For the last week of our forty days together, we’ll be hearing from some other voices in our church. Today’s entry comes from Israel Mendez, Director of the Baptist Student Ministry at UTSA and the most tenured drummer on the Alamo Community Church worship team.
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.”
MATTHEW 26:36-46 (ESV)
If you have been following Jesus for any amount of time, you know that it is not for the faint of heart. Following Jesus is difficult for a myriad of reasons, but if we are honest with ourselves, most of the time what makes following Jesus so difficult is us. Culture has conditioned us to look out for our best interests, to do what advances personal agendas, whatever sets us to fulfill our goals and our dreams. For most of us, seeking after these things is typically not a problem until we realize that many times what we want is not what God wants for us. In those moments we are faced with a difficult choice: My will or God’s will?
We do not need to read far into the scriptures to see that submitting to God’s will has been an issue for humanity since the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were placed in the perfect environment, everything was right in the world, yet they chose their own will and their own desires. Through their sin, they brought death into the world.
I have come to realize that the narrative of Scripture can be defined as a story of two gardens: Eden and Gethsemane. In many ways, Gethsemane was the antithesis to Eden.
Where Eden was a place that brought death into the world through the sin of Adam, Gethsemane was a place where Jesus would submit to the will of the Father and bringing forth eternal life for those who would believe.
At Gethsemane Jesus understands the difficulty that awaits him, retreats to pray, and asks Peter and John to join him so that they would watch and pray. Jesus in his divinity knows what awaits him, but in his humanity, he is wrestling in prayer with the Father about what is going to be required of him. In his humanity, he is experiencing terrible distress and misery, and he is crushed with anguish. Spiritually, Jesus recognizes that the greatest agony he will face is not the torture of the cross, but the sins of the world he will bear. The agony is so great that Jesus sweats blood, falls to his face, and asks the Father three times to remove the cup of wrath – the suffering that he would endure for the sins of the world – if it is at all possible. In the very same breath that he asks the Father to remove the cup, Jesus says, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.”
Jesus, with you and I in mind, places himself at the mercy of the Father’s will knowing very well what was to come. Jesus grieves in his humanity but does not sin in doing so. Jesus dreads what is to come, yet trusts the Father so much that three times he utters the words, “Your will be done.” Oh to have that kind of trust in the Father’s will! In the middle of his incredible difficulty, the Lord Jesus showed us a beautiful example of surrender. But what about you and me? In the middle of our greatest difficulty, will we submit to the will of the Father?
The account at Gethsemane gives us the confidence to know that we can honestly present our deep anguish, concerns, and fears before the Father because Jesus did for us. We can approach Him with great humility, with the weight that we carry from the burdens of life. We can bring our questions to His attention, yet submit our lives into His hands and trust whatever His plan may be. Gethsemane is a reminder of redemption, a reminder that the Father’s will is greater than our own. It’s a reminder that our will, like that of Adam in Eden, may lead to death, but like Jesus, submission to God’s will leads to life.
It is imperative that we remember that the victory that Jesus gives at Calvary began with Jesus’ submission at Gethsemane. Before Jesus ever uttered the words, “It is finished”, He first uttered a prayer. “Not my will, Yours be done.”
Father, conform me to the image of your Son. Help me to trust that your plan for my own “Gethsemane moments” is for my good and ultimately for your glory. In moments of deep anguish and despair, help me to remember that you have a plan and purpose for it that I cannot see.
Jesus, make me more like you. Help me to endure and remain faithful as you were faithful to the Father’s will in Gethsemane. In moments of deep pain and in moments of great joy, may my words echo yours, “Your will be done.”
Holy Spirit, remind me of instances in my own life where I could clearly see that your will for me was better than that of my own.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God, now and forever. AMEN.
Identify the areas in your life where you struggle to relinquish control. Bring those before the Lord and ask for His guidance to help you submit those areas to the Father’s will.