Not My Will But Your Will
Key Verse: 14:36
“‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’”
The last supper Jesus had with his disciples is perhaps one of the most meaningful events in Christianity— the beginning of a new course in our lives. This is when each person is given an opportunity and a privilege to make a blood covenant with Jesus. And when I do, then I enter into an everlasting love relationship with him— a relationship that is mutual in the sense that he forgives my sins, and I commit my life to him in faith and obedience. In this new covenant in his blood, Jesus offered us what we need more than anything else in life— forgiveness and cleansing and healing. What can heal this sinful blood of mine coursing through my veins? All those filthy thoughts… the lust of my flesh… what on earth can wash away the bitterness? If only there’s a cure! Jeremiah said “the heart is deceitful… who can cure it” Actually no one! There is nothing that can heal the sin-stained blood except the blood of Jesus. That’s why Jesus made a covenant in his blood. He would shed his blood to cleanse our hearts from sin. He would forgive. And we would heal. After the Passover meal, Jesus began to prepare for this very thing— for the shedding of his blood. For his death. For his crucifixion. He knew he would be crucified. And he needed to prepare. The question is how to prepare for such a horrible thing as death— but not any kind of death— but death on a cross. And the gospels— all of them— tell us how he prepared. And amazingly, the gospels tell us that he prepared for his death by prayer! Now we can take this as just another story in Jesus’ life or we can really learn something from it.
Verse 26 says, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Now who could sing a hymn when he knows he is about to die! Jesus never ceases to amaze us. Jesus is about to die, and he knows it. And he has been telling his disciples this for a while, even though they refuse to listen. But he sings with them, he sings for them. He helps them praise God in the midst of this seeming tragedy because it is always fitting to praise God even when one is suffering, even when one is facing death. Jesus sings a hymn with his disciples to keep their hearts set on God! He’s a Good Shepherd. This is something we can learn from him.
And then Jesus immediately begins to prepare them for the inevitable— for what is bound to happen. He says them (27) “‘You will all fall away… for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.”’” How beautiful are these words! They would all fall away. God was about to strike the shepherd, and the sheep were about to be scattered. They would all fall away. They would all run away. They would disperse. They would abandon the shepherd. They would leave him to suffer all alone. What’s so beautiful about that? It’s beautiful on many levels. What Jesus was saying here is that God’s word is absolute and powerful and unchanging. It will happen. “For it is written”. God had prophesied it and it will take place. What he has said will come to pass. You can always trust it. What Jesus was also saying is that I am your shepherd and you are my sheep and I deeply know you. I know how weak your faith is, unable to withstand the trials and temptations coming upon you. You think you are strong but you are not. But that’s okay. And you need to learn the hard way. And when you have failed and have come to accept your human and spiritual weaknesses with humility of heart, that would be a break through for you. It it then that you would be ready to learn how to depend on me in all things. What’s even more beautiful is that you would then be able to understand others’ weaknesses and bear them in me. How beautiful were these words these disciples couldn’t yet understand. They were words of grace.
The moment would come for the prophecy to come true, and the disciples would surely scatter just as Jesus had told them. But Jesus did not leave them without some words of hope and direction. Even in our failure, God opens for us doors of victory. And that’s what Jesus did for his disciples here. In the midst of this seemingly terrible prophesy, Jesus gave them a message to hold in their hearts— he gave them the gospel message. And I want you to remember this always! What exactly is the gospel message? Read verse 28. “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” The gospel message is ever and always the death and resurrection of the Lord. This is the gospel message— the message of life which has the power within it to give life— to give hope— to shatter chains of darkness— to release the oppressed— to deliver from darkness of despair— to free anyone from the prison of sin and death and elements of death. The disciples would be prisoners of fear, of anxiety, of insecurity, of sorrow and everything this world would throw at them at the time of Jesus’ suffering. It’s what happens to any Christian at the moment of temptation and of weakness, and of failure or of struggle. But it does not end there. Because Jesus assured them: “after I have risen” is the promise of deliverance. They are always the promise of deliverance. They are words of life. Jesus planted in them the gospel of his resurrection— that they might hold it like a shining star in their hearts not only for the moment, but for all time.
Jesus has been speaking the truth to his disciples all along. They had never had any reason to doubt anything he said to them, and they knew it! But the truth always hurts. Especially Peter always had a hard time accepting the hard truth, when it touched his pride. So he said (29) “Even if all fall away, I will not.” He just couldn’t even stop for a moment and consider what Jesus might have been saying. Perhaps there was something for him to learn from it. Perhaps there was a vital truth in there for him that his spiritual life depended on. But his pride was hurt. And he just had to defend himself. We can fully understand him. We are as loyal and faithful as can be. We are confident of ourselves. And let anyone dare tell us otherwise. We will stand to defend our selves even if it meant going against the word of God— which is what Peter seems to be doing. Jesus loved him too much to let him get away with this. Peter needed to know that he could not stand in his own strength, nor in his own love and loyalty. He needed to know that regardless of how much he tried humanly, he would not be able to stand by Jesus. He needed to know that he needed another kind of strength in order to stand with Jesus, a spiritual kind of strength that comes only from God— a kind of strength that cannot come until Peter is ready to humble himself, and admit his own weakness, and his failure and helplessness, and to throw himself at the mercy of God, and say: “Lord, you know me better than I know myself. I can’t. Help me stand by you. Give me the strength I need to be the Christian you want me to be”!
Jesus loved him to much to let him remain in his sin— though it was a sin of pride and ignorance! So he said to him bluntly: “I tell you the truth— today— yes, tonight— before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” Amazingly, Peter could not accept the word of truth from Jesus. This is amazing! And fully understandable by us. Earlier, his pride was hurt collectively, so he boasted, “even if all fall away, I will not.” He defended his position as a loyal disciple. But this time when Jesus personally addressed him as “you yourself Peter will disown me” it challenged Peter’s pride to the core. Peter should humble himself, and accept the truth about his wretchedness and utter weakness in this spiritual battle. He should accept it by faith. He should let his faith speak rather than his pride or emotion. But his emotion erupted instead and he said what he later regretted: (31) “‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’” He meant it. He loved Jesus. He would rather die than disown Jesus. But when we are assailed by temptation, and our struggles overtake our hearts, how easy it is for us to put Jesus aside for someone else or something else. How easy to disown Jesus when our hearts are overtaken by emotion rather than by faith. That is what Jesus was teaching Peter. A time would come when Peter would indeed die for Jesus and not disown him. But for now, he was weak. He was emotional. He was spiritually immature. He was self confident. He needed Jesus’ sacrifice for him. And Jesus was about to give his life for Peter on the cross and rise again, so that Peter would have the power needed to be freed from himself and live for Christ.
And Jesus finally arrived at Gethsemane to do the only thing left to do— Jesus went to the Garden to pray. Look at verses 32-34. He said to them, “‘Sit here while I pray.’” Jesus asked his eight disciples to stay at a distance and then “He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’” How beautiful is this scene! And how human! We have never witnessed the humanity of Jesus in such a heart breaking way. Think about this picture if you can. Jesus, the Son of God, was showing his three disciples what was on his heart— he was showing them what he was struggling with the most. Now what king of dignitary would ever do that! In the gospels we see Jesus in victory regardless of how difficult the situation may be. We never see him give in to distress or agony. But we see it here! We need to see it even once here at the beginning of his anguish, as his three disciples were seeing it. This is important that we might understand him in his humanity. This is the place where Jesus begins his battle — not for himself — but for us, because here he battles for our souls. We should not take this for granted. We need to see him like this so that we can we can recognize him as my True Shepherd— My Savior— My Friend. [We have to learn what Hebrews 4:15 says about him. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin.”]
Jesus exposed his humanity in all its sorrow to these three disciples— but why? He was about to fight with Satan— the devil— all night— and he would do that through prayer. The fight was going to be done through prayer. That is something we can learn from Jesus. That was one of the most difficult moments in Jesus life. Think about what he was going through. Judas had broken his heart. He had betrayed him— someone he had loved and served for so long— suddenly went and sold him away for some money. The disciples— what about them? They were like infants— still in desperate need of his care— and he was about to leave them. What would happen to them! There were only a few hours left before that awful beatings and humiliation and then the crucifixion. So, as a human being, how would you feel? Jesus in all his humanness, began to feel the pain of rejection— the pain of betrayal— the pain of suffering— and the pain of death. When he tells us that he was “Overwhelmed with sorrow” I think it is an understatement. He said: “‘I am sorrowful to the point of death.’” It wasn’t easy. And for the first time in three and the half years with them, Jesus needed his three close disciples’ to understand him, to comfort him and to pray for him and with him. Can you understand that? It was not a Master asking his servants. It was a friend sharing his heart with his friends. He needed them!
At this time, Jesus turned his heart to God. Look at verse 35a. It says, “Going a little farther…” These words tell us clearly where Jesus really turned to for comfort and strength. He turned to God. At the time when he met his human limitation and couldn’t struggle anymore, nor bear his own anguish anymore, Jesus went a little further. He took one more step! He took a step of faith to come to God.
And Jesus came to God in prayer. What then did he pray for in his time of sorrow? Read verse 35. “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.” Jesus simply prayed that “if possible the hour might pass from him.” “The hour” refers to his suffering and death on the cross. This was the hour ordained by God for Jesus to give up his life on the cross for the sins of the world. Humanly, it was an awful hour. This was the hour and time where all the powers of evil would marshal their forces against the Son of God to end his human life. But this would be no accident. It was the will of God. Jesus always knew this to be the will of God. But he prayed that if possible he might avoid it. It was his prayer as a man who did not want to suffer and die. It was his humanity crying out to God.
Jesus did not stop with this prayer. Read verse 36a. “‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.’” Jesus was struggling intensely. His heart was about to burst. It was a time when it was possible for anyone to doubt the love of God— because for us human beings a time of distress is usually a time to doubt the love of God. But Jesus didn’t. Jesus’ prayer “Abba, Father,” reveals his heart that God is still his Abba Father, who loves him and whom he loves.
Look at verses 36, 39. “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.” “Once more he went away and prayed the same thing.” Jesus prayed and prayed with one specific prayer topic. Jesus stayed up all night praying one prayer alone. What did he pray about? Jesus prayer was simply to obey the will of God. “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (36b) That was the prayer of his heart. At first we there is the impression that Jesus was praying to change the will of God. But when we follow his prayer, we see that Jesus really never intended for God to change his will. Then what? Jesus struggled in prayer asking God to help him accept it and obey it. In this situation to obey the will of God was humanly impossible. We know that, since dying to ourselves to our passions, to our desires, is humanly impossible! Jesus needed God’s help. But there was no magic in it. He needed God’s help. He would receive it through prayer.
Obeying the will of God for our lives is not easy. It is humanly impossible. That is why so many Christians fail the test of God’s will in their lives. We need to pray to God to help us. Specifically that God may help me obey his will in my life no matter how difficult it may be. Simply speaking, we need to cry out to God until we learn the obedience that comes from faith. (Ro.1:5) Jesus prayed and was struggling in prayer. But he did not look for a human solution. Rather he came to God and prayed. And he fought in prayer to accept and obey the will of God.
Prayer is the most powerful weapon for God’s people. Prayer is the time when we open our hearts to tell God all that is on our hearts. Prayer is the time when we also listen to God’s word of instruction. Prayer is the time when we receive spiritual strength from God to do his will in all its glory. And it is a spiritual reality! Look at Jesus! After prayer Jesus was strengthened in his heart for he had unburdened his heart to God. And he received a spirit of willingness and obedience to the will of God. Now he was ready to withstand the trial, the suffering, and even death. Praise Jesus who taught us how to fight the spiritual battle in prayer! When Jesus returned to the disciples they were sleeping. They were still to grow into mature prayer servants who can fight the spiritual battle through prayer, and not easily give in to sleep. It was prayer that had brought Jesus thus far. It was prayer that comforted him and strengthened him and made him drink the cup of suffering and death willingly according to the will of God. We too must pray. We too must engage in nights of prayer at Gethsemane to accept the will of God and serve his purpose.