After the Last Supper, Luke 22:39 says,
39 And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.
John 18:1 is more specific, adding, “where there was a garden.” Mark 14:32 says “they came to a place named Gethsemane,” that is, an olive press. The Hebrew word for olive was shemen. Gethsemane is not a Greek word but has an Aramaic origin. Gath means a press, normally a wine press, but these could also be used for olives or other fruit. In Joshua 19:45 we are told that the tribe of Dan had a city called Gath-rimmon, “pomegranate press.”
When they arrived at the Mount of Olives, Jesus told eight of His disciples to “Sit here while I go over there and pray” (Matt. 26:36). He then took Peter, James, and John further down the path (Mark 14:33) before telling them to “remain here and keep watch” (Mark 14:34). Luke 22:40, 41 says,
40 And when He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray.
The setting, then, shows how Jesus divided His disciples into two groups before separating Himself from all them into a third class. This naturally portrays the tabernacle and temple, which was divided into three parts. The majority of the people (represented by the eight disciples) were allowed to come into the outer court. The three disciples represented the priests who were given access to the Holy Place. Jesus, as High Priest, went further into the Most Holy Place into the full presence of God.
The garden, then, was being portrayed as the tabernacle, or temple. It also runs parallel to the Garden of Eden, where the original sin had occurred. There are some very deep principles being portrayed here, because the original sin in the first garden was about to be addressed in the second. And because the temple was the place, in later years, where the sins of Israel were to be addressed, the garden became the temple.
In this scene Peter, James, and John played the role of priests in the Holy Place. Priests were the intercessors, representing God to men and men to God. It was a priest’s responsibility also to engage in spiritual warfare on behalf of the nation, for we read in Num. 4:23,
23 from thirty years and upward to fifty years old, you shall number them; all who enter to perform the service [literally, “to war the warfare”] to do the work in the tent of meeting.
This warfare was not carnal, for the priests were exempt from warring against flesh and blood. Their priestly service, nonetheless, was called “warfare,” but in offering sacrifice they did their work of intercession and engaged in spiritual warfare. Paul describes this in Eph. 6:12, saying,
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places.
He then describes the armor of God and the Sword of the Spirit, as distinct from physical armor and swords that are used in fleshly warfare. This is how a priest wages war to overcome iniquity and wickedness, wherever it is found. The battle does not end until all things are subdued under the feet of Christ and all of creation is reconciled.
Prayer to Avoid Temptation, or Trial
In Matt. 26:36 Jesus told the eight in the outer court to “sit here.” They were not assigned to do any work, for they represented those in the outer court to whom the priests ministered.
In Luke 22:40, Jesus told the three to “pray that you may not enter into temptation.” This was their instruction in regard to their priestly function about warring the warfare. Priests were responsible to pray, to hear God’s voice, and to discern the will of God, not only for themselves but for the people and nation. Without such divine leading, they would inevitably “enter into temptation” (or trial, proving). Their hearts needed to be prepared for what lay ahead—the final Sacrifice.
The Priests of Levi were about to offer that Sacrifice, because the law specified that this was their duty. But they were to do so with swords, or knives, in a violent manner. The three disciples, however, were not of Levi, but their priesthood was of a different order, the Order of Melchizedek.
The disciples were unaware of their new calling at that time. When men do not understand the word, they are bored when they hear it. When men do not understand their callings, they fall asleep.
An intriguing question remains for us: What if the disciples had remained alert and had prayed as Jesus had instructed them? How might subsequent events have been altered? What opportunity did they miss to change history? When they failed to intercede, what did they allow to happen to the eight disciples (and, by extension, all the people they represented in the outer court)?
Could the early Church have avoided at least some of the trials that came upon them? Did their sleep allow the carnal ones to continue performing their sacrifices during the Pentecostal Age? Rev. 6:9 pictures the martyrs’ souls “underneath the altar,” which is where the priests were to pour out the blood of sacrifices (Lev. 17:13). The stated reason for this is that the blood is said to be the soul. Hence, we see the souls under the altar, and not just their blood.
If God treats the martyrs as sacrifices at the hands of carnal priests, then perhaps the three Melchizedek priests in the garden were supposed to intercede for them. Theoretically, if they had understood and had remained alert in prayer, they might have established the Melchizedek way of sacrifice, which would have been accomplished by the Sword of the Spirit without physical bloodshed.
In other words, it appears that what Jesus was soon to accomplish on the cross might have reduced the level of persecution against the early Church during the Pentecostal Age. No one can say for sure, of course, because the disciples fell asleep and left this work undone.
Even so, the priestly work of the Melchizedek Order remains to this day. We have the same instructions today as we enter into the Tabernacles Age. This coming Age is an age of peace. Is this peace established by priests today who are faithful to engage in spiritual warfare as Jesus instructed? If we consider ourselves to be “priests of God and of Christ” (Rev. 20:6) are we faithful to do as He instructed the three in the garden? Or will our lack of understanding cause us to fall asleep, allowing more persecution than otherwise would be necessary?
Jesus’ Three Prayers
Luke 22:42 tells us how Jesus prayed:
42 saying, “Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done.”
Mark 14:36 says,
36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt.”
Jesus knew that in spite of all the prophecies about His death and resurrection, there was always another way if the right conditions could be met. Spiritual death, for example, could replace physical death. And while most Christians are accustomed to thinking of spiritual death in terms of divine judgment that is worse than physical death, it is, in fact, reckoning one’s self to be dead while yet alive. This is what every believer is told to do, as Paul teaches in Rom. 6:11.
Yet in this case there was no way to avoid the cross. Once Adam had sinned, the cross was inevitable, for the penalty for sin was death (Rom. 6:23). Nonetheless, Jesus’ physical death and resurrection made it possible for us to follow the path of reckoning ourselves to be dead. In fact, the potential was even there to achieve immortality without dying, for Paul tells us that the overcomers at the end of the age would be “changed” without dying (1 Cor. 15:51).
Luke 22:43 continues,
43 Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.
Luke is the only one to tell us this detail. Perhaps he thought it was important, because Paul himself had experienced a similar answer when he prayed three times to have his “thorn” removed. God had told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). No doubt Luke saw Paul’s revelation in light of Jesus’ three prayers in the garden (Matt. 26:44).
Luke 22:44 continues,
44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.
Luke is the only gospel writer to include this detail as well, for being a doctor, this was of interest to him. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary tells us,
“Luke does not say that the perspiration was blood; he says that it was like blood. There are a few cases recorded in medical history in which intense mental suffering has been accompanied by the oozing of blood from the skin because of a breakdown of the blood vessels.”
This appears to mark the point in time where Jesus knew that there was no alternative to the cross. At that point, He began to sweat, because He was taking upon Himself the condition caused by Adam’s sin. Gen. 3:19 says,
19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, “the House of Bread.” He was placed in a manger to signify that He was to be the Bread of Life for all to eat. But that bread had to be broken before it could be multiplied for the people. Hence, He had to die in order to feed the world with the true bread that came down from heaven. John 6 gives us a more complete teaching on this topic.
The Light of the World
Jesus took upon Himself the sin of the world, and so He began to sweat profusely in the garden of Gethsemane. He was truly in the oil press at this point, being pressed and crushed also to bring the light of God to the world. “I am the light of the world,” He said in John 8:12. The lampstand in the Holy Place gave light only because the olives had been pressed, and its oil was burning in seven lamps. Exodus 27:20 says,
20 And you shall charge the sons of Israel that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually.
The lampstand prophesied of the light that Jesus was to bring after He went to the garden of Gethsemane (“olive press”). Once again, there was no way to extract olive oil for the lampstand without pressing and crushing the olives.
Luke 22:45, 46 says,
45 And when He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, 46 and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Matt. 26:44 tells us that Jesus actually went to the three sleeping disciples three times. The first time He wakened them, but the second time he did not. The third time He came when His own prayer had ended, knowing that the time had come for His betrayal and arrest. Matt. 26:45, 46 says,
45 Then He came to the disciples, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”
The setting represented the Garden of Eden, where the first Adam betrayed God in his sin. The setting also portrayed the temple, where the Son of Man was “betrayed into the hands of sinners.” The “sinners” in this case were the temple priests with the help of Judas.