Matthew 26:36-46 (Click to read passage)
After Supper ended, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane as was the usual practice of Jesus and the Disciples. Jesus told his disciples to sit and wait while he asked his closes disciples to pray with him. Jesus told them his soul was sorrowful to death and he asked them to watch or keep awake while he went to pray. Perhaps because of the meal and the time of the night, the disciples found themselves weary and soon fell asleep.
We’re told that Jesus prayed that if it was possible that the cup would pass from him. If we read the request quickly, we can forget the seriousness of Jesus’ prayer if God the Father had listened to him. The cup represented Jesus’ suffering. Imagine a cup of poison that represented death and God’s wrath. As a human, of course Jesus would not want that. This was not a pleasant experience. But Jesus prayed, “not as I will, but as your will.”
Returning to his disciples, he found them sleeping. Jesus rebukes the disciples and asks Peter, “couldn’t you keep watch with me for one hour?” Jesus warns Peter to pray that he will not enter into temptation. Although Peter loved Jesus and told him he was willing to die for Jesus, Peter will find out the limits of his own power. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Jesus returns a second time to prayer. This time with courage. “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Unfortunately, when Jesus returns to his disciples, they were sleeping again. In the moment of crisis, Jesus’ disciples were asleep. A third time, Jesus goes and prays. But the time has come. Jesus returns to his disciples one last time and tells them to sleep later. Jesus was going to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.
We see a few things from today’s passage. First, we see Jesus’ real struggle with obeying the Father’s will. Often people erroneously say that Jesus got out of temptation because he was God. But Scripture affirms over and over again that Jesus was fully human as well. His pain was real. He had a real body that could feel pain and could die. Jesus too had to learn what it meant to trust God the Father. He prayed as anyone who has suffered has prayed, “please get me out of this situation.” But in the end, he trusted God the Father and obeyed.
Second, we see Jesus praying if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. In other words, if there was another way to redeem sinners, let this suffering not happen. But there was no other way. God’s just punishment for sin required a cost. God could not simply forgive. This would make God an unrighteous judge. Either Jesus would take the cost of our sin, or we would. No one could take the punishment of God and live. And so, as the second person in the Trinity, Jesus willingly became cut off from the Father. He took the wrath that we deserved and by doing so, opened up a way so we can be made right with God once again. There was no other way. We cannot trust in our own ability to fight sin or to be faithful to God. We need Jesus to do that for us.
Third we see Christ’s faithfulness and his disciple’s failures. It is said that the only true hero in the Gospel is Jesus. Peter, the first leader of the church was known for his serious failures. If the church wanted to have a cover up, they wouldn’t have had their first leader be portrayed as such a failure. But Peter knew that the only one who was truly faithful was Jesus. Jesus fought Peter’s spiritual battle while Peter was asleep. Jesus loved and cared for Peter when Peter would later deny knowing Jesus three times.
Jesus prayed, “not as I will, but as you will”. He prayed, “your will be done”. Even the best of us struggle with this prayer. Jesus was the one who was faithful. Jesus’ faithfulness to death on a cross was the way that God would use to take the curse and punishment of our sins upon himself. Let us find comfort knowing that while we were unfaithful, we have a Savior who was faithful for us.
Questions for Meditation:
- How do we see Jesus’ humanity (humanness)? How do we see Jesus’ divinity (Godness) in today’s passage?
- How does seeing that Jesus was faithful while the disciples were faithless encourage you in your failures?
- How do Jesus’ words “not as I will, but as you will” bring you comfort?