Lesson 31: Matthew 26:31–75

“Lesson 31: Matthew 26:31–75,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)

“Lesson 31,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 31

Matthew 26:31–75


In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus Christ began taking upon Himself the sins of all people as part of His Atonement. Judas betrayed Jesus to the Jewish leaders. Jesus was then illegally tried before Caiaphas, the high priest, where false charges were brought against Him. Meanwhile, three times Peter denied knowing the Savior to those who identified him as one of Jesus Christ’s disciples.

Suggestions for Teaching

Matthew 26:31–46

Jesus Christ suffers in the Garden of Gethsemane

Ask students to consider the following scenario: A young man has been told from his youth that it is his duty to serve a full-time mission. As a teenager, he still knows he should serve a mission but struggles with committing to go. He is more interested in other opportunities and worries that a mission will prevent him from having those experiences.

  • In what other situations might the desires of young men and women differ from what Heavenly Father wants them to do? (List students’ responses on the board.)

  • Why can it sometimes be difficult to do what we know Heavenly Father wants us to do?

Invite students to look for principles in Matthew 26:31–46 that can help them when they struggle to obey Heavenly Father’s will.

Remind students that as recorded in Matthew 26:1–30, the Lord ate the Passover feast with His Apostles and instituted the sacrament.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Matthew 26:31–35. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jesus prophesied would happen to His Apostles.

  • What did Jesus say would happen to the Apostles that night?

Explain that in this context, the word offended means to fall or turn away or forsake.

  • How did Peter and the other Apostles respond to what the Savior said?

Invite a student to read Matthew 26:36–38 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for where Jesus and the Apostles went after the Passover feast. Invite students to report what they find.

Ask students to turn to Bible Photographs, no. 11, “Mount of Olives” and no. 12, “Garden of Gethsemane” in the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Bible. Explain that Gethsemane was a garden of olive trees located on the Mount of Olives just outside Jerusalem’s walls and that the name Gethsemane means “oil press.”

Holy Land

Mount of Olives

Scripture maps

Garden of Gethsemane

  • What phrases in verses 36–38 describe how Jesus felt as He entered Gethsemane?

Invite a student to read Matthew 26:39 aloud, and ask the class to look for what Jesus did after going “a little further” into the garden.

  • What words or phrases in verses 37–39 describe the difficult burden Jesus was experiencing?

  • What did Jesus ask the Father to remove from Him?

Hold up a cup. Explain that the cup the Savior referred to was a symbol for the bitter suffering He experienced as part of the Atonement. In Gethsemane, Jesus began taking upon Himself the sins and suffering of all people as part of His great atoning sacrifice.

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who explained what Jesus was asking the Father for when He asked for the cup to pass from Him:

Holland, Jeffrey R.

“The Lord said, in effect, ‘If there is another path, I would rather walk it. If there is any other way—any other way—I will gladly embrace it.’ … But in the end, the cup did not pass” (“Teaching, Preaching, Healing,” Ensign, Jan. 2003, 41).

You may want to suggest that students mark the phrase “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (verse 39).

  • Even though Jesus asked for a different way to accomplish the Father’s purposes, what did He do to accomplish the Atonement? (Students should identify a truth similar to the following: Jesus Christ submitted His will to the Father’s will to accomplish the Atonement.)

  • What can we learn about Jesus from His willingness to submit to Heavenly Father’s will even though it meant He would endure intense suffering and eventual death?

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: We follow Jesus Christ’s example when we …

  • How would you complete this statement based on what we have learned from Matthew 26:39? (Using students’ words, complete the statement so it conveys the following truth: We follow Jesus Christ’s example when we choose to submit our will to Heavenly Father’s will.)

Remind students of the scenario about the young man who hesitated to serve a mission, as well as the other situations listed on the board.

  • How can the Savior’s example strengthen us in these situations?

Invite students to think of times when although their desires differed from Heavenly Father’s will, they ultimately chose to follow His will. Ask a few students to share their experiences and to explain why they made that choice and how they felt about it.

Encourage students to identify a specific way they will follow Jesus Christ’s example by submitting their will to Heavenly Father’s will.

Invite students to review Matthew 26:37–38, looking for the Savior’s instructions to Peter, James, and John in Gethsemane.

  • What instructions did Jesus give to Peter, James, and John?

  • What do you think was meant by the instruction to “watch with me”? (verse 38).

To help students understand why the disciples may have needed the Savior’s instruction to watch with Him, explain that when the disciples came to the garden, they “began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy, and to complain in their hearts, wondering if this be the Messiah” (Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 14:36 [in the Bible appendix]). By instructing His disciples to watch with Him, Jesus was warning them to be vigilant because their faith in Him would be tested.

  • Why would the disciples wonder if Jesus really was the Messiah? (Many Jews did not understand that the Messiah would suffer and die but rather expected that the Messiah would liberate the Jews by overthrowing the Romans.)

Invite a student to read Matthew 26:40 aloud, and ask the class to look for what Jesus discovered that these three Apostles had been doing while He was praying. Invite students to report what they found. Explain that the Joseph Smith Translation of Luke 22:45 indicates that the disciples were sleeping, “for they were filled with sorrow.”

  • Why might the Apostles have been filled with sorrow?

  • How might you have felt if you had been in their position and realized you had fallen asleep rather than watched with the Savior?

Invite a student to read Matthew 26:41 aloud, and ask the class to look for what Jesus told His disciples to do. Invite students to report what they find.

  • What principle can we learn from the Savior’s instructions to these Apostles? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: If we watch and pray continually, we will have strength to resist temptation.)

  • What do you think the phrase “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (verse 41) means? How does this relate to resisting temptation?

  • Recall that to “watch” means to be awake, alert, or vigilant. How can spiritually watching and praying help us overcome our weaknesses and resist temptation?

Invite students to ponder whether they, like the Apostles in Gethsemane, have ever given in to temptation because they failed to pray and be watchful. Ask them to consider how that choice affected them. Invite students to ponder times when they resisted temptation by praying and being watchful.

  • What has helped you be consistent in spiritually watching and praying?

Testify that we can resist temptation as we watch and pray continually. Invite students to write on a piece of paper one thing they will do to better watch and pray continually. Encourage them to carry the paper with them to remind them of their goal.

Summarize Matthew 26:42–46 by explaining that Jesus prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane. Each time He expressed His willingness to obey His Father’s will.

Matthew 26:47–75

Jesus Christ is arrested and tried before Caiaphas

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Gerald N. Lund, who later became a member of the Seventy:

Lund, Gerald N.

“Imagine [Jesus Christ,] the Being whose power, whose light, whose glory holds the universe in order, the Being who speaks and solar systems, galaxies, and stars come into existence—standing before wicked men and being judged by them as being of no worth or value!” (“Knowest Thou the Condescension of God?” in Doctrines of the Book of Mormon: The 1991 Sperry Symposium, ed. Bruce A. Van Orden and Brent L. Top [1992], 86).

Write Matthew 26:47–68 on the board. Ask students to search these verses, looking for how Jesus Christ continued to submit to His Father’s will even when He was mistreated and judged by wicked men. Depending on your students’ needs, you could read these verses aloud as a class, divide students into pairs to read the verses aloud, or instruct students to read them silently.

Media Icon
Instead of instructing students to read Matthew 26:47–68, you could show portions of the following videos from The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos: (1) “The Savior Suffers in Gethsemane” (time code 5:53–8:30), which depicts Jesus Christ being betrayed by Judas and arrested, and (2) “Jesus Is Tried by Caiaphas, Peter Denies Knowing Him” (time code 0:00–1:40), which depicts Jesus being tried by Caiaphas, smitten, and spat upon. These videos are available on

After sufficient time, ask the following question:

  • How did Jesus Christ submit to Heavenly Father’s will even when He was mistreated and judged by wicked men?

Invite a student to read Matthew 26:53 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jesus said He could have done during these events.

  • What could the Savior have done?

  • Instead of asking for legions of angels or any other divine power to deliver Him, what did Jesus do?

  • What does this teach you about the Savior’s willingness to do Heavenly Father’s will regardless of the circumstances?

Even though Jesus Christ had the power to destroy the men smiting Him and spitting on Him, He suffered and endured willingly (see 1 Nephi 19:9). The leaders and soldiers did not realize the infinite power Jesus could have called upon had it been the will of the Father that He do so.

Point out that as recorded in verse 56, the Savior’s prophecy that the Apostles would turn away from Him was fulfilled. However, this turning away was only temporary.

Summarize Matthew 26:69–75 by explaining that while Jesus was being tried after His arrest, Peter three times denied knowing Him. (Note: Peter’s denial will be covered more thoroughly in the lesson on Luke 22.)

Testify of the truths identified in this lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Matthew 26:39. “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:

“If you can leave your students with one principal commitment in response to the Savior’s incomparable sacrifice for them, His payment for their transgressions, His sorrow for their sins, leave with them the necessity to obey—to yield in their own difficult domain and hours of decision to ‘the will of the Father’ [3 Ne. 11:11], whatever the cost. They won’t always do that, any better than you and I have been able to do it, but that ought to be their goal; that ought to be their aim. The thing Christ seems most anxious to stress about His mission—beyond the personal virtues, beyond the magnificent sermons, and even beyond the healing—is that He submitted His will to the will of the Father” (“Teaching, Preaching, Healing,” Ensign, Jan. 2003, 41).