Matthew 26:36-38 (NIV) 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.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
It was not fear that drove Jesus to passionate prayer that night in Gethsemane, but sorrow and anguish of spirit over what He could see coming. He knew that He would soon be betrayed by one to whom He had never shown anything but love and trust for three years, and that there was nothing He could do to change that scenario. He knew that that man, Judas Iscariot, would be lost forever, and it broke His heart. He knew that all of His followers would bolt in the moment of testing, and that they would spend two days buried in a tomb as real as the one He would soon inhabit: a tomb of grief and shame. Even Peter, the one who had sworn to die with Him, would soon deny even knowing who He was!
He could also see the immense pain and agony He would undergo looming just over the eastern horizon with the sun; not just the agony and suffering of the beatings, the whips, the nails, and the agonizing hours hanging from the cross, but the taking on Himself the sins of the world. He knew intellectually the number and depth of those sins, but Him mind reeled at the concept that He, who had never sinned, would not only experience the crushing weight of those multiplied trillions of sins, but also the separation from His Father that that burden of sin would cause. Not one moment from eternity past to the present moment had He experienced ANY separation from the Father. But now, even if it was for only a moment, or an hour, a blip on the timeline of eternity, it would seem like eons to Him.
All of those thoughts weighted His soul down as they entered the garden, dark now, and quiet, with just a few small fires and hushed conversations from others who were camping there to break the stillness. It was no wonder that He wanted, no, needed to pray. It was no wonder that He so craved the companionship of those disciples in His inner circle as He approached the point of no return.
Father, many believe that it was fear of the coming physical pain that drove Jesus to prayer that night. But the anticipation of the emotional and spiritual anguish, the knowledge that some of the people that He loved most, and most wanted to come to Him for salvation would be those who would cause His execution, would have been so much more powerful a motive. Help me to always view this scene with the knowledge that it was primarily sorrow over His betrayal, and anguish over His separation from You that He was willing to undergo for my sins, and the sins of the world, that He suffered that night. Amen.