The Jesus we see in the garden of Gethsemane is a Jesus we have never seen in the Gospels. Mark says that Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow to the very point of death (Mark 14:34). What agony Jesus confronted within himself as he prayed. His body and his soul were completely overwhelmed with an impending fear of death. This seems so strange since Jesus had never shown fear. Not when he battled Satan in the wilderness, nor when he encountered the people of Nazareth who tried to kill him. Not even when he confronted demons or his enemies who wanted him dead.
Why this fear? The reason Jesus was fearful here in the garden was not a fear of his physical death but of his spiritual death. Jesus understood that he was about to become sin for the whole world. He knew the wages of sin was death. Jesus asked his Father, “…if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). We see Jesus’ humanity and his understanding of what he would have to endure spiritually, and he prayed for another way. Jesus asked his father to take away the cup.
What did Jesus see in the cup? Imagine the most appalling filth, the most wretched of human sins, and you have the contents of the cup. Sometimes we read of a man or a woman killing an innocent and helpless baby in a horrific way, and we cringe. Imagine the cruelties of slavery or the injustice of sex trafficking that goes on in the world today, and you see the filth in the cup. Jesus saw the entire sin of the world before him, and he recoiled so much that the thought of the cup repulsed him.
Jesus, however, finished his prayer with these words “take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). What a small word but how big a difference it makes. The three Hebrews showed this kind of commitment when they vowed not to bow down to an idol and they believed their God would deliver them. “But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Dan 3:18).
Jesus asked his Father if there was any other way, yet what he wanted most was his Father’s will. What a prayer and what a model for us! Many times we will beg God for deliverance, but where is the part of the prayer where we pray for God’s will? Every emotion and every thought in Jesus’ mind and spirit demanded deliverance from this cup. Jesus knew what was ahead, but in spite of that sadness that overwhelmed him, he chose the will of the Father.
Where is the man or woman of God who can submit every prayer and petition through the filter of God’s will? More important than the miracle we want or the deliverance we crave is God’s will. May we, like Jesus, learn to pray with every petition “…yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).