Jesus arrives at the place where he usually went to pray. As they did every time, the disciples followed him. Luke tells us that Jesus exhorts these men to pray. The exhortation begins and ends this passage … something that is called ‘inclusio.’ These words book-end the passage, thereby emphasizing the importance of what came between them. The fact that the words are repeated also emphasize their own importance to the story.
Every evening, Jesus and his disciples went out to the Mount of Olives and spent the night there. This information is what Judas gave to the chief priests so that Jesus could be arrested and even though the Lord knew what Judas was about to do, he went ahead and kept to his pattern.
The normal posture for prayer was to be standing. Luke tells us that Jesus’ knelt. Matthew 26:39 and Mark 14:35 say that Jesus fell to the ground in prayer. He was under a great deal of emotional strain.
The first words Jesus prayed were about God’s will. Luke has continually portrayed Jesus as fulfilling the plan set forth by God. It is still God’s will that is foremost in Jesus’ mind … even when he is facing imminent death.
The cup that Jesus was about to bear was not necessarily fear of the physical pain of death, though. Jesus was facing all of God’s wrath for our sins. He was going to be alone on that cross. Because of the sin he bore, God could be nowhere near him. He bore that alone. That was the greatest gift Jesus gave to humanity. That was what caused him to sweat blood as he prayed. These quiet moments with God would be his last until his task was complete. The compassion that God showed by sending the angel to give him strength is heart-wrenching. God knew what was coming and that it was his son who would face this. There was nothing he could do except let it play out, because what was at stake was greater than a single man’s momentary sense of desolation and pain. The entire salvation of humanity was balanced on this moment in time.
When the time had come to leave the safety of his moment with God, Jesus returned to his disciples. They were exhausted and had fallen asleep. He woke them and asked them once again to pray so they would not fall into temptation.