Under the light of the full, Passover moon, Yeshua and His disciples came into the olive grove of Gethsemane. The Master told the disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed” (Mark 14:32). He instructed them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40). What kind of temptation did He fear that the disciples might enter?
The Greek word for “temptation (peirasmos, πειρασμός)” might mean trial, testing, or enticement to sin. The Hebrew equivalent (nissayon, נסיון) has the same range of meaning. That night in Gethsemane, all those meanings applied. Yeshua knew that Satan was on the move against them, ready to pounce. He warned the disciples earlier, “the ruler of the world is coming” (John 14:30), and He told them, “Behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat!” (Luke 22:31). Iscariot had already fallen under the Adversary’s influence.
Years earlier, Satan had tried to entice the Master in a series of three temptations. When “the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). The opportune time had come. The “hour” was upon them, and an eschatological collision between the forces of light and the forces of darkness was about to take place. Yeshua urged the disciples to remain vigilant in prayer so that they might not fall into Satan’s schemes.
Leaving the disciples, He took aside Simon Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, the same three He had taken with Him onto the high mountain at the time of His transfiguration. Together they went a short way further into the grove. He began to feel the weight of darkness pressing in upon Him: “He began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death’” (Mark 14:33-34).
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? … O my God, my soul is in despair within me. (Psalm 42:6-7[5-6])
The Master felt the malevolent power of evil bearing down on Him. “And behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him” (Genesis 15:12). “The cords of death encompassed [Him] and the terrors of Sheol came upon [Him; He] found distress and sorrow” (Psalm 116:3).
In that hour, He did not want to be utterly alone. He told the three disciples, “remain here and keep watch with Me” (Matthew 26:38). He asked the disciples to stay awake, watch, and pray, but their eyes felt heavy; their heads swam. After a large meal and four cups of wine, the sweet, cool air of Jerusalem whispered to them of sleep. The Mishnah observes that dozing off at the seder meal was common. How much more, then, does a person feel sleepy after the meal is over.
“He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray” (Luke 22:41). As Simon Peter and the Sons of Zebedee tried to banish sleep from their eyes, they could hear the Master’s impassioned cries and shouts in the darkness.