back to them? Matthew and Mark record that Jesus prays and then returns to his disciples three times. Why? I can't help but think that he is seeking their companionship and encouragement in his struggle. This may be too "human" for your view of the God-Man, but I think the humanness of Jesus seeks human comfort here.

Unfortunately, he does not find it in those closest to him. They have fallen asleep. Luke gives us the telling phrase, "exhausted (koimaō, "sleeping") from sorrow." Have you ever wept and grieved so much that you become exhausted by it? Have you ever been under such stress that you live in a state of exhaustion? They, too, are suffering grief, Greek lypē, "grief, sorrow, pain" of mind or spirit, "affliction."1061 They have heard their Leader agonizing a few steps away, they can sense his struggle and are bewildered at the same time as they are grieved by it.

But they cannot stay awake.

Though they cannot help him that night in the Garden, they must help themselves, for they, too, are about to undergo a crisis in a few hours that in the dark of this night is unimaginable. They will see their Master arrested, spat upon, tried, convicted, sentenced, crucified, dead, and buried before night falls tomorrow. And most of them do not avoid the temptation that awaits them.

Jesus' words, of course, fit your situation and mine, too. Were the disciples sleeping? Yes, literally, but too often we sleep spiritually. We don't watch. We don't tarry in prayer. We don't stay spiritually alert. And we don't "arise" (Greek anistēmi, "stand up, get up"), as Jesus urged his disciples to do in the Garden, but are content with our spiritual sloth.

We must pray if we expect to avoid entering into temptation. And we will be tempted; there is no doubt about that. It seems like the days on which the temptation seems the strongest are those days when we haven't prepared ourselves in prayer. A coincidence? I think not.

Jesus was strengthened by prayer. He did resist the temptation of avoiding the cup that was so repugnant to him. He did the Father's will no matter the cost. If Jesus needed to pray to resist temptation, how much more do we?

As I consider the lessons of Gethsemane for us disciples, I see four that stand out clearly:

  1. The way of the cross was far more costly for Jesus and his Father than we can possibly imagine,
  2. It is quite appropriate to state to the Father our own will in a given situation,
  3. Even strong men and women must learn to voluntarily bend their wills to the Father's, and
  4. We disciples must learn to watch and pray so that we, too, may resist temptation.

PRAYER: Father, the more I try to imagine what it was like that night in Gethsemane, the more I weep for you and Jesus. I weep for the love you have for me and my kind. To face what Jesus faced, to go through what he went through in order to purify and set me free is amazing. I am weak, but I seek to become strong like Jesus. Please teach me to pray earnestly that I might not enter into the temptations that constantly pester me. Make me like Jesus. And thank you that I can call you my Father. What a blessing! In Jesus' holy name, I pray. Amen.