It was a very full evening for Jesus. In the upper room of a friend's house they meet for the eating of the Passover meal. There is the great act of washing His disciples' feet, the eating of the old Hebrew prophetic meal, the going out of Judas into the night of his dark purpose, the new simple memorial meal. Then come those long quiet talks, in which Jesus speaks out the very heart of His heart, and that marvellous prayer so simple and so bottomless.
Very likely He is talking, as they move quietly along the Jerusalem streets, out of the gate leading toward the Kedron brook, and then over the brook toward the enclosed spot, full of the great old olive trees. The moon is at the full. This is one of His favorite praying places. He is going off for a bit of prayer. So He approaches this great crisis. There is a friendly word spoken to these men that they be keenly alert, and pray, lest they yield to temptation. It is significant, this word about temptation. Then into the woods He goes, the disciples being left among the trees, while He goes in farther with the inner three, then farther yet, quite alone. Intense longing for fellowship mingles with intense longing to be alone. He would have a warm hand-touch, yet they cannot help Him here, and may do something to jar.
Now He is on His knees, now prone, full length, on His face. The agony is upon Him. Snatches of His prayer are caught by the wondering three ere sleep dulls their senses. |My Father -- if it be possible -- let -- this -- cup -- pass -- from -- me -- Yet -- Thy -- will -- be done.| The words used to tell of His mental distress are so intense that the translators are puzzled to find English words strong enough to put in their place. A frenzy of fright, a nightmare horror, a gripping chill seizes Him with a terrible clutch. It is as though some foul, poisonous gas is filling the air and filling His nostrils and steadily choking His gasping breath. The dust of death is getting into His throat. The strain of spirit is so great that the life tether almost slips its hold. And angels come, with awe stricken faces, to minister. Even after that, some of the life, that on the morrow is to be freely spilled out, now reddens the ground. The earth is beginning to feel the fertilizing that by and by is to bring it a new life.
By and by the mood quiets, the calm returns and deepens. The changed prayer reveals the victory: |My Father, if this cup cannot pass away except I drink it -- if only through this experience can Thy great love-plan for the race be worked out -- Thy -- will| -- slowly, distinctly, with the throbbing of His heart and the iron of His will in them, come the words -- |Thy -- will -- be -- done.| In between times He returns to the drowsy disciples with the earnest advice again about being awake, and alert, and praying because of temptation near by.
And gentle reproach mingles in the special word spoken to Peter. |Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not be watching with me one hour?| Yes, this was Simon now, the old Simon. Jesus' new Peter was again slipping from view. Then the great love of His heart excuses their conduct. What masterly control in the midst of unutterable agitation! Back again for a last bit of prayer, and then He turns His face with a great calm breathing all through those deep lines of suffering, and with steady step turns toward the cross.