Matthew 26:30, 36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” – Matthew 26:39 NLT
Jesus was just hours from death. And not just any kind of death. He was going to go through the extraordinarily excruciating torture of the Roman cross. It was designed to bring about a slow and especially painful death, one that could last not only hours, but days. But even before that, He would be beaten and whipped beyond recognition. He would be abandoned by the very ones who claimed to love Him. And Jesus knew that, as part of His Father's plan, it would be necessary for Him to take on the sins of all mankind and bear the righteous wrath of God. So as Jesus kneeled that evening in the garden, He was overcome with grief and emotion. I think these passages reveal the humanity of Christ like no other place in the entire Gospels. In these three simple prayers that flowed from the lips of Jesus, we get an undeniable glimpse into His humanity and deity. He was the God-man. Fully human, but fully God. Inexplicable, but undeniable in its truth. The human side of Jesus was repulsed and revolted by the thought of what was ahead. His humanity wanted to avoid what was coming at all costs, but His divinity knew that God's will must supersede and supplant His own. Three times Jesus prayed, "I want your will to be done, not mine." This was not done for the benefit of the disciples. They were sound asleep. It was the soon-to-be-Savior of the world sharing His heart with His Father.
As I read those words, it strikes a chord with me. I can't help but think how often I have prayed to my heavenly Father, but my words have reflected a different attitude. Far too often, when I have found myself in difficult times, I have prayed, "Not Your will be done, but mine!" Granted, those weren't my exact words, but that was the intent of my prayer and the true reflection of my heart. In those times, I came to God with MY will clearly lined up. I knew what I wanted Him to do for me. But Jesus was intent on doing what the Father wanted. He knew what was in store for Him, but was willing to face it because He trusted His heavenly Father. He knew that God's will was the only proper path for His life – no matter how difficult it may have appeared to be. Unlike us, Jesus knew exactly what was coming. He was fully aware of just how difficult the next few hours were going to be, and He still prayed that God's will be done. What dedication. What a picture of obedience. Paul describes it this way: "When he appeared in human form,he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross" (Philippians 2:7-8 NLT). A huge part of submitting to the will of God is our own humility. It is placing our will and our way at His feet and subjecting ourselves to His plan, trusting that He knows what is best. Paul goes on to say, "For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him" (Philippians 2:13 NLT). God gives us the strength and determination we need to do His will. Why? Because our human nature will do everything in its power to protect and preserve us. It will demand its own way. It will fight for its autonomy. When Jesus returned after praying the first time and found the disciples sleeping, He warned Peter, "Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” (Matthew 26:41 NLT). Too often our will is driven by the flesh, or our own sinful nature. And in those moments we will find that what we want or desire is counter to what God's will is for us. Paul tells us, "The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions" (Galatians 5:17 NLT). Whenever our will begins to overshadow God's will for us, we need to step back and assess what is really going on. The greatest prayer we can every prayer is the one Jesus prayed three times in the garden on that fateful night. "I want your will to be done, not mine." Our flesh will fight and resist it. Our natural man will want to prevent those words from ever leaving our lips. Fear will rise up in us, causing us to doubt the wisdom of praying such a prayer. But Jesus reminds us that God's will does not always bring with it an easy road, but it always leads to the proper destination. His will is not necessarily pleasant for the moment, but we can trust that He knows what He is doing and that He has our good and His own glory in mind. His will is worth seeking. His will is worth praying for. His will is worth doing. His will always works.
Father, I fear Your will at times. Because I can't see the outcome, I wonder whether it is going to turn out the way I hope it will. At the heart of my fear is doubt. I don't trust You. I tend to think that I know what is best. I want my will to be done, even though my will has ended up disappointing me so many times in the past. Give me the strength to humbly obey You. I want Your will to be done, not mine! Amen.