Romans 5 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the supreme demonstration of God’s love for fallen human beings. And if we want to know just how much God’s love cost Him, we can look to the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus’s most intimate time of prayer and deepest communion with His Father.
Mark 14 32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Luke’s Gospel helps us to appreciate even more just how much of a struggle that time of prayer in Gethsemane was for Jesus.
Luke 22 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
So in the Garden of Gethsemane we see the depths of God’s love for us, and also Jesus’s example for us of prayer and obedience, however much it costs, however much it hurts.
Mark 14 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Abba, Father, take this cup from me
“Abba, Father.” In the whole history of Israel nobody before had dared to address Almighty God in such an intimate fashion. Not “Our Father God Creator of Heaven and Earth” nor even “Our Father who art in heaven”. But “Abba”, “my Father.”
“Everything is possible for you.” Jesus recognised that God is Almighty. God is omnipotent. God is able to do ANYTHING He chooses. ANYTHING that fits in with His Divine will and eternal purposes. ANYTHING consistent with His Divine Character of love and holiness.
“Take this cup from me.” Jesus had talked to his disciples about this cup before. He said to James and John,
Mark 10:38 “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
The cup was the cup of suffering.
Mark 10 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.”
Those events which Jesus had foretold were now less than twenty-four hours away. That cup of suffering would include:
Physical pain; few people in history have endured such as much agony as Jesus was going to do in the final hours of His life.
Death; Ezekiel 18:20 tells us, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” But Jesus was without sin. Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life. Jesus did not deserve to die. Yet He did die. He died for us, in our place. Jesus said,
John 10 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
So Jesus experienced death. But more than that. Jesus was preparing to take upon Himself on the cross,
The guilt of sin. 2 Corinthians 5 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Message In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.
So on the cross Jesus was going to take upon Himself the death penalty we deserve to pay for our sin.
Isaiah 53 4Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
This was the cup of suffering Jesus would have to drink. In the Old Testament “the cup” was often a symbol for God’s wrath.
Isaiah 51 17 Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger. …
20 Your sons have fainted; they lie at the head of every street, like antelope caught in a net. They are filled with the wrath of the LORD and the rebuke of your God.
Ezekiel 23 32 “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “You will drink your sister’s cup, a cup large and deep; it will bring scorn and derision, for it holds so much. 33 You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, the cup of ruin and desolation,
The cup of God’s wrath. On the cross Jesus was going to experience the full force of God’s anger against sin and the full weight of God’s judgment. There on the cross Jesus would discover what it meant to be cut off from God. The consequence of sin is spiritual death, separation from God who is the source of all life and light and beauty and goodness. On the cross Jesus would be cut off from Abba, My Father, and cry out
Mark 15:33 “My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Why have you abandoned me?
This is the cup Jesus was going to drink. The cup of physical pain and of death. The cup of guilt for sin and the wrath of God. This was the cup Jesus longed to be released from. That is how much it would cost for Jesus to set us free and bring us life. Jesus really didn’t want to die!!
Amazing love, O what sacrifice, the Son of God given for me.
My debt He pays and my death He dies, that I might live.
Jesus really didn’t want to die. But nevertheless Jesus prays: “Abba Father, take this cup from me,
Yet not what I will but what you will.
Jesus’s desperate plea to escape the cup of suffering was not granted! His deep heartfelt prayer was not answered. God’s answer was NO! Which reminds us that
Serving God will not always be easy.
Christians can have two wrong ideas about suffering. The first wrong idea is that “God never asks us to do anything which is too difficult or too costly for us.” That is one of the devil’s lies. We have no right to assume that our lives will be any easier than Jesus’s life was. Or any easier than the lives of the first Christians, persecuted and so many martyred for their faith. We have no guarantee that our lives will be any easier than those of our brothers and sisters in the suffering church even today. If God did not spare His own Son Jesus Christ, but gave Him up for us, how dare we imagine that we will be spared?
Then the second wrong idea is this. Some Christians think, “Jesus has suffered in my place so I won’t have to suffer at all.” That is another of the devil’s lies. Jesus has suffered for us, but He then calls us to follow Him on the Calvary Road. Jesus calls us to deny self, to take up the cross daily and to follow Him. Jesus calls us to be obedient as He was obedient, whatever the cost. The idea that the Christian life is all health, wealth and prosperity is completely mistaken. Sometimes Christians will get ill. Sometimes they will be persecuted. Jesus was. Sometimes they will die. Jesus did!
God didn’t take that cup of suffering away from His beloved Son, and God won’t always take the cup of suffering away from us. But the Father did give the Son strength to obey. And
God WILL give us the grace to do His will.
The answer to Jesus’s prayer was that He was given the strength to do the Father’s will. Yet not what I will but what you will. Jesus came to the point of saying that He WOULD be obedient, He WOULD carry out God’s will whatever it was going to cost, however much it would hurt.
There are many things which God calls us to do which are not easy.
• To worship God and serve only Him;
• To turn our backs on sin and live Holy lives;
• To trust God in the dark times;
• To love our enemies and forgive others who have hurt us most deeply;
• To live lives of love as Jesus did, loving others as much as He has loved us;
• To tell everybody the Good News that Jesus saves, however difficult that can be.
The privilege of new life in Jesus Christ brings with it the responsibilities of discipleship and witness. In so many areas of life we need to come to that same point of unconditional obedience that Jesus did, “Not my will but yours be done.” Whatever it costs. However much it hurts. And when we are obedient, God will give us the strength to do His will. Even though, as Jesus said,
The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
In the Garden of Gethsemane what a dramatic contrast there is between the perfect obedience Jesus showed and the weakness and disobedience of every other human being who has ever lived.
Just beforehand on the Mount of Olives Jesus had a solemn warning for His disciples.
Mark 14 27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “ ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” 30 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” 31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.
The disciples had such good intentions, even in Peter’s ignorant self-confidence. But then even before the cross, even before the trials, even before the arrest, they all let Jesus down.
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?
Jesus called him by his old name “Simon”. That must have reminded Peter how little progress he had made in following Jesus. So then there is the call for all of them to watch and pray.
Mark 10:38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Keep watch. Like the sentry guarding the palace or the sailor on watch as the ship sails through rocky waters. Keep watch – because there’s danger ahead.
But one by one the disciples fell into temptation. As Jesus was arrested we read everyone deserted Him and fled. The disciples were no different from us. When temptation comes we often don’t do any better than they did. Even Peter would go on to deny Jesus three times. But we deny Jesus when an opportunity comes along to tell other people about our Saviour and we remain silent. All because,
The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
We are wrestle with the same problems the disciples did and which the apostle Paul speaks about in Romans 7. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. … 21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
Even when we DO come to the point of saying, “Not my will but your will be done” we often still fail to do the right thing. We all have this battle going on inside us all the time. Even when we want to obey God we disobey him time and time again. We take the easy way out and give in to temptation.
Jesus knew all about this struggle we face. That was the battle He fought in Gethsemane. The temptation to take the easy way out. To run away from the cup of suffering which he would have to endure. Jesus knew all about our inner struggles. He was tempted in every way as we are, but the difference was He never sinned. He prayed, “not my will but your will be done” And He DID drink that cup of suffering to the bitter end! That is how much God loves you and me!
May God help us all to be like Jesus, obedient even to the point of death, doing God’s will whatever it costs, however much it hurts.