They had been there before.
There had been other nights when Jesus had led them to this isolated section of the Garden of Gethsemane. Perhaps there was an olive press nearby since that is what the name “Gethsemane” means. The men probably had their own little bed plots chosen for the long nights beneath the ancient trees. The moist air retained the heat of the day in the early evening but chilled in the dead of night and as the early morning approached. Despite their little routines, there would be nothing routine about this night in Gethsemane.

Sorrowful unto Death
Jesus could never get His men to understand what was at hand. Perhaps the one who was missing, his little bed-plot undisturbed by preparation for sleep, knew. Jesus posted the men in one place and took the inner circle deeper into the garden. He wanted them to pray with Him. They had never seen Him like this before, burdened with such heaviness. They could not know that Gethsemane was His time of pressing. He left them and went deeper into the green-shadowed sanctuary. They heard Him praying to the Father about a cup from which He must drink but one that repulsed Him. His protests fell to the ground as they heard the now famous words,

“…nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”


Then He was back, seeking support, but the men were already asleep. No one would watch with Him. No one would pray with Him.

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Twice more He retreated into the Garden to pray the same prayer only to return and find the Disciples sleeping. The third time, He blessed them as they slept only to hear the noise of an approaching mob, their feet trampling the peace of the Garden and their weapons clanging away the silence of the night. Jesus alerted His men.

“Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

The Arrest
Judas, the missing one, the only one who knew what was happening, approached Jesus, called Him Rabbi and kissed Him on the cheek. It was the prearranged signal to the Temple guards. They seized Jesus to bind His hands and feet. From other sources, we know that Peter drew his sword and struck off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. This earned Him a rebuke from Jesus and gave the world a wise warning that those who live by the sword would be destined to die by it. Jesus touched the wounded man and healed the severed ear. The confused silence that followed was broken by a sharp command to seize Him. Jesus did not struggle; He assured those handling Him that the Father would send a mightier army than they to rescue Him if He wanted. He pointed out that He never ran from them and neither would He on this night. Let the prophecies be fulfilled.

As the soldiers captured Jesus, all the disciples, no longer laden with sleep and totally unable to pray, deserted Him.

Matthew 26:36-56
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.

Lord Jesus, I cannot know the depth of Your sorrow in Gethsemane. It is beyond my ability to imagine. You drank everything that was in that cup: all the sin of all the world. Such an invasion of wickedness into Your sinless soul!—Such a bitter mixture of hate and violence, cruelty and deception, anger and malice. No profane words had ever lodged in Your heart and therefore none had ever escaped Your lips, yet You consumed the lies of hell. You took it all so that I could be relieved of it all. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Amen.

Man of Sorrows
Words and Music: P. P. Bliss

1. Man of sorrows what a name
for the Son of God, who came
ruined sinners to reclaim:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

2. Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

3. Guilty, helpless, lost were we;
blameless Lamb of God was he,
sacrificed to set us free:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

4. He was lifted up to die;
“It is finished” was his cry;
now in heaven exalted high:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

5. When he comes, our glorious King,
all his ransomed home to bring,
then anew this song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

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