They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
One of the foundational truths of our Christian faith is that Jesus is fully God yet also fully human. He is the Word who became flesh. In this passage, his full humanity is on display, for our encouragement. Jesus was like us! He needed his friends’ support. He was “deeply distressed and troubled”. He felt overwhelmed. He was struggling to face an extremely hard situation. He wished there was a way out even when he knew there was not. I love how the Good News Translation states verse 34: “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me.”
His prayer moves me–he knew all things were possible with the Father, so he asked for the cup to be removed. The cup in Scripture is not just that of suffering but of the wrath of God. Isaiah 51:17 (NIV) declares “Rise up, Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath” (see also Psalm 75:8, Jeremiah 25:15, Ezekiel 23:31). Jesus knew as well that he was facing something he had never before experienced in all eternity–separation from his Father– “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Yet he willingly chose the Father’s will over his human emotions. Praise God.
Jesus also knew that he would be bearing the sins of the world in his body on the Cross. He was not only going to be tortured physically, but the evil and disobedience of the whole world was going to be placed upon him. That is why darkness came over the land for three hours (Luke 23:44). The spiritual reality was affecting the natural order of the earth–amazing! It is no wonder that our Lord was asking if there were any way for this cup to be removed from him. We all would be asking the same question if we were in his place.
So why did Jesus press through all the human turmoil and feeling crushed to the point of death? He did it for you. He did it for me. His love for us surpassed his love for himself. “Yet not what I will but what you will.” Remember when Jesus revealed his coming death and resurrection to the disciples and Peter responded “no this must never happen”? Jesus replied, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s purposes, but men’s” (Matthew 16:23) The Father’s will was always preeminent for our Lord. And the Father chose to not spare his own Son that He might spare us!
Peter summed it up in this way in his first epistle: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Amen.
Lord Jesus, how we love you. How we marvel at your love for us. Thank you for becoming human and experiencing all the emotions and hardship that we do in life. Thank you that you were tempted in all things as we are, yet you never sinned (Hebrews 4:15), and that you empathize with our weaknesses. Thank you that though you were crushed and overwhelmed, you still chose the Father’s will–us over yourself. Please let this truth take root in our hearts in a deeper way, that to you we were worth dying for. Please help us to draw strength from you when we feel crushed and overwhelmed ourselves. And may we be stirred afresh this Good Friday to die to sin and live to righteousness, choosing your will over our own, for you deserve nothing less.