Luke 22:39–53 . . . Bible Study Summary with Videos and Questions
Prayers in the Garden
From today's passage, it seems that the disciples were prepared for one awful evening but Jesus wasn't. The disciples boasted of their strong commitment to follow Jesus, even to prison and death (22:33). Not anxious or distressed, they were calm enough to sleep. But Jesus (more as an outside observer than from God's perspective) looked like an emotional wreck: He was extremely distressed and troubled, even to the point of death (Mark 14:33–34); he was in so much agony that his sweat resembled drops of blood (Luke 22:44, shown below); he cried loudly with tears (Hebrews 5:7). You'd think, looking on, that the disciples were prepared and that Jesus was falling apart. Yet the disciples were about to fail terribly and Jesus was about to endure victoriously the greatest trial that anyone has ever had to endure. What made the difference? If we don't pray as Jesus prayed, we'll fall into temptation as the disciples had fallen.
The Necessities of Prayer and the Cup (vv. 39–44)
For Jesus, prayer was as necessary as breathing. We've seen since the beginning of our study in Luke that there's been an ongoing conversation between Jesus and his heavenly Father. In essence we found that Jesus never said one word, never went anywhere, never made a decision, and never did anything without first checking in with his Father. He taught his disciples that his desire was to do on earth the will of his Father.
Jesus entered the garden of olive trees called Gethsemane (which means "olive press"). Within an hour, he'd struggle with his Father about the cross and whether he was willing to go through that agony and separation. The pressure would become so intense that, just as olives are put in a press in order to produce oil, our Lord was pressed to the point that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.
Our Lord needed the presence and power of his Father in order to enter into the battle that had been planned before the world's creation: the defeat of Satan and his destructive forces over the lives of men, women, and children. The Prince of Peace, who'd been rejected four days earlier when he rode a donkey down from Mount Olivet into Jerusalem, was now kneeling in a garden on Mount Olivet. Jesus was God's final, innocent and sinless Passover Lamb, about to take the full wrath of God for the sin of humanity that would be laid on him, within hours, so that Satan's captives could be set free to worship and serve God once again. Our Lord was feeling acute emotional pain as he looked with apprehension at his coming ordeal (i.e., cup); he was being tempted to not go to the cross.
Jesus prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Remember that, within the previous hour, our Lord had celebrated his last Passover; at the same time he'd taken the second and third cups of a four-cup meal, making them become the first Lord's Supper. During the second cup he'd taken a piece of unleavened bread, which symbolized his sinless life, broke it before the disciples, and said, "This is my body which is given for you..." Then he took the third cup and said to them, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you" (22:20b).
The cup that he was referring to in his prayer (v. 42) was the shedding of his blood for the forgiveness of sin. For if he was going to die on that cross for the sin of mankind, that meant that this innocent Lamb of God would have all the sin of humanity placed on him. He'd experience sin for the first time in his eternal life, and then he'd have to experience the full wrath of the holy God against that sin. The result was that for the first time he'd be completely separated from the presence, love, and holiness of his Father. He grieved and became distressed, for he felt the desire to not do the will of his Father.
Finally, in the midst of his temptation, he made his decision: "Not my will, but yours be done." He didn't let his feelings of fear rule him. He was saying, I don't want this, it'll hurt; it'll separate me from you, my Father; I'll lose my life, and my disciples are going to forsake me; but I'm going to obey You, Father God!
The Father lived out his life in the Son amid trials, temptations, joys, and sorrows, to carry out his will on earth. In the same way, we're called to heartily allow our risen Lord to live out his life — in and through us — so that his will may be done and his kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven. Our Lord was being tempted to avoid the cross and separation from his Father; but in midst of the temptation, he learned obedience from the things that he suffered. Do you deal similarly when you face temptation?
"An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him." God surrounded his Son and his people with wonderful angelic beings, sent to minister to Jesus (and us) in a variety of ways, especially in times of trials and temptations. This gift of the Father's love was first seen at Jesus' birth; then again just before he began his ministry on the mount of temptation when, after Satan tempted our Lord three times, Jesus ordered the evil one to depart. Now in Gethsemane, our Lord needed to be strengthened even more.
Jesus Found His Disciples Sleeping in the Garden of Prayer (vv. 45–46)
For the disciples, evil stress was so great at this point in their lives that the only way they could cope with it was to go to sleep, hoping that when they woke the temptations would be gone. Not so! Sleeping simply put off their ability to cope and defeat their temptations. Do you ever feel like getting a nice soft pillow and disappearing from reality for a while, hoping that a temptation won't be there when you wake up? Jesus was telling them, Don't go to sleep; pray about that temptation.
Christ refused to sleep in the face of this "temptation of the flesh to avoid the cross." Instead, in the midst of suffering, he learned obedience. He was telling them, Keep watching all the events around you, and realize that you'll enter into a variety of temptations in the days ahead. You'll be like sheep that have been scattered because the shepherd had been struck down. The key to your faithfulness in remaining my disciples and my faithful witnesses is to pray to our loving heavenly Father who'll provide the power to overcome the flesh. Peter boasted in the flesh that he'd follow Jesus to his death, if necessary. In his spirit he meant it, but in the first trial after saying it, our Lord had to point out that his flesh was weak.
From Temptation, to Temptation Our Lord began his earthly ministry on a mountain where he went to pray and fast for forty days, only to be tempted by Satan to worship him. He closed his earthly ministry with an hour of agonized prayer in which he struggled with the temptation to avoid the cross. If our Lord Jesus Christ himself, the Son of God in his humanity, prayed when he faced temptation, you can see why he told his disciples at the beginning of this hour, and then at the end, Pray to God your Father that, in the difficult days ahead, you won't be tempted to deny and forsake me.
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (vv. 47–53)
Expecting a fight, a large crowd came to Gethsemane. It included a detachment of heavily armed Roman soldiers (John 18:3). They came with torches, as though they'd need to search for "a Jesus in hiding." Jesus didn't resist; but he rebuked his disciples for trying to resist. Jesus didn't hide; indeed, he approached the crowd. Jesus was totally unshaken, totally in control; it was the arresting officers who were shaken up. John's account informs us that they actually drew back and tripped over themselves when Jesus identified himself to them (John 18:6).
Luke doesn't detail Jesus' arrest as other gospel writers do. Instead, he sticks to a very basic account including the approach of Judas and the arresting party, and the attempted resistance of Jesus' disciples, one of whom, Peter (John 18:10), struck the servant of the high priest, severing "his right ear" (as Doctor Luke reports).
Rebuke, Rebuke, Rebuke The focus of Luke's account isn't on what was done "to" Jesus, but on what was said and done "by" Jesus. In the final analysis, Jesus rebuked three times, healed once. In response to Judas' approach to kiss the Savior, Jesus rebuked him with the words, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" These were serious words to ponder, words that would haunt him until his death, likely throughout eternity. In response to his disciples' attempt to resist his arrest, Jesus rebuked them while he healed the severed ear of the high priest's servant.
Finally, Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for the way in which they dealt with him. In vv. 52–53, Jesus spoke to the chief priests, the temple guard, and the elders of the Jews, rebuking them all for dealing with him underhandedly and inappropriately, as though he were a criminal, rather than a peaceful, law-abiding citizen. Every day he'd been in the temple; his teaching was in the open and subject to public scrutiny; he hadn't hidden out but had taught publicly. Yet they chose not to deal with him openly, instead to secretly capture him late at night, in the cloak of darkness and deceitfulness (e.g., the kiss of Judas). They were admonished for the way they'd dealt with Jesus.
- Q. 1 Why is Judas' kiss so hideous? (vv. 47–48)
- Q. 2 As the disciples began to defend Jesus with their swords (vv. 49–50), in what way was that courageous? Foolish?
- Q. 3 What's your biggest hindrance to praying? How do you intend to overcome it?
New International Version (NIV) [To view it in a different version, click here; also listen to chapter 22.]
† Watch this passage-specific video clip from Jesus Film Project titled "Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested."
Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives
39Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
45When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46"Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."
47While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48but Jesus asked him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"
49When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" 50And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
51But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him.
52Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour — when darkness reigns."