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Read Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14: 32-42, Luke 22:39-46

The first three gospels give the account of Jesus’ last time in prayer as a free man. There are subtle variances, yet by reading all three reports we have the best picture of Jesus’ time in the garden of Gethsemane. It may be here that Jesus felt more loneliness and disappointment than any other time, outside that moment on the cross when He called out to the Father He thought had forsaken Him (see Matthew 27:45-46 or Mark 16:33-34).

Of all His disciples, Jesus had shared the most with Peter, James and John.  He had befriended them in a deeper way, shared more of His heart and miracles. And as He prepared for His torturous death just ahead, He asked that these three be with Him to give comfort and support. So Jesus took them further into the garden than the other disciples and there He asked that they shield Him as He prayed, and to pray while he prayed. His anguish was severe and Luke 22:44 says when Jesus prayed about what was about to come upon Him, His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. But instead of providing the comfort and support the Lord desired, his friends slept. They deserted the Lord in this time of His soul’s great misery.

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There are so many lessons in the Garden of Gethsemane story, but two stand out for me this Easter season. First, Luke 22:45 says the disciples slept because they were exhausted from sorrow. That gives me a clearer picture of their behavior. I don’t believe their sleeping was from lack of concern for Jesus but from deep depression.  It is common for people who are depressed to escape overwhelming sadness by sleeping. It is a coping mechanism. Three times the Lord returned to them and each time found them sleeping.  It wasn’t right, but it was how they managed their fear, desperation and sadness.

The second thing brought to focus in the Gethsemane experience is this: while we can never depend on man in all situations, we can depend on God in all situations. Luke 22:43 says the Father supplied an angel to strengthen the Lord. In the times of our loneliness and despair, we too have a Father to send help man cannot give. Though man may be limited in understanding and ability to help, God never is.

Father, every word of scripture is a story of life and a lesson in managing our time on earth. May the Gethsemane experience of Jesus sink deep into our minds and hearts, consoling us in our failures and giving hope in times of need. Through Jesus, You provided a way of grace that we might endure and complete our journey home. Your sacrifice, and His, became our victory. May we give new praise and honor this Easter for the one who endured both Gethsemane and the cross.  To our Lord and Savior Jesus be all glory!  

(Artist name unknown, source is Bing, Garden of Gethsemane)