Matthew 26:36-46 (ESV)
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Jesus and his disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Jesus often met with his disciples in this place, so nothing yet was out of the ordinary for them. Jesus knew what he was facing, and he had to get time alone with God in prayer. He took Peter, James, and John with him and asked them to wait with him. Verse 37 says he began to feel sorrowful and troubled. The Greek words used here for “sorrowful” and “troubled” mean “grieved and deeply distressed.” It is impossible to imagine what Jesus was feeling at this point. Jesus adds, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” This is clearly not normal human anxiety or stress. It wasn’t death that disturbed Jesus. It was the kind of death he faced that was so dreadful. Then Jesus dropped down and put his face to the ground. This posture signified the lowliest kind of prayer possible. Jesus addressed God as his Father and asked, “If it is possible.” Jesus was hoping for some other way to go about all of this, but clearly deferred to the Father’s plan over his own desires as he stated, “Not as I will, but as you will.” When he said, “Let this cup pass,” he acknowledged the severity of what he would undergo. In the Old Testament, the cup often symbolized God’s wrath against sin. Nevertheless, three times he prayed for God’s will to be done.
In verse 40, Jesus speaks directly to Peter. Just before this, Peter insisted he was strong and would never fall away. Now he didn’t have the stamina to stay awake for even an hour. Jesus then said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” and he asked his disciples to pray. When we pray, we acknowledge before God that we need his help. We declare that we don’t have the ability to do what he has called us to do, or live the life he has called us to live if we are left to ourselves. Imagine yourself in the garden with Jesus. What if he told you to watch and pray? Would you do it? If so, then respond by spending some good time in prayer today, no matter how tired you may be. Our willingness must be met with God’s power, and the two come together when we pray.