Study | Oversleeping

Matthew 26:36-46

Prayer helps us align our will to God’s through surrender

This Bible story follows the Last Supper and Jesus’ warning to Peter that he would deny him three times over the next hours. More on that next week. Jesus and his disciples leave Jerusalem where they celebrated the Passover meal and head to Gethsemane, a place Jesus frequented, for prayer.

When they arrive at the garden, Jesus’ mood is sorrowful and troubled. He specifically calls Peter, James, and John to go with him farther into the garden than the others, and tells the three to sit while he continues on to another area to pray.

Jesus is feeling intense emotion – “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He asks the three to stay with him and keep watch with him, to fervently pray with him in his time of great need.

He talks to the God of the universe, and of the Gospel story. “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” While this seems like he is attempting to negotiate, he’s not. Instead, Jesus is taking that final step of surrender, setting his desire aside not reluctantly but intentionally to adopt God’s purpose and will.

Jesus breaks out of his prayer to check on his friends, only to find them sleeping. He wakes them, telling them again to watch and pray. He continues, saying this prayer will help them avoid falling into temptation, as the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. While we humans have the best intentions, while our soul is in the right place, we often have trouble translating our soul’s goodness into full action.

Paul struggles with a similar issue in Romans 7, where he expresses that he often has good in mind, but fails to carry it out. But he refocuses off his own inability and turns to Jesus, who delivers each of us from our sin. What a great model for us to emulate.

Jesus leaves the three, he prays again. “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” He is so aware that he must carry out God’s will through one last, ultimate sacrifice to overlook the wrongs of humanity and restore its relationship with God.

After his prayer, Jesus looks back to find his friends sleeping again, and instead of waking them, goes and prays a third time.

Jesus returns to Peter, James, and John, imploring them to wake. He knows betrayal approaches. Judas Iscariot, temple guards, and some religious leaders arrive, and with a simple kiss of greeting, Judas sets into motion the trials, suffering, and crucifixion of Christ.

Questions for discussion:

  1. What emotions and feelings are in this passage? What is so significant about Jesus’ prayer to God?
  2. What is the cup Jesus is talking about? What does it represent?
  3. Jesus says the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. What does that mean? Where have you seen this in your life?
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