Faithlife Sermons

The Exemplary Dependence of Jesus

The Gospel of Luke 2  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:12
1 rating
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
Intro: … dealing with physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion from facing moments of crisis
When faced with trial (and particularly with severe crisis), where do we turn? And how…
My level of stress, although it feels large to me, I know is paltry by comparison to the pressure that Jesus faced throughout his earthly ministry, and on this night in particular.
If Jesus turned to the Father in dependent and submissive prayer, surely we must do the same.
Luke 22:39–46 ESV
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
The center of this text is Jesus’ dependent & submissive prayer. Everything else in the paragraph revolves around Jesus’ prayer. First we have a change in setting that will serve as an important backdrop not only for the prayer but also for the coming betrayal and arrest. We have a command from Jesus to the disciples that carries the force of a warning: pray so that you won’t give in to temptation (or that you won’t fail the test). Then we have Jesus praying with dependence on the Father and submitting to his will, followed by an answer from heaven and further agonizing in prayer. Finally, in Luke’s summary of the events, Jesus goes back to the disciples with the same warning because they have fallen asleep instead of praying desperately at this moment of crisis as they ought to have been doing.
Some of the kinds of questions we need to be asking: What do we learn from the disciples about our proclivities and our need for prayer? What do we learn about Jesus from this intense prayer? (There is something entirely unique about the suffering of Jesus. Yet there is something so commonly human as to be relatable.) What do we learn about how we ought to follow him (in prayer)?

Setting the Scene for This Prayer

(& Betrayal… & Denial)
Change in setting - Jesus came out (from the upper room where they had met privately—undisclosed location—for the last supper, institution of the Lord’s supper)
And went as was his custom to the Mount of Olives (Luke 21:37 - nightly ritual, back out of the city) - This predicable pattern would make it possible for Judas to find him. We are completely confident by now that Jesus is both aware and in control of what is taking place. - As usual, the disciples are with him, now reduced to the 11 (sans Judas).
Luke states generally for a Gk audience that Jesus came to “the place,” which Mk and Mt note is Gethsemane, a garden that is difficult to locate with preciseness today (landscape change from wars and erosion). [map] But it would have been across the Brook Kidron (Jn 18:1), probably still in the Kidron Valley or near it on the lower western slopes of Mount Olivette.
One other difference to note from the synoptic parallels that Luke doesn’t mention, is that Jesus left most of the disciples to sit and wait in one location while he took Peter, James, and John further in with him. Luke, either from summary or using different sources than Mt or Mk, does not emphasize this distinction.
Furthermore, Luke alone mentions that Jesus gives this warning command about prayer at the beginning as well as later: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” - The idea here surely is to pray that you may not give in to temptation, that you may not fail the test when trial comes.
Jesus had already warned them in the upper room that Satan desired to sift them out as faithless and false (not true wheat, Lk 22:31), and Peter in particular has already received from Jesus a very specific prediction that he will deny knowing Jesus.
These guys know that Jesus is in sorrow and anguish (Mt. 26:36-38), they know that he is praying (only a stone’s throw away, so they can overhear him… besides the intensity of the situation, probably part of the reason he prays aloud), they know that they have been warned about their own failure this night (Mt. 26:31), AND they have just been told that praying is what they should do to avoid such failure.
What they ought to be doing in preparation is to pray. They should have obeyed Jesus and been in prayer with Jesus for him and for themselves.
How should we prepare for coming adversity & temptation?
What should we being doing to prepare for ever-present and sometimes intense temptation? We should be turning to God for help in dependent prayer. … What should be doing during times of calm before the storm? Praying to God to prepare our hearts to stand firm in the tempest.
What is descriptive in the Bible is not always prescriptive, but it is abundantly clear in this case that what Jesus does is what they should be doing.
Jesus prepares for the coming crisis and deals with the present temptation through dependent prayer that is honest... but submissive.

Jesus’ Exemplary Dependence in Submissive Prayer

Let me explain why I’m using these words to describe the situation so that you can see why I believe this is included for us in God’s word. Is it simply because it happened? Is it simply to show us the level of agony for Jesus in the reality of facing the cross? It is that, but it is also more. We are meant to understand Jesus as the exemplary man, and this prayer as the exemplary prayer.
Exemplary is a word that means serving as a desirable model because it represents the best of its kind. (deserving imitation because of its excellence) You see where I’m going with this word exemplary?
So what we need to see here are two things:
What do we learn about Jesus?
What do we learn about prayer?
What do we learn about Jesus that will deepen our understanding of who he is (his deity and humanity), deepen our love and admiration for him... and appreciation for his mediation on our behalf. What do we learn from Jesus’ prayer that we should follow as a model for our own prayers… and posture toward God?
Jesus is undiminished deity and perfect humanity. For God the Son to give up some of the prerogatives of fully exercising his deity while on earth does not make him any less God. He is fully God, equal with the Father and Spirit in the triune Godhead: equal in nature (having the same attributes and perfections), equal in eternality, and equal in power and glory.
But in our efforts to protect the deity of Jesus, which we should and must do, we cannot neglect his true humanity while on earth. And it is Jesus’ true humanity that helps us both understand and appreciate this prayer… especially the first part. And his exemplary humanity is also the reason we can model our prayers after this exemplary one.
The fact that Jesus prays is evidence of his dependence on the Father in his humanity. Prayer is dependence. You pray because you have need to pray. Even Jesus called upon the Father here in dependence… as well as submission (which we’ll get to). We also shouldn’t miss the way that this prayer is so intimate and so honest/open.
Christ’s true humanity explains his falling to his knees (compare Mk 14:35 “fell on the ground”) and then eventually to be face down on the ground (Mt. 26:39). - The normal posture for prayer, no doubt itself a symbol of respect, was to be in a standing position. - But there’s really no doubt that what is being communicated in this context is the very real human exhaustion—physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion.
While it is his deity which explains why he can say Father so personally (and “my Father” Mt. 26:39) instead of “our Father” as the Jews would have done, his true humanity can be the only explanation for the request that if the Father is willing (“if it be possible” Mt 26:39) to “remove this cup”, or “let this cup pass from me.” … the cup a reference to his coming suffering.
In his deity Christ surely knows what is coming and knows that it is the Father’s plan, but in his humanity he recoils from it. Not wanting something and being unwilling are not the same thing. Jesus genuinely wishes that there were some other way than for him to not only suffer an excruciating death, but even more that he, the sinless Son of God, should take on the filth of our sin and bear the judgment for that sin. It will mean his perfection being tainted by sin and thereby suffer temporary separation from the holiness of God, and it will mean bearing the full weight of the wrath of God against sin upon himself. Is there any wonder at all why Jesus doesn’t WANT this?
But Jesus knows that the purpose for which he has come is to do the Father’s will, and so the exemplary man, Jesus Christ, submits to that will. “Jesus consciously, voluntarily, and obediently “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2).” (Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2007.)
Whose will do you seek? *** - How do we get from “God do this for me” or “God I don’t deserve this” to “not my will but yours be done”? From demanding prayers to dependent ones. From selfish prayers to submissive ones.
Jesus: The Exemplary Man [Jesus was a real man, but the exemplary one.] - a prayer of dependence that is both intimate and honest (God cares about how we feel) and submissive (seeking the Father’s will above his own) - A prayer that is for the purpose of dependence on God and submission to his will is the only right way to pray.
The next thing that happens is really interesting: the Father answers this prayer by sending an angel to minister to Jesus, and then Jesus prays all the more earnestly.

The Father’s Provision… & Still More Earnest Prayer

Dealing briefly with a textual uncertainty in vv. 43-44. *** It is genuinely difficult to know with certainty, but I prefer the conclusion that these verses are original.
As with the previous discussion, the aid from an angel is a reminder of Jesus’ true humanity, that an angel could minister to him. But perhaps more than that, I see in this such tender compassion from God the Father, that although the plan of the Triune Godhead must remain, he sends an angel to comfort, encourage, and strengthen Jesus emotionally and physically.
And there is evidence from the broader context of the success of this strengthening. ***
Interestingly though, Luke shows that Jesus prayed still more earnestly. Although the strengthening from the angel would have its intended effect, the intensity of the situation was not diminished because Jesus must still go to the cross, taking our sin upon himself, suffering separation from the Father, and bearing the righteous wrath of God against sin. - And so leave it to Luke, who was a physician, to describe the intensity of Jesus’ anguish, with an image we can picture vividly: sweat beading up like great drops of blood. - This may be intended just as a comparison to blood, or it may actually describe a rare but documented condition known as hematidrosis (where capillaries near the sweat glands burst and cause mingling of blood with the sweat). A similar thing can occur with blood in tears, called hemolacria. (
In spite of Jesus’ ongoing anguish and dependent prayer right up to the point that his betrayal was imminent, the result of Jesus’ prayer was being strengthened to endure… in order to emerge in victory and vindication. In the midst of extreme emotional anguish, Jesus’ prayer prepared him to endure victoriously the most severe crisis ever faced.
But before we can close the lessons learned from these hours of Jesus’ dependent & submissive prayer in the garden, we must note…

The Negative Example of the Disciples as a Warning

What not to do…
As we said before, when they should have been praying, they had fallen asleep. We actually sympathize with their emotional exhaustion from sorrow (with all this talk from Jesus of his impending suffering, and now hearing him praying in anguish). Some of us can even relate to the desire to sleep rather than to think anymore about that which is causing us mental and emotional strain.
But the instruction from Jesus is to stand up if you have to so that you won’t fall asleep. We are prone to unfaithfulness when we don’t seek God. Prayer is most critical at the moment of crisis. We must pray to guard against falling to temptation, pray as a protection against unfaithfulness. - “Prayer is [so] important because it expresses a need for God, a desire to depend on him and to rest in his care. This attitude is what the disciples need in the face of these difficult moments. In fact, in this context the present imperative […] suggests that this is to be a constant attitude, [and] since Jesus repeats the call to pray in 22:46.” (Bock, 1757)
Our humanity is comprised of both physical and spiritual realities. We cannot allow our physical realities (even perceived needs) to overshadow deeper spiritual realities (greater needs). Can our physical realities (difficulties like hunger/thirst/lack of nutrition, and sleep deprivation, and prolonged pain and sickness) impact us emotionally and psychologically? Absolutely. Which means that our need for spiritual strength in the midst of that trial is only that much greater. (App for myself: I have been barreling ahead in the task of serving, but not being prudent about the impact of sustained stress and obedient to take time to rest, and certainly not preparing myself in prayer for the times when the pressures rise to the level of crises. [even brief resting not really resting… not using time of rest to rest in the Lord, refocus on his character, and remember all that he has done, and remain in his promises)
“If we could only see ourselves as the Lord sees us, we would pray about everything because we would see how truly needy we are about everything. We cannot even draw our next breath without the Lord’s mercy. We will not have food on the table at our next meal if God does not provide. We cannot serve Him unless we rely on His strength. As Jesus said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).” -Steve Cole
If Jesus turned to the Father in dependent and submissive prayer, surely we must do the same.
What applications are we taught from this text to ponder and practice?
Pressed by exhaustion, opposition, suffering… What temptation(s) do we face? (a self-pitying faithlessness) - If the sinless One faced temptation (external), how much more will we face temptation (including internal)?
Prayer is seeking God’s help. (Jesus cried for help.) - If the God-Man prayed for help, how much more must we?
Seek God even when you’re convinced you don’t know exactly what to pray. (Rom 8:26-27 says that the Holy Spirit can help us in that weakness, even interceding for us with groanings too deep for words.)
How should we pray? - Lord, if it is your will, remove this suffering. But God, do your will—if that is refining and ultimate vindication through this fire, then let it be so, according to your goodness and your plan for my good and the good of others.
Related Media
Related Sermons