Matthew 26:36-39

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 took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

The matter-of-fact prose of Scripture often does not convey the intensity of emotion its subjects experience. This story of Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane is a case in point. Matthew is so bland in telling the story we don't grasp how terrible it must have been for Jesus. Luke clues us that Jesus was "in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44). Imagine sweating blood!

To know the fate that awaited him — the betrayal by an apostle he loved, the abandonment by the rest, the scorn and contempt of people he had come to save, the torture that would precede his crucifixion; it must have been unbearable beyond comprehension. But that was not the worst of it. For a few moments, he would take upon the sins of humankind and become the most loathsome creature in the sight of his Father. The thought of it would have been tortuous for him to bear. So he cried to God: "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me."

This metaphorical cup represents the suffering and sacrifice Jesus would undergo on the cross. His prayer to have it removed highlights the human struggle with pain and suffering. Nobody likes pain, and let us not pretend we do. And like Jesus, we often beg God to take it away, even though our suffering is a fraction of what Jesus underwent. There is nothing wrong with that.

However, Jesus' prayer does not end with that plea. Even in the face of unbearable suffering, Jesus surrenders his own desires to his Father's plan, saying, "Not as I will, but as you will." This demonstrates the depth of Jesus' love and obedience to his Father, even to the point of death on a cross.

We need to be equally submissive to the will of God, even if it means hardship, pain, and sacrifice. It might help us to understand something that Jesus undoubtedly understood, and I, too, began to understand it during a dark period of my life. "There ain't no way to the other side, to be truly born again, without the death that comes before, and the darkness and the pain." I wrote a song about this experience, and as it might encourage you. It's called Jesus, I Know How You Felt

May the Spirit be with you.

More in this category: « Matthew 26:31-35 Matthew 26:40-46 »
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