Matthew 26:39-44 (How Jesus Was Heard and His Prayer Answered)

It is Wednesday evening of Passion week, and according to Jewish reckoning, the new day has begun.  By the reckoning of some, it is the 15th day of the first month and the start of the feast of unleavened bread, inaugurated with the celebration of the Passover meal which Jesus had just shared with His disciples.  But because of ambiguities in the sighting of the new moon, by the reckoning of others, including the religious leaders in Jerusalem, it is the beginning of the 14th day of the month.  On this day they will condemn Jesus to death and He will die on the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world at the exact time they were sacrificing their own Passover lambs.  Now, as they are preparing to arrest Him, and perhaps already enroute with Judas to guide them, and a full moon to easily find their way, Jesus is praying in the garden of Gethsemane.  The name appropriately means an olive press.  For it was here that Jesus was crushed by all the weight of the sins of the world that now bore down upon Him, along with all the agonizing sorrow and grief and distress that our own human natures experience when suffering, and especially when suffering unjustly.  According to His own human nature He prayed that if possible His cup of sufferings that had now arrived might pass from Him.  And yet, as a reflection of His overarching desire exemplified throughout His life, He subjected His own will to that of His Father, and prayed, “Not as I will, but as You will”.  For it was this Oil of His Spirit for which He was pressed that would be poured out upon His disciples to save them from their sins, not on the basis of deeds done in righteousness, but by the washing of regeneration and renewing by that Holy Spirit of sacrifice (Tit 3:5-6).  For it is only by means of such a Spirit that we are able to follow Him in the way of the cross by also subjecting our own will to the will of the Father, which is the nature of true salvation; cf. Joh 12:24-26, Rom 8:14.  Scripture records that three times He repeated the same prayer (Mat 26:44), expressing His own will to avoid the suffering before Him, but also affirming His submission to the Father’s will, which He delighted in even more, faithfully trusting in the Father’s wise and perfect love, and knowing that His faith would be rewarded.  What does this teach us about prayer being not just the expression of our own desire, but also the sanctification of those desires to the will of God?  See note[1].

What was the result of Jesus’ loud cries to the Father?  See Heb 5:7.  Does the fact that He was heard mean that His prayer was answered according to His own will, or rather, that He was strengthened and sustained in His human flesh to be able to do the will of the Father, and become the source of eternal salvation for all mankind?  Should we therefore assume that because our prayers are not always answered according to our own will, that God has not heard them?  Have we the faith to follow Jesus into the hero’s hall of fame (see Heb 11), trusting the Father’s wise and perfect love, and knowing that our faith will be rewarded, even if it causes us to suffer, and even when we don’t immediately see that reward?  See Heb 11:6,39.

In addition to the agony He was experiencing, consider Jesus’ agitation as He prayed, returning repeatedly to His inner circle of disciples as if in despair and seeking any comfort He could find from the only ones who might possibly console Him.  As he returned each time, what did He find?  See Mat 26:40,43,45.  How would that have added to His agony and despair?  When faced with our own agony and despair and even those closest to us offer no consolation, to Whom can we still turn, Who completely understands from His own experience how we feel?  Cf. Heb 4:15-16.  What was it that Jesus had initially asked His disciples to do before going beyond them to pray, and then again after He returned and found them sleeping?  See Mat 26:38,41.  What is the exact opposite of keeping watch?  What does their utter failure to keep watch by repeatedly falling asleep illustrate about Jesus’ point in Mat 26:41 about the weakness of our human flesh, and the necessity of prayer to overcome it?  As opposed to whatever strength we may suppose ourselves to possess in our flesh, what is it that provides the true strength for victory, not just in the eternal realms of heaven, but even here on earth where we are seeking to establish God’s kingdom?  See Zec 4:6.  As various calisthenics provide physical strength to our bodies, again, what is it that strengthens our spirit, both for spiritual victory in the heavenly realms, and for victory here on earth as God’s heavenly kingdom comes down?  See again Mat 26:41, as well as Jesus’ own example here in the garden.  Although the disciples proved to be sorry comforters and gave Him no help in His most desperate time of need, who did?  See Luk 22:43; cf. Psa 138:3.  What does this remind us about how the aid that God provides to men is not limited to other men?  Cf. Heb 2:9,16.  What was the result of the angel’s strengthening?  See Luk 22:44.  What does this remind us about the nature of the strength God provides, and how we obtain that strength?  Cf. Zec 4:6.  If all we receive from God is strength to pray fervently with loud crying and tears to do the will of the Father, shall we suppose He has not heard?  Cf. Heb 5:7.

[1] Though we may pray to God to prevent and remove an affliction, yet our chief errand, and that which we should most insist upon, must be, that he will give us grace to bear it well. It should be more our care to get our troubles sanctified, and our hearts satisfied under them, than to get them taken away…  Prayer is the offering up, not only of our desires, but of our resignations, to God.  Matthew Henry.