All that transpires in the text before us took place at Gethsemane in the space of about three hours. We see Jesus praying to God the Father and hear His words. We see Peter, James and John slumbering while Jesus prayed. And lastly, we see Judas delivering Jesus into the hands of the chief priests and the elders of the people.
“And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee . . .” (v. 37). There was a reason, perhaps multiple reasons, why Jesus selected these three. The same three were with Him upon the mount when Jesus was transfigured (17:1, 2). Matthew 20:20-21 reveals that James and John sought seats of honor, above the other disciples. Shortly before coming to Gethsemane, Peter proclaimed that he would never deny Jesus. The verses which follow do not state why Jesus drew these three aside. That said, the instruction to tarry and to watch (v. 38), has been preserved in scripture for God’s purposes.
Jesus had told all of His disciples that the time for the Son of man to be betrayed and to be crucified was now. The time had come for Psalm 22 to be fulfilled. The three were to wait and to watch so that they might be ready for the scriptures to be fulfilled.
The three fell asleep. They could not watch and wait a single hour (v. 40). In verse 41, Jesus told the three to watch and to pray that they not enter into temptation. Jesus went away to pray a second time. When Jesus returned, the three were sound asleep. They had failed again. Jesus returned to pray a third time. When He returned, they were again asleep. They were not ready for the hour of temptation.
God wants believers to see the failure of these three and reflect upon it. These three had seen the vision of Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. Despite having been chosen to see that which the other disciples did not see, the three failed to wait and to watch. They saw what the others did not see by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, yet, they failed to wait and the watch.
All believers are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Jesus has told all to “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 25:13). We are called, not to sleep, but, to watch. We are to be ready for His return. The scriptures shall be fulfilled. Some shall be taken and some shall remain. Some shall have oil in their lamps and some shall be dry (Matt. 25:1-13). The oil of the Spirit burns in the darkest of times. The best of the flesh dies with the flesh.
“And he left them . . . and prayed the third time” (v. 44). Jesus prayed the same words each and every time. He prayed, “Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (v. 39). These are words of God the Son directed to God the Father. Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, prayed that He not drink of “this cup” if possible. The cup was the death upon the cross. God’s word states that the Messiah would be cut off, but not for Himself (Dan. 9:27). Another scripture states, “. . . because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors: and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12). The Messiah would die a sacrificial death. The cup could only pass from Jesus if He were not the Messiah of whom the prophets spoke. God does not lie. The cup did not pass from Jesus. It is not possible that He not be God the Son! The Son could not place the will of His flesh above the Father’s will.
The Father wants all men to know that He and the Son are one. This prayer has been preserved as scripture for all who shall believe. The Father wants all to know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). God counts belief for righteousness (Gen. 15:6).
When Jesus returned from praying the third time, He found the disciples slumbering again. It was time that He should be betrayed into the hands of sinners (v. 45). Judas and a great multitude from the chief priests and the elders had arrived.
What follows is an unexpected question. Jesus asked, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” Jesus knew the answer to His question (see Matt. 26:25). Jesus knew that Judas had come to deliver Him into the hands of the chief priests and the elders.
Why did Jesus ask the question? Jesus knew that Judas had come to betray Him and the reason that Judas had come to betray Him. Why (to betray Jesus) was made known to us and to the disciples in verse 21. Judas did not choose to follow Jesus with the intent that he be the one who would fulfill the words of Psalm 41:9. Judas chose to lift up his heel against Jesus when Satan took control (see Lk. 22:3 and Jn. 13:27). Judas became an instrument of Satan because he did not believe in the God who so loved the world that He would give His only begotten Son such that all who should believe would receive life eternal.
Judas did not answer Jesus’ question. There is no answer for them who believe not. Believers are to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).