EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(46) Why sleep ye?
—St. Luke is here briefer than the other two records, and omits the three-fold prayer and warning, and the words, half-permissive and half of veiled reproof, which bade the disciples at last to “sleep on and take their rest.”
22:39-46 Every description which the evangelists give of the state of mind in which our Lord entered upon this conflict, proves the tremendous nature of the assault, and the perfect foreknowledge of its terrors possessed by the meek and lowly Jesus. Here are three things not in the other evangelists. 1. When Christ was in his agony, there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. It was a part of his humiliation that he was thus strengthened by a ministering spirit. 2. Being in agony, he prayed more earnestly. Prayer, though never out of season, is in a special manner seasonable when we are in an agony. 3. In this agony his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down. This showed the travail of his soul. We should pray also to be enabled to resist unto the shedding of our blood, striving against sin, if ever called to it. When next you dwell in imagination upon the delights of some favourite sin, think of its effects as you behold them here! See its fearful effects in the garden of Gethsemane, and desire, by the help of God, deeply to hate and to forsake that enemy, to ransom sinners from whom the Redeemer prayed, agonized, and bled.
Sleeping for sorrow - On account of the greatness of their sorrow. See the notes at Matthew 26:40
40. the place—the Garden of Gethsemane, on the west or city side of the mount. Comparing all the accounts of this mysterious scene, the facts appear to be these: (1) He bade nine of the Twelve remain "here" while He went and prayed "yonder." (2) He "took the other three, Peter, James, and John, and began to be sore amazed [appalled], sorrowful, and very heavy [oppressed], and said, My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death"—"I feel as if nature would sink under this load, as if life were ebbing out, and death coming before its time"—"tarry ye here, and watch with Me"; not, "Witness for Me," but, "Bear Me company." It did Him good, it seems, to have them beside Him. (3) But soon even they were too much for Him: He must be alone. "He was withdrawn from them about a stone's-cast"—though near enough for them to be competent witnesses and kneeled down, uttering that most affecting prayer (Mr 14:36), that if possible "the cup," of His approaching death, "might pass from Him, but if not, His Father's will be done": implying that in itself it was so purely revolting that only its being the Father's will would induce Him to taste it, but that in that view of it He was perfectly prepared to drink it. It is no struggle between a reluctant and a compliant will, but between two views of one event—an abstract and a relative view of it, in the one of which it was revolting, in the other welcome. By signifying how it felt in the one view, He shows His beautiful oneness with ourselves in nature and feeling; by expressing how He regarded it in the other light, He reveals His absolute obediential subjection to His Father. (4) On this, having a momentary relief, for it came upon Him, we imagine, by surges, He returns to the three, and finding them sleeping, He addresses them affectingly, particularly Peter, as in Mr 14:37, 38. He then (5) goes back, not now to kneel, but fell on His face on the ground, saying the same words, but with this turn, "If this cup may not pass," &c. (Mt 26:42)—that is, 'Yes, I understand this mysterious silence (Ps 22:1-6); it may not pass; I am to drink it, and I will'—"Thy will be done!" (6) Again, for a moment relieved, He returns and finds them "sleeping for sorrow," warns them as before, but puts a loving construction upon it, separating between the "willing spirit" and the "weak flesh." (7) Once more, returning to His solitary spot, the surges rise higher, beat more tempestuously, and seem ready to overwhelm Him. To fortify Him for this, "there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven strengthening Him"—not to minister light or comfort (He was to have none of that, and they were not needed nor fitted to convey it), but purely to sustain and brace up sinking nature for a yet hotter and fiercer struggle. And now, He is "in an agony, and prays more earnestly"—even Christ's prayer, it seems, admitted of and now demanded such increase—"and His sweat was as it were great drops [literally, 'clots'] of blood falling down to the ground." What was this? Not His proper sacrificial offering, though essential to it. It was just the internal struggle, apparently hushing itself before, but now swelling up again, convulsing His whole inner man, and this so affecting His animal nature that the sweat oozed out from every pore in thick drops of blood, falling to the ground. It was just shuddering nature and indomitable will struggling together. But again the cry, If it must be, Thy will be done, issues from His lips, and all is over. "The bitterness of death is past." He has anticipated and rehearsed His final conflict, and won the victory—now on the theater of an invincible will, as then on the arena of the Cross. "I will suffer," is the grand result of Gethsemane: "It is finished" is the shout that bursts from the Cross. The Will without the Deed had been all in vain; but His work was consummated when He carried the now manifested Will into the palpable Deed, "by the which WILL we are sanctified THROUGH THE OFFERING OF THE BODY OF Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb 10:10). (8) At the close of the whole scene, finding them still sleeping (worn out with continued sorrow and racking anxiety), He bids them, with an irony of deep emotion, "sleep on now and take their rest, the hour is come, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners, rise, let us be going, the traitor is at hand." And while He spoke, Judas approached with his armed band. Thus they proved "miserable comforters," broken reeds; and thus in His whole work He was alone, and "of the people there was none with Him." See Poole on "Luke 22:45"
And said unto them, why sleep ye?.... The Arabic version prefaces this with these words, "and he awaked them"; and then rebuked them for sleeping, adding,
rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation; together with words recorded in Matthew 26:45. And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.