JESUS PRAYS AT GETHSEMANE
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."
In the final days before Jesus was to be crucified Jesus teaches us many things. Two weeks ago we learned that if we do what we can for Jesus he accepts it as a beautiful thing. Last week we were taught to remember what he has done for us on the cross, and to put our faith in the blood poured out for our sins. Today, Jesus shows us that victory comes when our will and our desires conform to the will and heart of our heavenly Father. Let us begin this process of submitting to Godís will through todayís passage.
I. You will all fall away (27-31)
Letís read verse 27. "You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'Ē After the Passover meal the disciples and Jesus walked out into the brisk Jerusalem night. It was still chilly outside but they were feeling warm inside. They had eaten a good meal, listened to Jesusí teachings, and sung a hymn together. Thomas kept humming the hymn to himself as they walked along. As they drew closer to the Mount of Olives, Jesus suddenly stopped, turned to his disciples, and said, ďYou will all fall away for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.Ē Thomas stopped humming. The disciples didnít know what to say. Who spoke up?
Look at verse 29-31. ďPeter declared, "Even if all fall away, I will not." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "todayóyes, tonightóbefore the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times." But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same.Ē
As Iíve mentioned in some of my other messages I really love Peter. He represents a lot of what I see in myself. Heís so eager to be loved by Jesus and to be respected by the other disciples. He looks tough and strong, but as we know heís impulsive and emotional. His heart is often in the right place but for every good thing he does he follows it up with something bad. He doesnít take the time to really hear what Jesus is saying and doesnít try to understand its deeper meaning.
Jesus was trying to warn them and help each disciple to examine himself carefully. He was telling them, ďYou guys say you love me and that you will follow me wherever I go, but a time is coming soon when what you say and what you do will be tested.Ē More than the others, he was speaking directly to Peter because Jesus knew it was Peter who would fall away and disown Jesus three times to a little girl.
On the surface, Peter is bold. He looks like a leader. Heís setting an example for the others. We admire people who have such conviction and arenít afraid to say it. But his words fail to recognize two things.
First, Peter doesnít know himself. Socratesí guiding rule was ďto know thyself.Ē By doing so, one can come to an understanding of their true nature and make wise decisions. We have to know ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. Juan Amar knows he isnít very good at soccer. Knowing that he sticks to what heís good at and plays basketball with the kids. By doing so, he avoids being embarrassed. Those who go to Augustine for tutoring help know they are struggling with math or science. By doing so, they avoid failing. Most importantly, we know that we are all sinners and put our confidence in Jesus. By doing so, we avoid the temptations and traps of life.
Peter had no idea who Peter really was. Because he didnít know himself, he made foolish decisions. Peter had faith in himself and he depended solely on his willpower. He thought he could will himself to do anything. But willpower is one of the weakest characteristics of all man. Willpower is whatís supposed to keep us on our diets, or keep us disciplined to study all night. Some people think willpower can keep them from sinning. But in all of these examples, willpower isnít enough. We have to know ourselves. Apostle Paul knew himself when he said in Romans 7:15, ďI do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.Ē
Jesus put it best when he said to Peter in verse 38, ďThe spirit is willing, but the body is weak.Ē The great battle for all of us is the war between our flesh and our spirit. Though we have a new spirit through faith in Jesus, we still live in this physical body that has been cursed by sin. This sinful body makes us weak. Understanding our weakness teaches us not to rely on ourselves. It reminds us that everything we have is by the grace of God. Bruce Hollinger once was asked by a student if he was going to believe in Jesus until the day he died. It was a trick question. If he said yes, he looked like he was overconfident. If he said I donít know, the student would question his faith. He said, ďBy the grace of God.Ē If you know thyself, you will be forced to turn to God and seek his grace. Ultimately, I think thatís really what Jesus wanted Peter and the disciples to do. Know thyself and turn to God. By doing so, we receive his strength to overcome any of lifeís challenges. †
Second, Peter didnít want to know Godís will. To know the will of God requires patience and careful reflection on Jesusí word. As Iíve mentioned Peter was not known for being patient or thoughtful. He said what he felt. He did what he thought was right. He was a man of action who trusted his gut instincts. Sometimes with the help of the Holy Spirit his instinct was right. Many times his instinct was wrong. This led to an inconsistent Christian life. If Peter had sought to understand Godís will, he would have had a more consistent life of faith with fewer mistakes and many more victories. We see this consistent mission life in Acts when Peter clearly understands Godís mission.
If we donít take time to reflect on the will of God, weíre like drivers on a journey with no map or GPS to guide us. How can we know what to do if we donít know where weíre going? We turn left hoping itís the right way. We turn right hoping itís the right way. We go straight hoping itís the right way. Wouldnít it be better if I just got the directions and understood the way?
People who know Godís will do things with clear purpose and direction. Sammy Chang shared with us his disappointment when it didnít work out for him to go to Uganda. Uganda seemed perfect because he could do missions while boosting his resume for medical school. A Peter-like reaction wouldíve said this doesnít fit what I had in mind, and might abandon it altogether. But Sammy took out his spiritual GPS and sought Godís will. When he did so, he saw that his focus was on obeying God and his call for missionaries. Now Alison Haga is ready and waiting to put him to work to serve and to be a blessing in Taiwan. I have a hard time believing the God will not be pleased with his faith in the long run.
The will of God isnít always clear. But when seek it out and look for it and ignore what seems convenient or practical God blesses our decisions. Godís will often requires us to do let go of what we want and what the world says is right. Let us pray to desire to know Godís will and heart in everything that we do.
II. Not my will (32-52)
Read verses 32-34. They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ďSit here while I pray.Ē He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ďMy soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,Ē he said to them. ďStay here and keep watch.Ē
Whenever Jesus faces a challenge in the Bible, he is usually cool, calm, and collected. Satan tempts him in the desert. No problem. Religious leaders bring him a woman caught in adultery. No problem. 5000 hungry people with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. No problem. Lazarus dies. No problem. But we see an entirely different side of Jesus here. Taking Peter, James, and John along with him he becomes deeply distressed and troubled. ďMy soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,Ē he says.
Jesus knew that he was soon going to be handed over to the chief priest where he would be falsely accused, spit on, flogged, and finally crucified on the cross. He knew he was about to experience unbearable suffering and pain. He understood that his disciples were soon going to suffer deep fear and doubt. But none of these things by itself is what caused Jesus such deep distress and sorrow. We gain insight into Jesusí troubled spirit in Mark 15:34. Hanging on the cross Jesus doesnít cry out because of his pain, or his suffering. He cries out, ďMy God, my God, why have you forsaken me?Ē
Jesus is not overcome by the prospect of death. He is overcome by the impending physical and spiritual separation from his Father God. There was a special closeness between Jesus and his father God. They spent every second together. When he prays to God, he calls him ďAbba, FatherĒ which loosely translated means daddy. Even worse than the suffering and pain that was coming, Jesus couldnít stand the thought of even one day apart from his heavenly father. When he arrived at Gethsemane which is called the oil press in Hebrew, Jesus felt the weight of the worldís sin pressing upon his shoulders. He suddenly realized what pouring out of his life would mean for him personally. He would have to spend time away from his father. As he said, it was sorrow that pushed him to the brink of death.
Now I love my family. And I get to see them a lot. So, Iím just the opposite of Jesus. I donít mind several days, even weeks away from them. Sometimes itís a good thing. Iím not sure if Grace, or Maria, or Anne Taufoo felt this kind of sorrow when they first moved here. Iím sure they cried a couple of times. Even my wife told me once she missed her mommy when we first moved here. The only personal experience I can remember in my life that even comes close to Jesusí experience was when I visited my aunt in Germany for the summer. My mom went with me and apparently that first night at my auntís house, she claims I started crying for my daddy. Iím not sure why. Except that thereís a sudden realization of the physical separation there. And it is a bit shocking to us and we become overwhelmed. I think thatís what Jesus felt. How did Jesus face this personal challenge?
Letís read verses 35-36. Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." We can learn a lot from how Jesus prayed.
First, Jesus teaches us that prayer is an open, honest conversation with God. If you think about it, Jesus was the loneliest person in the Bible. No one could ever fully understand him. Not his mother, not his disciples, not Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Jesus tried to share his feelings with his disciples but they just fell asleep. The only person who could understand his heart and his thoughts was God. He was more than father God. He was Jesusí best friend.
Some might misinterpret Jesusí prayer as fear or reluctance. But what I think we are seeing in his prayer is an outpouring of his emotions and thoughts to the one person who could understand him, the one person who he could be open and honest with. We all have close friends who we share almost anything with. But even with these close friends there are boundaries which keep us from being completely honest. Maybe because we feel they canít understand us, or maybe because we feel they will judge us. God always understands us and he never condemns an open and honest prayer. He will never reject us or disown us for coming to him in earnest prayer. He is the wonderful counselor who listens and cares for us.
Second, prayer is the process by which we conform our will to the will of God. Jesus all along knew the will of God. From the day he was born in a manger, he knew the will of God for his life. His prayer may sound like he was asking God to take away this cup. Yet he knew the reality of what needed to be done. Prayer confirmed for him what needed to be done and realigned his will with Godís will. It was a process that ended with Jesusí words, ďYet not what I will, but what you will.Ē
My daughter Samantha has a strong will. Everything goes well for her when her will and my will are in agreement. But what happens when her will and my will donít agree? For example, these days since the summer is almost here Samantha likes to pick up the fly swatter. Many hundreds of bugs have been killed with that thing. I donít mind her carrying it around the house. But sometimes she likes to put it in her mouth and lick it. When I take it away from her, she has two choices. Either accept whatís good for her and submit her will to her daddyís will, or try to impose her will on daddy. Whoís going to win that battle? Godís will is always best for us because heís always looking out for us. To get to the point where we can consistently align our will with Godís will, we have to pray.†
Third, prayer gives us peace. Jesus prayed three times. Each time he prayed he was preparing his spirit to face the challenge that was before him. Once he submitted his will to God prayer gave him the peace to be ready for what was coming. A lot of times our prayer life is completely reactive. Something happens and we react with prayer. We recognize a need and we pray. Someone gets sick and we pray. But Jesusí prayer was proactive. It prepared him in advance for what lies ahead.
Have you ever had an exam that you were so prepared for when you went to take it you didnít even have to think about the answers? You were so prepared that all you had to do was the physical act of circling A,B, or C.
When we pray in a proactive manner, we recognize that the work of God is a spiritual struggle, not a physical one. The battle is already won when we gain the victory that comes through prayer. Though the physical act of dying on the cross was yet to come, he had already overcome the cross through prayer. When they arrested him, he reacted peacefully. When he was on trial and falsely accused, he remained silent. When they finally nailed him to the cross, he did not curse the world but prayed for its forgiveness.
Letís read verses 41-42. Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" Contrast these verses with verses 35-36 and we see a different Jesus. There are 4 exclamation points for emphasis. Jesus is confident, empowered, and resolute. Where did he get this boldness and power? It came through prayer.
The last verses give us a dark picture of what can happen when we donít know ourselves and when we donít pray. Judas betrayed Jesus because he couldn't see the darkness in his heart and he didnít want to know the will of God. The disciples werenít ready when Jesus was arrested. Maybe they couldíve used more prayer and less sleep.
In this passage, Jesus shows us what it means to pray. We will always struggle with what I want to do and what God wants me to do. Let us pray to share our struggles with God and let us pray to conform our desires to Godís. When we do so, he gives us victory over this world and any and all of lifeís challenges. Letís read the key verse.