After the Last Supper we see Jesus take the disciples and go to the garden at Gethsemane. What we see when Jesus prays in the garden at Gethsemane is that these are the last few hours before his betrayal. He spends this time knowing that his betrayer approaches and that he will be delivered into the hands of men for execution.
What we see then is that the Lord takes aside Peter, James and John asking them to stay awake and keep watch. He knew that the betrayer Judas would soon be upon them and so he was going through great anguish for he also knew what was to come. But the disciples were tired and could not stay awake. Three times the Lord stepped aside to pray to the Father and three times he returned to find the disciples sleeping.
The prayer the Lord made to the Father was a prayer of great anguish. He asked the Father saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Verse 39) Jesus was asking whether there was any other way this thing that had to be done could be achieved without him having to suffer, as he knew he would. He was seeking if there was a way out, but even in this hour of anguish he was obedient to the Father for he sought the will of the Father in this matter and not his own will.
It is evident that he was going through a great temptation. In his suffering and sorrow he was seeking a way out and knowing he had to die he would have been under tremendous pressure and temptation to seek to escape it if he could. Thus the words in verse 41 seem odd as in all translations I have read they say a similar thing. “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Verse 41) The question I raise here is how were the disciples being tempted? By falling asleep? The person being tempted at this point in time was not any of the disciples; it was Jesus being tempted.
When you review the original Greek texts we find that the word “you” is not in this verse. The translators have added it. A literal translation of this verse says, “Pray that not enter in temptation.” There is no “you” in this section of scripture. As such I believe that Jesus was asking the disciples to watch and stay awake and pray that HE (Jesus) did not enter into temptation. If Jesus succumbed to temptation at this crucial point in time, the whole work from the beginning of time would be wasted. The New Covenant could not come into being without the perfect sacrifice and the blood of Jesus. And if that happened there would be no hope for man as we would not be freed from sin and able to come into the presence of God.
No it was not a temptation to the disciples that Jesus was concerned with but a temptation to himself. He needed their prayers as support so that he would have the strength to carry out the role he was destined to play and thus give man the opportunity for life. It is evident from the prayer of Jesus that he was sorely tempted and would have desired some other way to do the will of God rather than die in the painful and torturous manner that he was about to go through. He knew Judas was to betray him there in the garden at Gethsemane and it would have been a great temptation to just leave before the betrayer arrived. But if that happened how would he have achieved the will of the Father and provided man with the means to escape from sin and be reconciled to God?
It was necessary that Jesus suffers and dies for us. And we see in the prayer that although he would have liked an alternative route to the one planned, God did not give him an alternative. In fact the answer to his prayer was “No.” Sometimes we too ask for things but the answer is “No.” We need to understand also that as Jesus had to go through this trial so that we might live, we too will go through trials for our learning, understanding and strengthening.
There are some valuable lessons in this section of scripture, which we should take to heart. Also we should praise the Lord Jesus even more for the fact that he did not succumb to temptation and thus we have the opportunity to receive his grace and the freedom that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Praise God for this glorious gift.