Matthew 26: Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

Introduction: the Last Supper

When did you feel most sad, tired, lonely and afraid?
What is the most difficult decision or choice, you have made?
Have you ever stayed awake all night with no sleep, trying to decide what to do?
Have you ever felt like God doesn’t love you?
Have you prayed, and it seems like God does not answer?
Today we will read about Jesus’ most difficult decision.
When Jesus was left all alone and he was terrified.
When Jesus prayed all night long, but he did not get what he wanted.
But first, let’s remember, what we learned about two weeks ago
Matthew 26:17-30
We saw Jesus, eating the last meal before he died,
with his 12 closest friends.
Jesus took the bread and broke it and gave it to them
And the cup of wine.
He said, this bread is my body.  It will be broken on the cross for you.
This wine is my blood.  It will pour out on the cross for you.
because Jesus died for us,
now there is a new relationship between us and God
Because of Jesus, God forgives us, and loves us, just as we are.
Two weeks ago, we finished with verse 30: “then they sang a song, and went out to the Mount of Olives.”
This song was probably a Psalm (118) from the first half of the Bible,
That says “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His faithful love lasts for ever.”
God’s love is ever-lasting.
“God’s love lasts for ever.”- these words were in their mind,
they left their meal, went out into the dark night, and walked outside the city, to a garden called Gethsemane
We read now from Matthew 26: 36-46

1 Jesus is human, just like us

Can you imagine?
We are in a garden of olive trees, on a hill just outside Jerusalem.
The night is quiet and peaceful.
But Jesus knows the storm is coming
Jesus knows that he is going to die in a few hours.
So he is “anguished and distressed”  (37)
He is sad, upset, worried, terrified.  He is in trouble.
His heart is breaking
He feels so bad he could die
So he wants his friends to stay awake with him and pray with him.
Especially his three closest friends: Peter, James, and John
But they don’t understand.
They love Jesus, they want to help, “the spirit is willing”,
But like us, they are weak
It has been a long day and they are tired.
So they fall asleep, and Jesus is left all alone.
When he most needs his friends, they fail him.
Afraid and alone
Do you ever feel like that?
I sometimes do.
When I have a big exam
Sometimes I am worried and cannot sleep.
When I travel overseas,
It is often very lonely and stressful – no one to talk to.
When I feel like this, I remember, Jesus knows what it is like.
He felt like this in the garden of Gethsemane.
The Bible say Jesus is like us in every way.
 “since Jesus has gone through suffering and temptation,
(temptation means when we have the choice to do something that seems nice but is bad)
He is able to help us when we are being tempted…
Jesus understands our weaknesses,
For he faced all of the same temptations as we do,
Yet he did not sin” – he didn’t do anything wrong        (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15)
Jesus was not superman!
He is 100% totally human.
I am studying religion.
In other religions, there are wonderful things.
But in Jesus, I have a God, who knows how I feel,
A God who has been weak, tired and sick, lonely and afraid.  Just like I sometimes am.
He doesn’t just sit up in heaven, but comes down to be with me.
I find this very comforting.  It makes me feel better.
We can be honest with God when we feel depressed and afraid.
Because Jesus was!
he understands me.
What a good God!
Jesus was patient and forgiving with his followers when they fell asleep
He is patient and forgiving with me when I fail.
When you are tired, sad, lonely and afraid, when you fail.
Remember Jesus understands and his love is everlasting.  “God’s love lasts for ever.”

2 Prayer and Decision – “your will be done”

Jesus often prayed on his own to God.
This is his most personal prayer.
26:39  “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. 
Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.
what you want, not what I want.”
Jesus has done many things, but this is the biggest decision in his life.
This is the most important decision in history.
the book of Matthew is about Jesus the King
Jesus has to decide, what kind of King he will be
Will he take the easy way, or God’s way?
Right now, at Passover time, Jerusalem is full of visitors
Less than a week ago, Jesus rode into Jerusalem.
the crowds called him a King, they waved palm branches,
we call this “Palm Sunday” the weekend before Easter.[1]
The last few days
the Jewish leaders argued with him, but he won every time
they are afraid of him – they know the people love him.
If Jesus chooses, crowds of people will follow him
He can be a mighty king with power and glory
With expensive clothes, sitting on a throne, with a crown of gold.
rich and famous and powerful.
If he wants, he can do miracles and magic.   (cf Matthew 4:1-11)
he can call armies of angels to fight for him (verse 53)
He can crush all his enemies, who want to kill him
Everyone will obey him.
He can be bullet-proof Superman!
Is that the sort of king we want?  Is that the sort of God we want?
Sounds pretty good. Oh yeah.  Good stuff!
But there’s one problem: that is not God’s way.
It’s not God’s kind of king.
What is God’s way for Jesus?
armies of angels – No.
magic miracles – No.
crowds of fans – No.
The people will shout “crucify him, kill him”
His friends will run away.
One of them will lead his enemies to arrest him.
His best friend, Peter, will say he never even met him.
Soldiers will strip him naked, beat him, spit on him,
put a painful crown of sharp thorns on his head.
He will be nailed to a cross, and left to die, alone.
The easy way, or God’s way.
A king on a throne with a crown of gold.
A king on a cross with a crown of thorns.
What kind of king will he be?
Now, alone in the night, in the garden of Gethsemane, he must choose:
There are two different prayers he could pray:
Prayer 1: “let this suffering be taken away from me.”
Prayer 2: “your will be done.”
In the book of John, Jesus asks        (John 12: 27)
Should I pray:
Prayer 1: “Father, save me from this hour”?
Prayer 2: “Father, bring glory to your name.”
This was the biggest decision in history.
Jesus’ whole life led up to it.
the whole world depends on it.
do you remember the Lord’s prayer? (Matthew 6:9 ff)
We often pray it in church – Jesus taught us.
“Our Father in heaven, 
May your name be honoured, respected.
May your Kingdom come.
May your will be done.”
Sometimes this is a difficult prayer for us to pray.
but it was much much harder for Jesus
So hard, so difficult and painful, he lay on the ground and cried out to God
He sweated drops of blood (Luke 22:44)
but Jesus chose to obey God
he chose God’s way – the cross
it is the very reason he came!
However much it hurt, he chose to pray:
“Father, Your will be done.”
“Bring glory to Your name.”
Sometimes God’s way is difficult
But it’s the best in the end.
Maybe there’s something difficult and painful in your life.
You wish God would take it away.  You ask him to. You pray so hard.
Sometimes He doesn’t.
Last week Mori Yuri the Japanese singer came.
She told us how her brother died in an earthquake.
She cried and cried, and there was a hole in her heart.
But God used her pain for greater good & blessing to other people.
An old song says:
“Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey”
Sometimes it’s difficult to do what God wants, but we can trust and obey,
Because Jesus knows what it is like,
And “God’s love lasts for ever.”

3 no common or ordinary death

How would you feel if you knew that in a few hours you were going to die?
I’d be panicking and afraid – terrified
I would fear death.  I would fear the pain.
Jesus felt like that too.
But I am surprised.
Isn’t Jesus much braver than us?
Many good people in history have faced death more bravely than Jesus.
The Greek philosopher Socrates was happy and peaceful before his death
Surely Confucius would not have been afraid.
Buddha could probably meditate to block out the pain
But Jesus is tearful, sweating, upset, afraid.
Is Jesus a coward?
Is he weak?  Shame!
Why was he so afraid?
Because this was no common or ordinary death.
It was much much more.
Jesus prayed about a “cup of suffering” that he had to drink.
What was this cup?
In the Bible, this cup is
the cup of God’s anger, God’s judgment against sin (eg Jeremiah 25:15)
Sin is what we do wrong that hurts ourselves and other people and God.
Have you ever done something really bad, and you felt crushed with shame and guilt?
Jesus did nothing wrong.
He is perfect, like God.
He never felt guilty or ashamed
But now, he took all the wrong things we have done, all our shame and guilt and he carried it.
This is why he said, my soul is crushed under the weight.
remember two weeks ago,
Ian held the black cloth in one hand for our sin, and the clean hand for Jesus – who had no sin?
When Jesus died he took the black cloth, our sin, himself
As he died on the cross, Jesus cried out.
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (27:46)
our sin made him ugly, so God, his own father, turned away.
This was the cup of suffering.
For Jesus, the cup could not go away.
But because he drank it, experienced it, for us, we don’t have to – we are free from our sin.[2]
We can never understand how much it cost Jesus
It is a great mystery
But in this prayer in the garden, we get a small idea.
Jesus was not just afraid, of the nails in his hands.
He was not just afraid to die physically, but to die spiritually
This was no common or ordinary death of a man.
It was much more
Because Jesus was not only a man, but the God-man.
He is 100% totally human.
He is 100% totally God.
On the cross, Jesus paid the price for what we do wrong.
He was separated away from God’s love, so we will never be.
Jesus said “the greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give up his life”
He did this for us.
He is our most faithful friend.
In Jesus on the cross we see an extra-ordinary death & an ever-lasting love.
Jesus died for us, so that now we can be sure, “God’s love lasts for ever.”


We’ve learnt 3 things from the story of Gethsemane.
1. Jesus is fully human, just like us:
He felt sad & tired, lonely & scared
So he understands & forgives our weakness
2.  This was biggest decision & the hardest prayer of history:
A king on a throne with a crown of gold.
Or a king on a cross with a crown of thorns.
Jesus chose God’s way, but it wasn’t easy.
So he can help us to pray “your will be done”.
3. This was no ordinary death:
Jesus was no ordinary man, but the God-man.
On the cross he took away all the shame & guilt of our sin.
He died for us, because “God’s love lasts for ever.”


1. When did you feel most sad & tired, lonely or scared?
What does it mean to you that Jesus felt like us?
2. What is the most difficult choice you have made? 
When is it most difficult for you to trust & obey God, to say “yes – your will be done”?
3. How does Jesus’ extra-ordinary death & ever-lasting love affect your life today?
How will you respond to Jesus?

[1] Scholars think another procession entered Jerusalem at the same time: Roman troops marching in to keep peace at the time of the feast when Jerusalem was full of visitors.  A dramatic display of power, much more impressive than a stray prophet on a donkey – but which one do we remember now?  (Marcus Borg and John  Dominic Crossan, 2006, The Last Week, 2ff)
[2] “Jesus drank the poison cup and the world was detoxified”