Gospel according to Matthew (26:36-56)

Introduction

Matthew and Mark indicate that the beginning of the drama of Jesus’ passion took place in the olive grove at Gethsemane, where the oil mill was located. Human weakness at this moment of sorrow and anguish was marked by the prayer of Jesus who three times implored the Father “to let this cup pass”: the image of the chalice recurs in the Psalms, in a figurative sense, to indicate the will of God (Ps 16:5; 23:5; 116:13) and in the Prophets, where it is associated with his wrath and justice (Isa 51:17; Ger 25:15-28; Ezek 23:32-33).

Jesus requested the sleeping disciples to pray in order that they would not “enter into temptation”. This exhortation was also contained in the “Our Father” Prayer, so that the Father would not abandon his children at the moment of temptation, but would give them the strength to resist it.

Matthew recounts the greeting of Judas followed by a kiss: this was a common manner of greeting among Eastern peoples and indicated a close friendship. Jesus did not shy away from this friendship, addressing Judas as “friend”. In the text of Matthew considerable space is devoted to Jesus’ reaction when one of his disciples, having drawn his sword, cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus condemns this act for two reasons: on the one hand, the exaltation of nonviolence and forgiveness, and on the other his certainty that his arrest formed part of the plan God had traced out and confided to the Scriptures of the prophets.

Text

36  Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37 He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. 38 Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me." 39 He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will. 40 When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, "So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test [other translations: “enter into temptation”]. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." 42 Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, "My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!" 43 Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. 44 He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. 45 Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. 46 Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand."
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a large crowd, with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying, "The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him." 49 Immediately he went over to Jesus and said, "Hail, Rabbi!"  and he kissed him. 50 Jesus answered him, "Friend, do what you have come for." Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. 51 And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?" 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me. 56 But all this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him and fled.

New American Bible 2002