The Garden of Gethsemane is a place mentioned several times in the Gospels as a location of great significance leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, located at the foothills of the Mount of Olives, after the Last Supper on the night before his crucifixion. There are several key events that took place in the Garden of Gethsemane that reveal important truths about who Jesus is and what he came to accomplish.
Jesus went to the Garden to pray
After celebrating the Passover meal, known as the Last Supper, with his disciples, Jesus led them to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. This was a familiar place that Jesus had gone to pray many times before with his disciples (John 18:2). Even Judas knew it was a place Jesus frequented, which is why he led the soldiers there to arrest Jesus (John 18:2-3).
The Gospel of Matthew provides the most detail about Jesus going to Gethsemane to pray. In Matthew 26:36-46, we read about Jesus taking Peter, James and John deeper into the garden to pray. He began to be “greatly distressed and troubled” (v.37) and told them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (v.38). Jesus knew what was coming – his unjust trial, beatings, rejection and crucifixion. The spiritual and emotional anguish he felt was so intense that Jesus fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (v.39). This reveals Jesus’ human desire to avoid the suffering he knew he was about to face, while still surrendering to God’s perfect will.
Jesus prayed passionately two more times, returning to find his disciples sleeping instead of praying. He said to Peter, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (v.41). Even in Jesus’ darkest hour, he continued to minister to his followers and warn them to stay spiritually vigilant through prayer.
Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane
All four Gospels record that after time spent praying in fervent anguish, a crowd arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus. A band of soldiers and officials from the chief priests and Pharisees, led by Judas, entered the garden armed with lanterns, torches and weapons (John 18:3). Judas used his familiarity with the place to lead the crowd there, knowing that Jesus and his disciples would be there that night after the Passover meal (Luke 22:39-40).
According to Luke 22:47-53, when the crowd arrived, Judas approached Jesus to kiss him on the cheek, which was the prearranged signal to identify Jesus to the soldiers. But rather than greeting Judas as a friend as customary, Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (v.48). This showed Jesus’ awareness that Judas was turning him over to his enemies by an act of hypocrisy and false friendship.
When the disciples realized what was happening, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” (v.49). Without waiting for a response, Peter drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear (John 18:10). Jesus immediately rebuked Peter, telling him to put his sword away and said, “No more of this!” (Luke 22:51). He then touched the man’s ear and healed him, showing grace and restraint even to those who came to unjustly arrest him.
Jesus was resolved to do God’s will
A key theme that emerges from Jesus’ time of prayer in Gethsemane is his deep submission to the Father’s will, even at great personal cost. Jesus knew everything that was about to happen, yet when Peter drew his sword to fight, Jesus said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54).
As the soldiers seized Jesus, he rebuked them saying, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled” (Matthew 26:55-56). Even during his unfair arrest, Jesus displayed confidence and submission to God’s sovereign plan as revealed in Scripture.
In John 18:4-8, when the crowd arrives, Jesus takes the initiative to step forward and identify himself, sparing his disciples from arrest and saying, “I am he.” We read that “they drew back and fell to the ground” (v.6) when he identified himself with the divine name “I am.” This shows Jesus’ authority and willingness to lay down his life according to God’s timing and purposes.
Jesus resolved during his agonizing prayer in Gethsemane to drink the cup of suffering (Matthew 26:39) because it was the Father’s will. He displayed courage, submission, and love even for his enemies to fulfill Scripture and secure salvation for sinners who would believe in him.
Jesus displayed human emotions
The Gospel accounts of Jesus praying in Gethsemane give us a profound glimpse into Christ’s human vulnerability. We see Jesus experiencing dread, sorrow, and anguish over what awaited him. He confided in his closest friends the disciples, asking them to keep watch with him in his distress. His honesty about the “overwhelming sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38) he felt allows us to identify with him in our own struggles.
The fact that Jesus prayed repeatedly for the Father to spare him from the coming suffering if possible, shows that he had a natural human desire to avoid pain. But ultimately he surrendered to God’s higher purpose declaring, “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus was fully divine but also fully human, and his humanity was on full display in Gethsemane.
Jesus’ painful prayer at Gethsemane teaches us that honesty in bringing our concerns to God is okay. We do not need to hide our real feelings from God or pretend we are unaffected. Scripture says Jesus was heard by God because of his reverent submission (Hebrews 5:7). We too can bring him our real and raw emotions, while still saying like Jesus, “not my will but yours be done.”
The disciples failed to pray
In contrast to Jesus’ prayerful example, his disciples failed to watch and pray with him in his hour of need. Three times Jesus returned to find them sleeping instead of interceding, and he rebuked them saying, “Could you not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40-41).
Rather than making excuses, the disciples should have followed Jesus’ directive to pray against temptation and weakness of the flesh. Their slumbering in Gethsemane serves as a warning against spiritual apathy when others need our prayers and support.
Jesus knew that in a short time the disciples would all fall away and desert him out of fear (Matthew 26:31). Yet in the midst of his own suffering, Jesus was concerned about his followers facing temptation and hardship. By exhorting them to watch and pray, he showed his servant leadership and pastoral care for his flock.
Jesus endured the cup of God’s wrath
The intense anguish, dread, and sorrow Jesus experienced in Gethsemane gives insight into the level of suffering he was about to face at Calvary. When Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me,” he was referring to the cup of God’s wrath against sin that he would drink on the cross (Matthew 26:39).
Though Jesus was sinless (Hebrews 4:15), he took upon himself the penalty for the sins of the world when he went to the cross. As he anticipated this unfathomable suffering, Jesus began to be “sorrowful and troubled” in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37). The spiritual agony was so heavy upon him that his sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Truly, the weight of the world’s sins pressing upon his shoulders caused Jesus to endure extreme suffering even before the cross.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus became the atoning sacrifice for sins, taking on the holy wrath of God so that sinners who trust in him can be reconciled to God. Though fully God, Jesus was also fully human and his emotions in Gethsemane give us a glimpse of the great cost of our salvation.
Jesus submitted to the Father’s will
A primary theme we see through Jesus’ time of prayer in Gethsemane is his spirit of humble submission to the Father’s will. Jesus knew that God’s plan of salvation could only be accomplished through his willing sacrifice on the cross. Though dreading the suffering ahead, Jesus surrendered to the Father’s plan saying, “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
This example of submission is important because Isaiah 53:10 prophesied about God’s will for the Messiah, saying, “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.” Jesus knew his death was no accident of history, but rather the fulfillment of God’s predetermined plan. He resolutely aligned his will with the Father’s plan to “crush him” as an atoning sacrifice, though it caused anguish of soul.
Jesus set aside his human desires to avoid suffering, and embraced God’s will because he knew this would “make his life an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10). The greatest demonstration of Jesus’ love was his willingness to suffer and die, not for his own sake, but to redeem lost sinners. His submission in Gethsemane reminds us that the way of the cross leads to victory and salvation.
Jesus endured temptation
Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin. As Jesus prayed in deep emotional agony in Gethsemane, part of his suffering was enduring temptation to avoid the cross. The enemy sought to distract Jesus from his purpose and mission.
When praying, Jesus exhorted his disciples, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). Jesus knew that they, like all followers of Christ, would face temptation and spiritual warfare. The time in Gethsemane was a temptation for the disciples to fall asleep rather than joining Jesus in vigilance and prayer.
By overcoming the temptation before him, Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered” as Hebrews 5:8 tells us. His sinless obedience qualified him to be the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The anguished vigil in Gethsemane proved that Jesus would drink the cup the Father had given him to the last drop, resisting any temptation to turn back.
Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecies
From arriving in Jerusalem on a donkey to being betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, Jesus’ final days leading up to the cross were a fulfillment of many Old Testament Messianic prophecies. Jesus himself said, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44).
Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane also aligned with key prophetic passages:
– Isaiah 53:3 – “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” Jesus was the suffering servant who bore our griefs (Isaiah 53:4).
– Psalm 55:4-5 – “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.” This mirrored Jesus’ distressed state in the garden.
– Zechariah 13:7 – “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” Jesus quoted this when telling the disciples they would desert him.
– Psalm 69:19-20 spoke of scorn, shame, insults and brokenness; all of which Jesus endured.
Every part of the Messiah’s mission was predetermined and fulfilled just as Scripture had foretold. Jesus’ anguish, prayers, and submission in Gethsemane played a key role in bringing the prophetic Word to pass, proving Jesus was the Christ.
The account of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane is packed with insight about Christ’s mission, humanity, and example for all believers. Here are key lessons to take away from this pivotal event:
- Jesus was fully divine but also fully human, experiencing real dread, sorrow, and temptation.
- Honestly bringing our real emotions to God in submission is key to enduring trials.
- Staying spiritually vigilant through prayer guards us against temptation.
- Jesus willingly endured suffering to accomplish God’s redemptive plan.
- Fulfilling the Father’s will required humility and strength from Jesus.
- Jesus selflessly cared for his followers even amidst his own crisis.
- Believers must be ready to support others through intercessory prayer.
- Trusting God’s sovereign plan brings purpose even through pain.
Jesus poured out his soul to the Father in Gethsemane, giving us an eternal example of surrender, obedience, and sacrifice. As Hebrews 12:2 reminds us, for the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross. His anguished prayer in Gethsemane reveals the Savior’s steadfast commitment to secure the joy of salvation for multitudes of people.