A-Z: Famous stories from the Bible: Jesus prays in Gethsemane


Agony in the Garden by Andrea MantegnaAfter Jesus had celebrated the traditional Passover evening meal in Jerusalem with his disciples, they left the city and went to a garden called Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus knew that he was very soon to be betrayed by one of his followers and killed by his enemies, so he took Peter, James and John a little apart from the others so that he could pray. He told his three friends how distressed and grief-stricken he was and asked them to watch out while he went off a little way and prayed. Lying face down Jesus begged God to prevent what was about to happen, but nevertheless submitted to whatever was God’s will. 

After about an hour Jesus returned to his friends, who had meanwhile fallen asleep. He rebuked them and again encouraged them to keep watch and pray while he prayed. Then he spent another solitary hour in agonising prayer; one disciple reported seeing him sweating drops of blood, so great was his distress. 

When Jesus returned again to the three disciples, who had, as before, fallen asleep, he roused them again, asking them to pray and keep watch. He went away a third time and prayed, finally accepting the difficult role he’d been given. 

Then Jesus returned to the disciples for the last time, waking them with the warning that there was no more time for sleep or prayer. He predicted that he was about to be betrayed to the authorities and led them to meet the advancing mob, who were led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Judas greeted Jesus with a kiss, indicating to those following the man they should arrest.

The story illustrates: 

  • Jesus’ humanity: he felt lonely and let down by his friends and was scared of the terrors awaiting him
  • Jesus’ ultimate obedience to his Father. Although he recoiled with horror from the fate that awaited him, he accepted it nonetheless
  • Jesus’ understanding that human intention is not always matched by the ability to carry it out.

Related topics

Big ideas from the Bible: PrayerLast supper, communion, eucharist, mass

Bible References

Matthew 26:36-50; Luke 22:44
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