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.” NIV
It’s hard for us to really imagine what it must have been like for Jesus as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane that night. He knew what lay ahead…the whip tearing away at His flesh, the pain, the sharp and jagged thorns, the long and agonizing journey through the streets of Jerusalem, the scorn and the shame, the jeers of the very people He came to save… and finally the excruciating hours on the cross, struggling in great pain for each gulp of air. And that was just the physical and emotional part. Perhaps harder still was the weight of sin that would be put on Him; for those few hours He would become sin itself (2 Corinthians 5:21) and even the Father would turn away from Him. He knew that for this purpose He was sent into the world but could anything have prepared Him for it now that the hour approached? I don’t think it is humanly possible for us to even understand what Jesus was being asked to do.
For the first time in His public ministry, we see Jesus “overwhelmed with sorrow” (Mark 14:34) and in great turmoil and anguish… so much so that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 23:44). Is there another way? “Everything is possible with you…[can you not] “take this cup from me,” He asks His Father. But then He adds in complete and utter submission to His Father, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And when the moment passes, He knows what He must do. The turmoil is ended. The struggle is over. It is enough that this is what the Father desires of Him. He is ready to face what lies ahead. He will embrace the cross that has been prepared for Him since the foundation of the world.
Sooner or later every believer is going to come to his own Gethsemane… wrestle with God over something that God is calling him to do… desperately enquire of God whether there is some other way. In that moment, he, too, will have to decide whether to say, “take this cup from me” or “not what I will, but what you will.” We either pull back or totally surrender to God’s will and purpose.
We don’t speak very much about the Gethsemane moments of God. All we hear, all we want to hear, is the “He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). We dare not tell the unsaved that when they give their lives to the Lord, they are also saying to Him, “not what I will, but what you will.” And yet Gethsemane is so much a part of this Gospel that we embrace and we must all learn to say, “not what I will, but what you will.” You know our Father takes no pleasure in putting before us hard choices but its part of life. If there was any other way, He would have chosen it for you. You can count on that.
And remember this, on the other side of Gethsemane, He waits to honor you and raise you up in victory – as one who came to Gethsemane, struggled with God and then took the cup and said, “Not what I will, but what you will.”