39 And he came out, and went, as his custom was, unto the mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed him.40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.41 And he was parted from them about a stone's cast; and he kneeled down and prayed, 42 saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.43 And there appeared unto him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.45 And when he rose up from his prayer, he came unto the disciples, and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.
From the quiet fellowship in the upper room Jesus with his disciples, under the shadow of the night, went forth to the Garden of Gethsemane, a favorite resort on the slope of the Mount of Olives, and he there experienced that unequaled anguish of soul which is commonly known as his |agony.| To enter the sacred privacy of that scene even in imagination seems to be an intrusion, and yet some glimpses have been revealed for our instruction and encouragement as his disciples.
There can be no doubt that this distress which seized him was due to his clear vision of the death he was to endure on the following day; and this very agony adds beyond measure to the meaning and the mystery of that death. For any sensitive soul to shrink from pain and anguish is but natural and pardonable; yet if Jesus suffered such incomparable agony simply in view of physical torture, he was less heroic than many of his followers have been. If, however, in the hour of death, he was to be so identified with sin as to become the Redeemer of the world; if he was |to give his life a ransom for many;| if his experience as the Lamb of God was to be absolutely unique; if he was to endure the hiding of his Father's face, then we can understand why it was that in the dark hour of anticipation his soul was sorrowful |even unto death.| The agony of our Lord must never be supposed to reflect upon his human heroism; it is rather a proof of his divine atonement. The |cup| which Jesus was asked to drink consisted of death as |the Bearer of sin.|
In this hour of most bitter trial Jesus found relief in prayer. He had come to Gethsemane that he might be alone with God. He had exhorted his disciples to follow his example. When the agony most fiercely gripped his lonely heart he still prayed and he was heard. The cup was not removed, but |There appeared unto him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.| He was given grace to drain the cup to its very dregs and death lost its sting and the grave its terror. He was fitted for perfect sympathy with those who are called upon to face the mystery of |unanswered prayer.| |He became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation.|
Jesus prayed in faith; and the very essence of such believing prayer is the willingness to obey. This was the petition which comes to us as an example, |Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.| He won his victory by complete submission to the will of his Father. Henceforth there was no more struggle. He turned with unfaltering step to meet betrayal and agony and death. The hour struck and he was ready. |He was well content.|