Matthew 26:36-46 – Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Jesus begins His Gethsemane prayer with these haunting words: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). In this first of three prayers in the garden, Jesus humbly and earnestly made His request known that He preferred that the cup of suffering and wrath to be taken from Him.
Every moment of every day, sinners continue rebelling while thinking they are getting away with everything. The truth is, sinners get away with nothing but instead store up everything: “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5). The word picture is sobering. Imagine in God’s presence an uncountable number of cups, each with a person’s name on it. Every time they sin, their cup of wrath fills up more and more. Either you drink that cup or Jesus drinks it for you.
Having a relationship with Jesus means praying to make our requests known to God and then asking Him not only to have His way but also to transform us so that our way matches His. We might not start there, but we get there by praying until we pray the surrender prayer “as you will.”
Jesus prays this a second time, not because God didn’t hear but because He is reminding Himself to continually submit to God’s sovereign care.
Are you willing to trust God that much? It’s okay to pray, “I’m single, and I’d like to be married” if you also pray, “Your will be done.” It’s okay if you’re married to pray for a child if you also pray, “Your will be done.” God writes the story we call our life.
For the third time, Jesus prays for God’s will to be done. The subtle implication is not that Jesus merely prayed the same prayer three times, but that he only prayed it three times. He simply didn’t have enough time to pray it any longer.
Some suffering has a known expiration date like Jesus’ suffering, but some seems to go on endlessly. The question of God’s sovereignty and goodness amid suffering is a popular and valid one, but when seeking an answer, we must keep in mind that Jesus suffered most of all. He was betrayed, forsaken, martyred, ridiculed, and mocked—and He was God. Like Jesus, our lives have a purpose in God’s eyes, and the Father’s timing is perfect. Praying in a way that invites the kingdom down helps fix our eyes on eternity, like Jesus, who knew that the cross was not the end of His story.
In the midst of all of this, in His moment of greatest need and loneliness, Jesus’ friends left Him alone and fell asleep. It is easy to judge them, but don’t. They are us. We are them. Has God ever caught you being lazy? Have you ever been caught sleeping on the job, spiritually speaking? Have you been guilty of fruitless faith? Who among us hasn’t ever failed to be a faithful friend to Jesus? When we read the Bible, it can be tempting to put ourselves in the position of Jesus and see the failures of others toward us. But, before we use the Bible as binoculars to see their sin, we need to use it as a mirror to see our sin. Every one of us has had friends like Jesus’ friends and been friends like Jesus’ friends.
Humble prayer reminds us of this. We are weak, but God is strong, and His strength is perfected in our weakness. That’s good news for those us with bad resumes.
Jesus then arises to meet his pretend friend Judas, who betrays him and has him killed and buried. Three days later, Jesus roars back to life. For forty days, He appears to His followers and crowds of up to five hundred. Jesus was back in the pulpit! He began to give them final instructions before His ascension. What did He teach?
The Gethsemane Prayer.
We know this because nobody was there to hear Him pray this three-fold prayer. He was alone, and his disciples were asleep. So, He shared the details of those moments with them, teaching His prayer to them. It was so important that He wanted His followers to know what He prayed, how He felt, and what He said so we would learn from it and pray like it.
- Can your friends count on you to persevere in prayer for them?
- Describe any situation in your life where you struggle to pray, “Your will be done.” Keep praying.
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