Updated: Apr 8
Just east of Jerusalem was an olive grove situated on a ridge separating Jerusalem from the Judean wilderness, the Mount of Olives. Located at the foot of this ridge was the Garden of Gethsemane, the name of which means "oil press" and was a place Jesus often visited (Lk. 22:39). From the Garden, looking back over the Kidron Valley would have provided a panoramic view of the eastern side of the Temple Mound.
Earlier, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, it was here that He looked out over the city and wept (Lk. 19:29, 41). Jesus, after His resurrection, would return here with His disciples as He instructs them and is taken up to heaven (Acts 1:12). The Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane holds an important place in the Scriptures. It is also where a close friend with a kiss betrays Jesus (Lk. 22:39-53). As the Passover Plot unfolds, we pick up our series in the Garden of Gethsemane (Lk. 22:39-48), where, under cover of night, Jesus is handed over, arrested, and placed on trial.
The Garden Temptation
It would have been late at night after the conclusion of the Passover Meal when Jesus got up from the table and headed over to the Mount of Olives, to the Garden. It was a place His disciples knew well as they followed Jesus out. Arriving at the Garden, Jesus tells His disciples, "...Pray that you will not fall into temptation" (Lk. 22:40b).
In the final hours before the cross, Jesus finds Himself tested in a garden. On page three of our Bible (Gen. 3), God's story of redemption begins with the temptation and fall of humans in a garden.
We know the story. Placed before the humans, Adam and Eve, are two trees—the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life (Gen. 2:9). There is a test, will the humans follow the wisdom and instruction of the Lord or will they decide for themselves what is wise? They are tested (or tempted) by the snake, and the man and woman fail the test. They choose what looks wise to them, and they do not follow the wisdom of God.
Genesis 3:6 (NIV)
"When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it."
The first human, the first Adam, fails the test in the Garden. Following the story of God's redemption, the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), Jesus faces a test in the Garden. Will Jesus pass the test, or will He succumb to temptation like others?
The Surrender of Prayer
Jesus' test in the Garden of Gethsemane vividly exposes the humanity of Jesus. In this account, we not only come in the presence of the Divine, but we also come into the presence of Jesus' humanity. We see the authentic stress, sorrow, and anguish of Jesus. We see the humanity of Jesus.
Luke 22:41–44 (NIV)
"He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."
Jesus was distressed. He was in anguish, so much so that He was sweating profusely. Sweat that dropped to the ground like blood would come from your forehead. The snake, present in the Garden as with the first humans, is doing everything he can to cause the second Adam, Jesus, to fail the test.
Jesus finds the disciples sleeping:
Luke 22:45–46 (NIV)
"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."
Notice what the text says, the disciples were sleeping because they were "exhausted from sorrow." We can miss this sometimes. Have you ever been in anguish with such sorrow that you are completely exhausted and no more tears are left? This is where the disciples are; sorrow has filled them. More than likely, the disciples are confronted with Jesus' teaching that He must die. In this state, Jesus recognizes the danger they are in—the danger of depression and of turning away. Jesus' instruction to them is to rely on the strength of God, pray!
We must also be careful when we are overwhelmed with sorrow and anguish. It's not the time to sleep. Instead, recognize the temptation and rely on God's strength as Jesus instructed the disciples. Now is the time to pour your heart out to God in prayer and not close Him off. In the dark hours of Jesus' temptation, Jesus pours His heart out before His Father.
In the example of Jesus, we find His surrender to the Father's wisdom. "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Lk. 22:42). From Matthew's account, we learn that Jesus echoed this prayer three times (Matt. 26:36-46). Unlike the first Adam, Jesus surrenders to the Father's will. The cup does not pass from Him as He submits Himself to the Father's wisdom. The cross is in the foreground, and the Son must go through death as He bears sin so that others may have life through Him.
It Is Finished
Looking out over the Kidron Valley, the torches break the darkness of the night as those fulfilling the Passover Plot are seen coming to arrest Jesus. Jesus has surrendered Himself to the Father's will as He awaits those who would accuse Him. The multitude led by Judas, one of the twelve, betrays Jesus with a kiss (Lk. 22:47-48).
Arrested, Peter denies that he knows Jesus or that he was ever with Him (Lk. 22:54-62). Jesus is mocked and beaten (Lk. 22:63-65) as He is led away to trial. Bounced between Herod and Pilate, who finds no reason Jesus should be put to death (Lk. 23:22). However, the mob shouts all the more, "Crucify him! Crucify him" (Lk. 23:21)!
Placed on a Roman cross, Jesus is raised between two criminals. The Man, Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21) as He cries out, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Lk. 23:34).
Luke 23:44–49 (NIV)
"It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. 47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, "Surely this was a righteous man." 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things."
The body of Jesus was taken down from the cross, wrapped in linen, and laid in a tomb hewed out of rock (Lk. 23:50-55). It seemed the Passover Plot had been complete, Jesus had been crucified.
Bridging The Context
As we take a moment to consider these events for ourselves today, here are a few points that we can take away.
a. When we are exhausted from sorrow and in deep pain, Jesus shows us the example of prayer. We should not close ourselves off from God in times of trial. Instead, these are the times when we should rely on His strength and wisdom as we seek Him in prayer.
b. Each of us will experience times of testing. Noticing these tests and choosing to follow the wisdom of God allows us to grow in our faith.
c. Jesus willingly accepted the cross on our behalf. Through His sacrifice, we have the opportunity for a new life in Him.
Scripture references and quotations:
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
lesson notes: The Garden of Gethsemane
study guide: The Garden of Gethsemane
slides (PDF): The Garden of Gethsemane
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