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Jesus Agonizes in Prayer

(Matthew 26:36-50)

Lesson 3 -- second quarter 2004
March 21, 2004

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2004, Christian Light Publications

"Watch with me"

Jesus knew that finally the time had come for Him to surrender to rejection, agony of soul and body, and excruciating death. Though He had the option of yet another miraculous escape, He knew He must choose instead to yield to the plans of evil ones, both men and spirits.

Jesus also knew that His ability to go through with this plan hinged on His reliance on the strength of the Father. So once again He sought out His Father. He knew this would be a time of tremendous testing and of facing head on incredible sorrow and heaviness of soul and spirit. That meant He would benefit from additional support from those closest to Him. So He asked Peter, James, and John -- apparently His most intimate and trusted disciples and friends -- to be His supporters: "Watch with me" (Matthew 26:38).

In their praying, they could have helped Jesus bear a small portion of His sorrow and heaviness. They could have supported Jesus emotionally. They could have given Him strength against temptation. And they could have gained personal power for the additional tests they themselves had yet to face in the next few hours.

But they slept.

OK, so you already knew the history. So did I. Good for us. But does it make any difference in us? We can see their opportunity and their call. And their failure certainly does not escape us. But can we see in their experience a solemn lesson for ourselves? We too have been called to be watchers and burden bearers. Shall we too sleep?

"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).

"Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13).

"But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer" (1 Peter 4:7).

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

"If it be possible"

Jesus surely knew the Father had no Plan B. Yet it seems the sorrow and weight came on Him with such magnitude that His humanity asked for relief. If the Father had a workable alternate route that took Jesus around the cross, that's what He wanted. But even more, He wanted to continue doing the will of the Father.

We know the verdict of the Father: It was not possible to let that cup pass. Jesus would have to accept it fully. Not merely taste it, not simply take a little sip -- He would have to drink from the cup till it was drained. So, "for the joy that was set before him" (Hebrews 12:2), He submitted to the Father's will and accepted the cup.

Times and situations come to us that cause us to flinch from God's plan. We still want to accomplish His purposes, but we hope for a different plan. That's OK, as long as our hearts still declare our acceptance of whatever His will is. And by God's grace we shall!

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