“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Before our Lord went to Calvary’s hill, He spent some much-needed time praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was in Gethsemane where our Lord was strengthened for the cross that awaited Him, the cross from which He would ultimately cry, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) to declare His victory over sin, Satan, and death.
We see in today’s verse that Jesus began His prayer by saying, in essence, “I really don’t want to do this!” And why would He want to go to Calvary? Jesus knew what was about to happen. As terrible as the physical torment would be (Isaiah 52:14 tells us that Jesus was beaten so badly that He was no longer recognizable as a man), that was not what caused Jesus to sweat drops of blood during His prayer in Gethsemane. It was the knowledge that He, God’s only Son, would—for the first and only time in all eternity—be separated from God and would actually experience God’s righteous wrath . . . for sins He had never committed. He who knew no sin would become sin for us and would receive the full measure of God’s holy hatred for our sin. He knew He would be forsaken by God the Father throughout those terrible hours when darkness covered the land and the light of God’s love was hidden from His sight.
I have said before that if it had been you or I crouched in prayer in the Garden, knowing what Jesus knew, we most likely would have gone violently insane. He knew He was about to endure something that no human being ever could or would experience. But look how Jesus’s prayer progressed. He submitted to His Father’s will: “Not my will, but yours be done.” Hallelujah!
To be sure, no Christian will face the Calvary of Christ; we simply benefit from His encounter with the worst torment that both man and God could inflict. However, we will spend a lifetime facing smaller “Calvarys”—trials that challenge our faith and compress our focus—and we must remember that the Garden of Gethsemane was where our Savior sowed the seeds of supernatural strength for the unimaginable challenge that lay before Him. He confronted that trial in prayer . . . and submitted fully to the will of God.
For the Christian, a Gethsemane experience is much like a greenhouse is for a plant—a place where we grow and mature in our strength. It is only when we submit and surrender to the will of God that we will be able to get to the other side of our “Calvarys” and cry, “It is finished” . . . rather than “I am finished!”
Jesus knew the key that unlocked the door leading to continual victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil was His constant communion with His Father in heaven, which fortified Jesus to sustain all of the slings and arrows that the evil one would launch at Him. Never once did Jesus choose to do His will over the Father’s will. He was fully surrendered to His Father’s leading, because He knew that, despite Calvary’s hill and the cruel cross of crucifixion, there was a reward of eternal joy that lay just ahead.
We cannot avoid our “Calvarys,” which will bring us both crosses and losses; these are a part of life in this broken, sinful world. Therefore, we must not ignore the power of Gethsemane. Gethsemane promises the peace that passes all understanding and the supernatural strength to overcome any obstacle or opponent that comes against us, regardless of the trial we are facing.
To avoid Gethsemane is to face our trials unaided by omnipotence. Who among us is able to stand up against the world, the flesh, and the devil in our natural strength? May God forbid it! The glorious victory that is won on Calvary must be preceded by gut-wrenching Gethsemane.
When was the last time you were on your face before your God in your own Gethsemane? May your prayer end as our Lord’s did: with a heartfelt “Not my will, but Your will be done.” His will for our lives is always righteous and true and for our ultimate good. May we readily submit to His will in faithfulness and love for the One who submitted to the wrath of God on our behalf.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!