I Remember the Night
A Monolog on Matthew 26:36-39
How well I remember that night! In truth, it was the early hours of the morning. We were in the garden with Him. My brother, John, the blustery Simon Peter, and myself were closest to Him when He prayed. It had been a hard day, that Thursday, and a long night. We were all more than ready for sleep.
He seemed more weary than all of us. His head bowed, His shoulders sagged, and his feet dragged as we ascended the garden path. His face was pale, covered with perspiration, and we thought He shivered a little, maybe from the cool spring breeze that rustled the leaves and spread the night dampness over our skin. He asked us to stay behind and went a little farther, only a stone’s throw away. He knelt to pray.
Beyond exhaustion, we all sank to the ground. We might have fallen asleep immediately except for His compelling request that we “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” we fought sleep. We really tried.
While we were barely awake, the words of His prayer drifted to us across the short distance separating us from Him; "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
Did He pray for deliverance from the threat of death? I remembered how, nearly a year earlier, He first told us He was destined to die at the hands of the leaders. At that time, I recall, Peter rebuked hm for such a suggestion.
Finally, I thought, He’s come to His senses. He’s praying for an escape. His prayers were always answered in the past. Now, surely the Father will hear and He won’t have to die the martyr’s death.
But, somehow, it seemed a strange reversal for Him to seek a way out.
He had spent almost a year trying to convince us He was destined to die. He said it was to fulfill Scripture. He told us, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."1 He once said of His life, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”2
Not many days ago, He confided, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'?” Then, He answered His own question, “No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!"3
That night, I heard Him pray. I didn’t want Him to die. Yet, I was embarrassed to think my master prayed for deliverance from the very event he had declared to be His destiny.
Well, the traitor Iscariot came to the garden with his mob and you know the rest of the story.
With the passing of time, more clarity of mind, and the influence of God’s Spirit, I’ve come to understand events a little better. I now recall the last words He said before He went into the garden to pray. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”3 I now realize He wasn’t praying for deliverance from the ordeal of the cross. He was asking the Father to help Him live long enough to endure the cross for me!
Notes: 1. Matthew 20:28, 2. John 10:18 3. John 12:28 Bible quotations in New International Version.
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