Matthew 26.36-56

Jesus was about to endure a painful death and the weight of the sins of the world. His closest friends let down, betrayed him and abandoned him. This story describes the sorrow that Jesus felt and his faithfulness to God’s will. We are all weak at times, but Jesus is strong!

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. –– Luke 22.42


Suggested Props:

  • Balloon sword
  • Dried pear that looks like an ear
  • A small branch with foliage
  • A few dishcloths/scarves as head coverings to distinguish key characters.
Lesson Intro (The Night Before)

Ask the kids if they can think of a time that something was happening the next day and they couldn’t sleep because they were thinking about it a lot. You might be able to share a personal example from your own life. It might be something like leaving to go on vacation, or maybe the first day of school, or a big sports game, or maybe you were having surgery. Often big things like that can cause us to have strong feelings like excitement, or even being afraid.

Today, we’re going to be learning more about Jesus’ last night on earth. It’s the same night that Jesus had the Last Supper with his disciples and washed their feet. Jesus didn’t go to bed that night. Let’s look at what he did…

Bible story

Tell the story from Matthew 26.36-56. You could use the NLT or NIV for the 6-8s but you’ll want to paraphrase or use the Beginners Bible for the 4-5s. This is a great story to act out, especially with the 4-5s and the 6-8s.

Gethsemane (v. 36): An area just outside of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. You can have one child act as a tree by holding a small branch with foliage.

Sons of Zebedee (v. 37): James and John. Together with Peter, these were some of Jesus’ best friends.

“let this cup pass from me” (v. 39): Jesus was talking about having to die a painful death on the cross and endure the sins of the world. Some things are good to drink, some things are bitter. Dying on the cross would not be sweet. We know from Luke 22.44 that it was so intense for Jesus that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

“flesh is weak” (v. 41): The disciples weren’t weaklings. They were strong fishermen but their desire to sleep was too strong to stay awake and pray.

one of those who were with Jesus (v. 51): We know from John 18:10 that it was Peter who cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear. If you’re acting it out let Peter use the balloon sword to cut off the servant’s ear. You can pretend that the dried pear is the ear. Let Jesus pick it up and pretend to heal the servant!

Abandoned and Betrayed

This was clearly a really bad time for Jesus. It was his last night before dying on the cross. He felt really sad. His closest friends weren’t doing very well at supporting him. One of his friends betrayed him, and all of his disciples abandoned him and ran away. Jesus didn’t do anything wrong but he was prepared to go through the things that were before him because he knew that it was God’s plan to conquer sin and death!

Just like the disciples, we’ve all done things to let Jesus down, but Jesus loves us and has forgiven us for our sins. Next time you’re awake at night thinking about something big that’s going to happen, remember Jesus and that he’s always with you. Use it as an opportunity to turn to him and talk to him and tell him about the things that are on your mind.

Prayer: Thank Jesus that he was strong, even though his disciples were weak. Thank him that we can trust him and that he was prepared to take on the sins of the world. Pray that we would turn to him every time we’re feeling weak.

Review Questions

  • What was Jesus doing in the Garden of Gethsemane?
  • Why was Jesus experiencing such sorrow?
  • How was Jesus able to obey the Father, even though obedience was so hard?
  • How can we obey God, even when it’s tough?
  • Why is it such a good thing for us that Jesus was obedient?


Game Idea: Wake the Disciples

Supplies: none

How to play: While Jesus prayed in the garden, the disciples kept falling asleep. Have all the kids lay on the ground around the classroom with their eyes closed, and pick a couple of your more animated leaders to walk through them, trying to “wake them up.” The leaders can make funny or scary noises, tell jokes, use crazy voices, etc…but they can’t touch the kids in any way. If a kid opens his/her eyes, makes a noise, or moves around too much, they have been “awakened” and must leave the game. The last three kids in the game win! The more fun the leaders have with this game the better. The kids will feed off your animation and enthusiasm!

(Borrowed from the Westside Kids Curriculum)

Image Credit: Gethsemane 2, painted by the nuns of Saint Demiana Monastery (Egypt)