Three times Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his crucifixion. Three times the Son begged the Father to withhold the torture and death that was to become Him. But why? Why not one long, continuous prayer? Why is Matthew so precise in giving such a detailed account of Jesus’ time in the Garden? The reason might surprise you.
Permanence, Truth and Three
In Judaism, numbers have significance. There is a message hidden within and connected to each and every number. The number three speaks of permanence, something that cannot be undone. Jews believe if something is said or done three times, it becomes permanently bound to the person as well as bound to the earth. Those actions or words are forever connected to someone or something.
Truth is also symbolized by the number three. This means if someone wanted to make sure others grasped the truth of something, they would speak the same words three times. In Scripture, whenever something is repeated three times, or three is in any way connected to it, God is making sure His truth cannot be missed. A one-time occurrence you might gloss over; if something happens twice it could be chalked up to a coincidence. But if the number three is involved, the undeniable message is one of truth.
Jesus Prayed Three Times
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…” He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will…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…” So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Matthew 26:36, 39, 42, 44
Jesus came before God, pleading with Him to remove the cup from which He was about to drink, the cup of Redemption. Three times He asked, and yet, three times Jesus said He would surrender to the will of the Father. Jesus didn’t just keep asking for the sake of asking, He needed to beseech the Lord this many times. He needed to implore, petition and beg; not once, not twice, but three times. This way there could be no denying of what God’s plan entailed. The same request with the same answer meant the path laid before the Son was permanent and could not be changed. God spoke to Jesus through the number three. Jesus’ death, and the significance it held, would forever be bound to Him and to the world.
The Cross And The Truth Of Three
The message spoken through the number three doesn’t end in the Garden. In fact, it was just the beginning. The beginning of the truth and permanence God would secure through His Son. Three times Pilate appeared before those demanding Jesus’ death and three times Pilate made sure the crowd knew he found nothing criminal about Jesus that deserved his demanded execution. While Pilate’s words were in fact truthful, did he know that by speaking them three times he was solidifying the truth of the matter and sealing that truth as permanence?
With three nails Jesus was secured to the cross and hung on display for all to see. This all began around 9:00 in the morning, or to the Jews, on the third hour of the day (Mark 15:25). Three hours later, Scripture tells us “darkness came across the whole land until three in the afternoon.” God was putting the truth of His Son on display for all the world to see. Displaying the truth of His sacrifice, His anguish, His pain for three hours; setting the permanence of it all in place.
Three hours after the darkness subsided, Jesus gave up His final breath. It was 3:00 in the afternoon. Jesus’ fate to taste the sting of death was permanently sealed. It is not by chance or happenstance that Jesus died at the very moment He did. Once again,to those who understood the symbolism found in numbers, the Father was sending a message; Jesus truly is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
As Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea carefully removed the body of Jesus, I wonder if their eyes continued to glance upon the sign nailed above the head of the Savior. A sign which read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” in three different languages. Even the declaration of Jesus as King, while designed to exasperate the Jewish crowd, instead spoke truth to those who understood it.
Jesus is Truth and His truth is permanent. No matter how many people try to manipulate, change or deny the story of Jesus’ death, the truth can still be seen. God will always speak to those willing to listen and He will reveal His truth in more ways than just through words. So I urge you, pay close attention as you study the pages of Scripture, because you never know where you will find the truth of three.