When the passover supper was ended, Jesus left the upper chamber with his disciples, and together they crossed the brook Kedron. Sorrow and anguish pressed upon the heart of the Saviour, and with sadness he said to his disciples: “All ye shall be offended because of me this night; for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” Peter, always foremost in speech, assured his Master of his fidelity. “Though all men shall be offended because of thee,” he said, “yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him. Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.”
As Christ entered the garden of Gethsemane, he bade his disciples remain near the entrance, while he took Peter, James, and John with him a short distance. Then urging these three to watch and pray, he left them. The Saviour desired to be alone with God, that he might wrestle with him in prayer. The agony that pressed upon his soul was not for the physical suffering that he must endure. He was feeling the offensive character of the sin that he must bear. He must suffer the penalty of the broken law, and bear the Father’s wrath.
A little distance from his disciples, Christ fell on his face and prayed. “O my Father,” he cried, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
In the deepening gloom that surrounded him, every stay seemed falling from Christ, and his soul reached out for human sympathy. At length, and pressed with an inexpressible weight of agony, he arose, and moved through the darkness to the place where he had left his three friends. But he found them sleeping. “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” he asked.
At this most important time—the time when Jesus had made special request for them to watch with him—the disciples slept. Christ had taken them with him that they might be a strength to him, and that the events they should witness that night, and the instruction they should receive, might be indelibly imprinted on their memories. This was necessary in order that their faith might not fail, but be strengthened for the test just before them. But instead of watching with Christ, they fell asleep. Even the ardent Peter, who only a few hours before had declared that he would suffer, and, if need be, die for his Lord, was asleep when Jesus needed his sympathy and prayers.
With the words, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation,” the lonely Sufferer turned again to his solitude and prayer. Again his voice was borne upon the sympathizing air: “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
“And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.” The Saviour is alone in his sorrow. Jerusalem is in slumber; even the disciples in Gethsemane are sleeping. His form bowed to the earth, Jesus prays such a prayer as the angels have never before listened to. It is the voice of helpless suffering that speaks. “O my Father,” he says, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” His heart seems bursting with agony, and from his pale brow fall drops of blood. The very life-current seems flowing from his bleeding heart.
The powers of darkness were encompassing the Son of God; for the destiny of a lost world hung in the balance. Satan was clothing him with the garments of sin. Christ had placed himself in the sinner’s stead, and he felt that a great gulf separated him from his Father. It was a moment of soul-agony for the Son of God. It was the hour of the power of darkness. Shall he drink the cup? Shall he take upon his divine soul the guilt of a lost world, and consent to be numbered with the transgressors? It was here that the mysterious cup trembled in his hand. The billows of wrath were rolling over his head, but the woes of a lost world also rose before him; and he consented to the sacrifice. “Nevertheless,” he said, “not my will, but thine, be done.”
The Redeemer had poured out his soul with strong crying and tears unto Him who was able to save him from death; and he was heard. Even with Calvary before him, he had defeated the enemy, and his soul rested calmly in his Father’s love.
Again Christ came to his disciples, and found them sleeping. “Sleep on now,” he said. “and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.”
Soon glaring torches were seen among the trees, and the heavy tramp of an approaching mob broke the stillness of the night. Helmeted soldiers, with glittering swords and flaming torches, drew up around the Son of God. As his eye rested on them, Christ inquired, “Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he.” As they looked upon the blood-stained face of Christ, their physical strength failed them, and they fell as dead men to the ground. It was not Christ’s suffering that unnerved them; for they were accustomed to the sight of human suffering. It was the voice of God speaking to them through Christ that melted their hearts in terror.
Seeing their foe fallen, the disciples took courage. “Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear…. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, and led him away.”
— E.G. White, Youth’s Instructor, April 11, 1901