Matthew 26:36-44 NIV 36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” . . . 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 . . . he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” 42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping . . . 44So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
How do you usually read this passage? Most likely, it takes only a few moments to read. But let’s think about the actual passage of time involved – somewhere around an hour. Do we really understand that during this time Jesus, having come to earth to live as a man, actually had to choose His course of action? Even though He knew the Father’s path for Him, He really could have decided not to become sin nor go through the physical torture of crucifixion for us.
Jesus didn’t struggle in prayer just to fulfill prophecy. He didn’t go back and repeat “Not My will, but Yours,” three times to give us a pattern of prayer. When He told the disciples the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, He was letting them know the intense personal battle He waged as He asked again for their help in prayer. Jesus’ flesh was not yielding easily in those long minutes, though His Spirit wanted to complete what He had come for. Only after Jesus committed His will to Father’s will the third time was it completely settled in His heart.
Though He had more to do before the whole plan was totally fulfilled, the flesh was forever defeated in those last moments, and there would be no more wavering. Jesus came to do the will of His Father, and in that last, most intense and agonizing temptation, He chose to finish His course. He went forth from that place in victory, ready to endure the cross and all that led to it – for us. Glory to God!