The text for this lesson is Matthew 26:36–56.
- In the face of treachery, violence, cowardice, and all kinds of evil, Jesus steadfastly serves the Father’s will to fulfill the Scriptures and save His people.
- Law:Our prayers and courage falter in the face of fatigue and threat of physical harm.
- Gospel: Jesus prays for us and suffers all, even to the point of death, in order to rescue us.
- Jesus has entered Jerusalem as a king, challenged the false teaching of the Jerusalem elite, and celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples. Knowing that trial and temptation will soon be upon Him, Jesus goes to Gethsemane, a secluded garden on the Mount of Olives, in order to pray. In the same way Jesus, the Son of God, prayed to His Father in all circumstances, so we ought to pray. Especially when faced with temptation, we can pray to be delivered. Although Jesus does suffer death according to the Scriptures (Matthew 26:54, 56), He is finally delivered and vindicated through the resurrection (Acts 2:32–36; Romans 1:3–4). Similarly, the Lord will vindicate and raise all who are faithful (Romans 8:11).
- As Jesus prepares to pray, He takes with Him Peter, James, and John, His inner circle of disciples with whom He has also shared other significant experiences (e.g., Matthew 17:1; Mark 5:37). As His friends and spiritual brothers, He asks them also to watch and pray with Him. Jesus asks this because prayer is a spiritual exercise by which the faithful remain steadfast and grow in the Word of God. Jesus is calling them to prayer so they will also be strengthened in the face of the coming temptation to fall away.
- Jesus prays that “this cup,” that is, His impending crucifixion, would pass from Him. Yet, He does not ask this in defiance or dissent from His Father’s will but as one seeking an alternative way to fulfill the Father’s will of saving His people. This story raises questions in some people’s minds about Jesus’ commitment. They wonder if Jesus is fully committed, because He seems to be seeking a way out. Instead, however, we should see this as an indication of Jesus’ full commitment. As Jesus says later, if He truly desired, He could have called upon legions of angels to rescue Him, and His Father would have agreed (26:53)! However, Jesus does not seek any way out of His crucifixion that would jeopardize the salvation of humankind. He is in full agreement in accomplishing salvation for humanity. His request indicates this commitment; He is only considering if there is a way to accomplish this goal besides the crucifixion.
- Indeed, once Jesus is done praying and has been strengthened in His mission, He is determined to fulfill the Scriptures and His Father’s will. Twice He refers to the necessity of this fulfillment (26:54, 56). Prayer has strengthened Him to resist trial and temptation.
- His disciples do not pray but fall asleep. Everyone in this account, therefore, falls short, except Jesus. Judas betrays; the chief priests and elders arrest an innocent person through deception; the disciples resist with violence and then flee when Jesus does not support them. All of them are driven by fear, anxiety, and sin rather than faithfulness and commitment to God.
- Similarly, we all find ourselves in the same boat before God. We all fall short in some way. To be sure, some of us are outwardly more evil. But in our hearts, we all fail to trust and obey fully. Jesus, as the one righteous and faithful person, is our only hope. His dedication to the Father’s will, to die for sin and rise to new life, provides forgiveness and redemption to us all.