Sabbath, March 11, 2017
“I beheld Jesus in the garden with His disciples. In deep sorrow He bade them watch and pray, lest they should enter into temptation. He knew that their faith was to be tried, and their hopes disappointed, and that they would need all the strength which they could obtain by close watching and fervent prayer. With strong cries and weeping, Jesus prayed, ‘Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done.’ The Son of God prayed in agony. Great drops of blood gathered upon His face and fell to the ground. Angels were hovering over the place, witnessing the scene, but only one was commissioned to go and strengthen the Son of God in His agony…, for the plan had been laid, and it must be fulfilled.” –Early Writings, p. 167.
Together in prayer
1. Where did Jesus go with the disciples after the last supper and their last conversation? Why did He go there?
John 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.
Luke 22:39 And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
Matthew 26:36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
“Jesus and the disciples were on the way to Gethsemane, at the foot of Mount Olivet, a retired spot which He had often visited for meditation and prayer. The Saviour had been explaining to His disciples His mission to the world, and the spiritual relation to Him which they were to sustain.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 674.
“Above the throne is revealed the cross; and like a panoramic view appear the scenes of Adam’s temptation and fall, and the successive steps in the great plan of redemption. The Saviour’s lowly birth; His early life of simplicity and obedience; His baptism in Jordan; the fast and temptation in the wilderness; His public ministry, unfolding to men heaven’s most precious blessings; the days crowded with deeds of love and mercy, the nights of prayer and watching in the solitude of the mountains; the plottings of envy, hate, and malice which repaid His benefits; the awful, mysterious agony in Gethsemane beneath the crushing weight of the sins of the whole world;…” –The Great Controversy, p. 666.
Praying for others
2. What was the Saviour’s concern at this moment? What did He ask His disciples to do at that particularly sorrowful time?
Matthew 26:37, 38 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
“In the wilderness of temptation, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross, our Saviour measured weapons with the prince of darkness. His wounds became the trophies of His victory in behalf of the race. When Christ hung in agony upon the cross, while evil spirits rejoiced and evil men reviled, then indeed His heel was bruised by Satan. But that very act was crushing the serpent’s head. Through death He destroyed ‘him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.’ Hebrews 2:14. This act decided the destiny of the rebel chief, and made forever sure the plan of salvation. In death He gained the victory over its power; in rising again, He opened the gates of the grave to all His followers. In that last great contest we see fulfilled the prophecy, ‘It shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise His heel.’ Genesis 3:15.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 701, 702.
Choosing between the human will and God’s will
3. In what position did He pray? Facing the bitter cup of the consequences of human sin, what did He ask the Father? Nevertheless, what was He willing to accept?
Matthew 26:39 And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
Mark 14:35, 36 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
Luke 22:41, 42 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 42Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
“God knows the end from the beginning. He is acquainted with the hearts of all men. He reads every secret of the soul. He knows whether those for whom prayer is offered would or would not be able to endure the trials that would come upon them should they live. He knows whether their lives would be a blessing or a curse to themselves and to the world. This is one reason why, while presenting our petitions with earnestness, we should say, ‘Nevertheless not my will, but Thine, be done.’ Luke 22:42. Jesus added these words of submission to the wisdom and will of God when in the Garden of Gethsemane He pleaded, ‘O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.’ Matthew 26:39. And if they were appropriate for Him, the Son of God, how much more are they becoming on the lips of finite, erring mortals!” –The Ministry of Healing, p. 230.
“In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ suffered in man’s stead, and the human nature of the Son of God staggered under the terrible horror of the guilt of sin, until from His pale and quivering lips was forced the agonizing cry, ‘O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.’… Human nature would then and there have died under the horror of the sense of sin, had not an angel from heaven strengthened Him to bear the agony…. Christ was suffering the death that was pronounced upon the transgressors of God’s law.” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 168.
4. When He returned to seek comfort from the disciples, what did He find? What earnest instruction did He give them so they would not fall in the hour of temptation?
Matthew 26:40, 41 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
“Rising with painful effort, He staggered to the place where He had left His companions. But He ‘findeth them asleep.’ Had He found them praying, He would have been relieved. Had they been seeking refuge in God, that satanic agencies might not prevail over them, He would have been comforted by their steadfast faith. But they had not heeded the repeated warning, ‘Watch and pray.’… They did not realize the necessity of watchfulness and earnest prayer in order to withstand temptation.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 688.
“In the warning to ‘watch and pray,” Jesus has indicated the only safe course. There is need of watchfulness. Our own hearts are deceitful; we are compassed with the weaknesses and frailties of humanity, and Satan is intent to destroy. We may be off our guard, but our adversary is never idle. Knowing his tireless vigilance, let us not sleep, as do others, but ‘watch and be sober.’ The spirit and influence of the world must be met, but they must not be allowed to take possession of the mind and heart.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 409.
5. Were the disciples aware of how serious the situation was? While the Lord again sought intimate contact with His Father, what did the drowsy disciples do?
Matthew 26:42, 43 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. 43And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
Mark 14:40 And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him.
“When in the garden of Gethsemane, the cup of suffering was placed in the Saviour’s hand, the thought came to Him, Should He drink it or should He leave the world to perish in sin? His suffering was too great for human comprehension. As the agony of soul came upon Him, ‘His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’ Luke 22:44. The mysterious cup trembled in His hand.” –This Day with God, p. 49.
Help to drink the cup
6. When the disciples were incapable of supplying comfort or help, who came to support Jesus in that most trying hour? How intense was His agony as He communed with His Father? Share your thoughts about how difficult you imagine it was for the Saviour as His life was being drained away for man’s benefit.
Luke 22:43, 44 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 44And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
“In this awful crisis, when everything was at stake, the mighty angel who stands in God’s presence, came to the side of Christ, not to take the cup from His hand, but to strengthen Him to drink it, with the assurance of the Father’s love.
“Christ drank of the cup, and this is the reason that sinners can come to God and find pardon and grace. But those who share in Christ’s glory must share also in His suffering….” –This Day with God, p. 49.
“This is a self-denying way. And when you think that the way is too strait, that there is too much self-denial in this narrow path; when you say, How hard to give up all, ask yourselves the question, What did Christ give up for me? This question puts anything that we may call self-denial in the shade. Behold Him in the garden, sweating great drops of blood. A solitary angel is sent from heaven to strengthen the Son of God. Follow Him on His way to the judgment hall, while He is derided, mocked, and insulted by that infuriated mob.
“… Behold Him hanging upon the cross those dreadful hours of agony until the angels veil their faces from the horrid scene, and the sun hides its light, refusing to behold. Think of these things, and then ask, Is the way too strait? No, no.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 240.
Prayer for strength
7. The disciples gave Jesus no comfort or relief through prayer when they could have done so. Did they do it later as the danger increased? How might their experience have been very different if they had stayed awake and prayed with their Master?
Matthew 26:44-46 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.
Luke 22:45, 46 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, 46And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
“The Saviour of the world arose and sought His disciples, and, for the third time, found them fast asleep. He looked sorrowfully upon them. His words, however, aroused them….” –Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, p. 102.
“Again Christ sought His disciples, and again He found them sleeping. Had they remained awake, watching and praying with their Saviour, they would have received help for the trial before them. Missing this, they had no strength in their hour of need.” –The Story of Jesus, p. 106.
“If they had remained watching they would not have lost their faith as they beheld the Son of God dying upon the cross. This important night watch should have been signalized by noble mental struggles and prayers, which would have brought them strength to witness the unspeakable agony of the Son of God. It would have prepared them, as they should behold His sufferings upon the cross, to understand something of the nature of the overpowering anguish which He endured in the Garden of Gethsemane. And they would have been better able to recall the words He had spoken to them in reference to His sufferings, death, and resurrection; and, amid the gloom of that terrible, trying hour, some rays of hope would have lighted up the darkness and sustained their faith.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 205.
- Has anyone ever made an experience such as Jesus suffered in Gethsemane?
- Think about the times when you received strength to cope with the most difficult situations in life.
- What lesson can we learn from Jesus’ great endurance in prayer?
- What attitudes do we need to change?
For additional study
“It is a fearful thing for the unrepenting sinner to fall into the hands of the living God. This is proved by the history of the destruction of the old world by a flood, by the record of the fire which fell from heaven and destroyed the inhabitants of Sodom. But never was this proved to so great an extent as in the agony of Christ, the Son of the infinite God, when He bore the wrath of God for a sinful world. It was in consequence of sin, the transgression of God’s law, that the Garden of Gethsemane has become pre-eminently the place of suffering to a sinful world. No sorrow, no agony, can measure with that which was endured by the Son of God.” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 168.