Luke 22:39 – 46
39 He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’* 41Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ [[ 43Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.]]* 45When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, 46and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’*
And so, they left the Upper Room, and they went to the Mount of Olives. According to Mark and Matthew, to a garden called Gethsemane, but Luke does not mention Gethsemane by name, simply saying they went to the Mount of Olives. (Gethsemane itself is at the foot of the Mount of Olives, still overlooking the valley.) Notice, in Luke, the three disciples are not separated from the others, but all are asked to pray.
Luke has often spoke of Jesus praying; before selecting the disciples, he prayed all night. Now, at another significant point, Jesus kneels down and prays. Jesus withdrew from the others, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Since the day of his baptism, and before, Jesus has followed God’s will, lived the life he was sent to live, and he knows he will die the death he was sent to die. But Jesus is not only God; Jesus is fully human, and not ready to face the suffering and death he knows is coming. And so, he prays, as any human being would, “Is there not another way?”
A brief word about textual criticism. A Bible translation is not done from a single text, simply recopying and translating that one text. In the past hundred years or so, when translations have been done, they have been done from multiple versions of the ancient texts. Today, with electronic access to hundreds of ancient texts, that process has become simpler, and more complex! Sometimes, something is included in one text and left out of another. Generally speaking, if something is not in the earliest texts, but is in later texts, the translators may question its authenticity. Then they look at other things – does it make the text more palatable (a text that said Jesus was angry at one point appears to have been changed, for example), or make it better harmonize with the other gospels? (the added endings of Mark are an example.)Those are likely to have been added by early copiers. I speak of this here because the segment, verses 43 – 44, are bracketed in this version of the NRSV, because those verses are not in the oldest texts that we have. They could have been added, or they could have been left off those earliest versions now in existence, and the versions that do include them copied from another text no longer in existence. And so, the verse about the angels ministering, and about Jesus sweating great drops, falling like blood to the ground, may or may not have been written by Luke. But they were written by someone – and It does not change the meaning of the segment of scripture.
Jesus was strengthened by his time of prayer – his times of prayer with his Father were always deep and good, nourishing and powerful. Then, he comes back and finds the disciples sleeping. Luke softens the blow here – he only mentions one time that Jesus came back, not three, and he says they were sleeping from grief. But Jesus is saddened by their failure, not for his own sake, but for theirs – he tells them to get up and pray that they might not come to a time of trial. In truth, the time of trial was upon them, and they would fail.