Gethsemane (or Gethsemani) is the name given to the olive garden where Jesus Christ retired to pray with the disciples Peter, James and John, a few hours before His arrest. The word Gethsemane comes from the Aramaic language, it means “oil press”. The Gospel of Luke reveals that Jesus prayed so intensely in the garden of Gethsemane that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22: 44).
Let us discover the full story of the episode in the garden of Gethsemane in the Gospel of Matthew to better understand the instruction Jesus gave to His disciples: “Watch and pray”.
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.
41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.
44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.
46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Why was it so difficult for Jesus to pray at this moment? He knew the will of God, but He had a hard time accepting it. His emotions could have led Him to disobey, because the will of God was that He would be crucified, carrying all the sins of the world. Take a minute to imagine the weight of this mission: the salvation of all humanity rested on His shoulders. This episode shows that Jesus could have refused to bear the suffering of the Cross. Jesus was granted free will, like any other human, but His love for us and His Father was so strong that He accepted the will of God. Jesus shows us that even though we may fear the will of God, we must humble ourselves before Him and ask Him for the strength to accomplish His Plan.
Jesus instructed His disciples to watch and pray, when they fell asleep instead of praying with Jesus. He followed by saying that they should do this so as to not enter into temptation: “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26: 41). Our flesh is corrupted, which means it can be attracted to sin. The one thing that can help us resist temptation is watching and praying. St. James encourages us to “submit [ourselves], then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from [us]." (James 4: 7). Praying to Jesus is like kneeling before Him, and recognizing His will is worth being accomplished. We need to ask for the strength to accomplish it. As for watching, it means that we need to be mindful of our surroundings, because there are many stumbling blocks on the path to the Father. When we both pray and watch, Jesus ensures that we will be victorious over any temptation evil influences can throw our way.