“But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail.” Luke 22:32
In Jesus’ final hours on earth, He instituted the Lord’s Supper, identified His betrayer, and, most importantly, attempted to prepare the disciples for the coming events. His attempts failed.
The disciples did not realize the significance of any of these moments. Likewise, they did not note anything unusual about Jesus taking a walk after the Passover meal to the Mount of Olives.
Luke 22:39 says, “He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed.” Walking the one-mile trek across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives after dinner was a common and usual activity for Jesus whenever He was in Jerusalem. Therefore, on this night, the night of His betrayal and arrest, the disciples did not notice anything unusual.
However, things began to change once they arrived at the Mount of Olives. Soon, Jesus would experience a series of heartbreaking moments even while gearing Himself up for taking on the sins of the world.
Jesus in the Garden
The Mount of Olives is a very beautiful and peaceful place. The Garden of Gethsemane is especially lovely, which occupies one corner of the mount.
The garden overlooks the Kidron Valley and sits directly across from the Temple Mount, where the holy house of God once stood until its destruction in 70 A.D. Understandably, Jesus liked to escape there to be quiet and pray. So, it is equally, if not more, understandable that He should want to be there on this particular night.
The disciples traveled with Jesus to the garden. Once they arrived, He asked Peter, James, and John to go into the garden with Him while the others stayed at the entrance gate (Matthew 26:36-27; Mark 14:32-33). After a short walk, Jesus instructs the three men to pray that they do not fall into temptation, meaning the temptation of sleep.
Jesus is testing the disciples. He is attempting to confirm their commitment and trust in Him. He knew they were tired, but He wanted them to learn that only divine help would be sufficient for the events ahead.
Jesus then “withdrew,” translated in Luke 22 as apospao, meaning “tear away.” This translation tells us Jesus had to tear Himself away from His beloved friends, and He could only manage to go “a stone’s throw” away before He had to pray. Matthew 26:39 and Mark 14:35 both say He fell to pray, either on His face or His knees. Either way, it is evident Jesus was already experiencing great sorrow.
The First Heartbreak
Because Jesus was only “a stone’s throw” away, it is likely the disciples heard His prayer. They likely heard His great emotion as He begged the Father to “take this cup away” and saw Him sweat so profusely it appeared “like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44).”
We know the disciples became concerned for Jesus because, by the time Jesus returned to them, He found them “sleeping from sorrow (v45).” Luke’s description indicates the disciples knew something terrible was going on, but fatigue overtook them. Matthew 26:41 shows us Jesus became very frustrated.
“What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”
But even in His frustration, Jesus understands our physical limits, which is why He quickly shows compassion.
“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The disciples were anxious to the point of exhaustion, leaving the Lord to face His fears alone. This was Jesus’ first heartbreak that night. The disciples cared, but they could not adequately assist Him in His hour of need.
Perhaps worse, Jesus knew He would endure the remainder of His last night alone as well.
While Jesus scolded the disciples for falling asleep, a “multitude” of temple guards, representatives of the Sanhedrin, a Roman soldier, and Judas Iscariot arrived with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Gathering around Jesus, Judas famously kisses Him to signal to the guards who to arrest. Jesus rebukes Judas by saying, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss (Luke 22:48)?” Matthew 26:49-50 records the encounter this way:
“Immediately, he went up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. But Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, why have you come?'”
Judas’ familiarity with Jesus and false affection was Jesus’ second heartbreak. Note the Lord’s curt response when He calls Judas “friend.” The Greek word used for “friend” here does not imply someone who is a close companion. Instead, Matthew uses the Greek word for “comrade,” someone who is only an associate. Jesus is describing Judas’ heart to him and acknowledging their relationship had taken a sad turn.
Jesus’ question convicts Judas, causing him to realize the full depth of his betrayal. He remembered Jesus specifically chose him to be a disciple and a friend. He knew Jesus had faith in him. But his disloyalty was so great and egregious he later hung himself (Matthew 27:5)
It surely must have been a very painful moment for both Judas and Jesus. Nevertheless, it was all part of God’s redemption plan.
Peter Denies Jesus
Judas was not the only one who betrayed Jesus that night.
After the temple guards arrested Jesus in Gethsemane, they took Him first to Annas, the former high priest and Caiaphus’ father-in-law (John 18:13), for a religious trial. Jesus was then bound and led to Caiaphus’ house, where “the scribes and the elders were assembled (Matthew 26:57).” Because they were already assembled, it is clear the Pharisees’ conspiracy was going perfectly.
Just outside Caiaphus’ house, Peter, who wanted to see what would happen to the Lord, sat down next to the Caiaphus’ servants. As he watched the unfolding events, a servant girl walked up to him and proclaimed she saw him with Jesus. Peter immediately denied the accusation.
Not long after, two more people accuse Peter of being one of the disciples. A second girl identifies him as Jesus’ disciple, to which Peter more emphatically says, “I do not know the Man (Matthew 26:72)!” Luke 22:60 records Peter saying, “Man, I am not!”
About an hour later, someone else approaches Peter with the same allegation. This unidentified person asserts Peter is Galilean, so he must be a disciple. Even more upset now, Peter shouts back, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” Both Matthew 26:74 and Mark 14:71 record Peter “began to curse and swear, saying, ‘I do not know this Man of whom you speak!'”
As Peter shouts, a rooster crows, causing Jesus to turn and look “intently” at Peter (Luke 22:61). One can only imagine Peter’s searing guilt as he remembered Jesus’ words spoken just hours earlier during supper.
Just as Jesus predicted, Peter denied the Lord three times before a rooster crowed twice (Matthew 26:34; Mark 14:30). Mark records Peter immediately broke into tears. Matthew 26:75 and Luke 22:62 both say he “wept bitterly.”
Peter’s denial is Jesus’ third heartbreak. Though He had predicted Peter’s actions, Jesus surely was sad they had come to pass. Peter, too, was obviously heartbroken. But the event proves that no matter how horribly we fail, God is willing and able to restore us, which we see Jesus do for Peter in John 21:15-17.
From Heartbreak to Restoration
Jesus restores us, but He also prays for us, just as He prayed for Peter during the last supper.
“And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail, and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Luke 22:31-32
In the Greek text, Satan did not ask for only Peter; he asked for all the disciples. But Jesus intervened, telling Peter that He prayed for all of them and Peter specifically. He, likewise, prays for us.
Jesus is our true high priest, and He lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). He is always praying for us before the Father. And though we fail, in His divine grace, He allows the sifting to refine us, strengthen our faith, and create a testimony that encourages others.
The events the night of Jesus’ arrest broke His heart, but perhaps the worst heartbreak was in knowing that so many people reject Him, both then and now. Even so, He willingly died on our behalf and paid the price of death we owe. It was His joy to endure the cross (Hebrews 12:2) so that we might experience freedom and eternal life. And it is His joy to walk alongside us every day.
God’s love is everlasting even when we break His heart. His compassion is unmatched. Though we are not always faithful to Him, He is constantly faithful to us. He is ready to forgive and restore us again and again if we just seek Him, trust Him, and endure.