(Yes, it’s almost lunch. I’m sorry. All morning, though I knew it was Friday and showed up for a Friday appointment, I was convinced today was Saturday. So, while it is still Friday, here’s today’s post.)
This is the image most closely associated with Jesus prayer in the Garden of Gethsemene. Serenely praying for God’s will to be done. Asking for this bitter cup to pass him by. He acquiesces, and declares that if it cannot, he would follow God’s plan.
So when it comes to praying about God’s will we have this kind of image. It’s tranquil, full of obeience and peace.
And yet these are the words Dr. Luke uses to describe the scene:
Jesus left and made his way to the Mount of Olives, as was his custom, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived, he said to them, “Pray that you won’t give in to temptation.” He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed. He said, “Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.” Then a heavenly angel appeared to him and strengthened him. He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. When he got up from praying, he went to the disciples. He found them asleep, overcome by grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation (Luke 22:39-46, CEB).”
Or Matthew’s account:
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, “Stay here while I go and pray over there.” When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.” Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”
He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.” A second time he went away and prayed, “My Father, if it’s not possible that this cup be taken away unless I drink it, then let it be what you want.”
Again he came and found them sleeping. Their eyes were heavy with sleep. But he left them and again went and prayed the same words for the third time. Then he came to his disciples and said to them, “Will you sleep and rest all night? Look, the time has come for the Human One to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up. Let’s go. Look, here comes my betrayer (Matthew 26:36-46, CEB).”
Neither of those pictures above seem to adequately portray the intensity of Jesus as he worked his way to surrender. I read of anguish, struggle, drops of blood.
There would be those who say nothing we could surrender would equal what Jesus gave up in this prayer. And while I agree that very few of us will be called to die an overwhelmingly painful and shame-filled death on a cross. Here’s what Jesus said:
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23, NIV).
Sit with that for a while. Denying self is surrender, is nevertheless–it’s not my will by yours be done. It is as Jesus taught his followers: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
And there’s that part about taking up their cross DAILY and following the way that Jesus walked.
That may not be a struggle for everyone, but it might be.
What will it be for you?