After the supper, Jesus took the disciples out of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives to a place to pray. Luke does not name the place, but the other gospel writers call it the Garden of Gethsemane. He had been doing this regularly, since Luke says “as was his custom”. (39) Luke 21:37 says he taught in the temple by day and went out of the city at night and lodged on the Mount of Olives (Olivet).
He left the disciples with an instruction to pray. Specifically, he told them to pray they would not fall into temptation. A long and difficult night was coming, as well as several difficult days, and they needed to be strong to withstand the temptation to fall away. (40) This is the same instruction he gave them in the model prayer, to pray that God would not lead them into temptation. (Matthew 6:13) It is a worthy prayer for us also.
Jesus himself went further into the garden and prayed alone. The normal posture of prayer was to stand, but Jesus knelt. This indicates the stress and agony he felt. He asked the God “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done”. (42)
We can tell from his prayer that Jesus knew what was coming and that it would be bad. We knew this also because he had told the disciples several times that he would be killed. And he knew the Old Testament prophecies of his death.
Jesus asked, if it was the Father’s will, that the “cup” be removed from him. This is Old Testament imagery. The cup is a metaphor for one’s destiny, but particularly for experiencing God’s wrath.
For example, Psalm 16:5 says “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” Isaiah 51:17 says “Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you have have drunk from the hand of the LORD, the cup of his wrath.” In Jeremiah 25:15, God told Jeremiah to “take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it”.
On the cross, Jesus would bear the wrath of God for our sins. He bore the Father’s wrath so that we would not be required to do so. Romans 5:9 says “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
That wrath of God will be poured out on all those who are not in Christ at the end of this age. Revelation 20:15 says anyone who’s name is not found in the Book of Life is thrown into the lake of fire. That means hell, the place of eternal suffering.
But, those who are in Christ, will not suffer God’s wrath, because Jesus did so in our place (“for us”). “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us…” (1 Thessalonians 5:9)
So, Jesus knew the cross would be terribly painful to his body. But he also knew bearing the wrath of his Father, with whom he had always been one, would be painful and terrifying. He was in agony. (44) The Greek word anoxia means a bitter striving in a fierce conflict. He was in a violent conflict as his human nature rebelled against the suffering to come.
J. C. Ryle wrote: “How can we account for the deep agony which Our Lord underwent in the garden? What reason can we assign for the intense suffering, both mentally and bodily, which He manifestly endured? There is one one satisfactory answer. It was caused by the burden of a world’s imputed sin”.
Yet, as bad as Jesus knew his suffering and death would be, he submitted to the Father’s will. He struggled, in his human nature, because no human wants to suffer pain and death. He struggled, but he submitted to the will of the Father.
In this we see the truth of Hebrews 4:15:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
We also are called to suffer. Sadly, in a world where many preach that we come to Jesus and get all good things we want, the mark of a disciple is the willingness to suffer for Jesus. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake… (Philippians 1:29) Like Job, we say “Though he slay me, I will hope in him”. That is the example of Jesus. It is also the instruction from Jesus, who said we should pray “your will be done”. (Matthew 6:10)
The Father’s will was that Jesus die. Therefore, he did not grant the request to remove the cup from Jesus. But he did send an angel to strengthen Jesus. (43) Then Jesus prayed even more earnestly. He was so anguished that he sweated blood. We are not told what he prayed, but it was likely for strength to finish his mission, bear his suffering, and bring glory to the Father.
Think of the love Jesus has for us. He endured this horror for us. That must be why Luke recorded it in such detail. Jesus suffered for us, so that we would not suffer the wrath of God.
Realize that the Father may not remove every trial from you when you ask.
He will be with you and help you. He may even send an angel!
“Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)
When Jesus finished praying, he went back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He must have felt terribly alone. They had already begun to fail him. He told them to wake up and pray that they would not enter into temptation. (46)
It was too late for the disciples to pray. While Jesus was speaking, Judas arrived with a crowd. (47) The crowd included the chief priests, the officers of the temple, and some elders. (52)
Judas attempted to identify Jesus to the crowd by kissing him. This was a standard greeting among friends and family, even among men, in the Middle East. It was also a common way for a disciple to greet his master. But Jesus would not allow it. In fact, he challenged him, saying “would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss”? (48)
It was such a big betrayal. Jesus chose Judas as one of the Twelve. He taught him, traveled with him, performed miracles in his presence, saved him from a storm, washed his feet, and lived with him for three years. Judas knew where to find Jesus because he had been there with him. Jesus and Judas had been master and disciple, but also friends.
The disciples woke up and thought about the previous discussion regarding swords. They asked if they should strike with the sword. Peter, here just called “one of them”, struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. (50) Of course it was Peter, always impetuous, but also wanting to show Jesus he would not deny him, but fight for him.
Jesus stopped the fight, saying “no more of this”. He was going to submit to the authorities, for that was the Father’s will. He also set the tone for his disciples, not fighting, but even healing the servant who was injured. (51) Christianity is not about fighting, it is about suffering for the sake of the Lord and the gospel.
Jesus did rebuke the crowd, though. He mentioned that they came after him with weapons when he was in the temple everyday and could have been arrested. This was his way of pointing out that they were afraid of the crowds who respected Jesus, so they came at night and secretly.
His strongest condemnation, though, was pointing out more than their cowardice. He said their power came from Satan. It was their hour and the power of darkness, the devil. (53)
The New Testament is full of light versus darkness metaphors. Darkness is evil and the forces of Satan in the world. That darkness remains today and is our enemy. Paul wrote that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil. (Ephesians 6:12)
And so Jesus was seized. He was arrested and in custody. They brought him to the high priest’s house for a trial.
Peter Denies Jesus
When Jesus arrived at the house of the high priest, Caiaphas, the crowd sat down in the courtyard around a fire. It is likely there were too many people to get into the house, so only the leaders went in to report on the arrest of Jesus. Everyone else stayed in the courtyard.
Peter had trailed along behind the crowd. People noticed him. The first was a servant girl. She identified Peter as being with Jesus. Either she recognized Peter or recognized the he was a Galilean. Peter denied it, saying “woman, I do not know him”. (57) This was his first denial of Jesus.
Someone else also identified Peter as being one of the disciples, but Peter denied it. (58) Finally, a third person realized Peter was a Galilean and identified him. (59) A rooster crowed while Peter was still speaking.
At the moment, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. The New International Version reads “he looked straight at” Peter. Peter remembered the prophecy of Jesus regarding his betrayal. It had come true. Peter, confident he was strong and tough, had denied Jesus, too afraid to stand for him. Realizing what he had done, he went out and wept bitterly. (62)
The depth of Peter’s failure must have hurt him deeply. Peter believed, but he had not stood. All who love Jesus grieve deeply when they sin.
Luke does not record it, but John shows us that Jesus restored Peter both to fellowship and to leadership. (John 21)
Thank God today for your salvation. If you have not been saved, believe on and follow him today, so that you avoid the wrath of God for eternity. And realize, even the believer who fails miserably will be restored and forgiven when he returns to Christ.