Matthew 26 covers the last days of Jesus with his disciples, the betrayals of Judas and Peter, the Passover when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper and the arrest of Jesus. After the Lord’s Supper and before his arrest, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, along with Peter, John and James. Jesus knew what was coming soon. He knew He was to be betrayed by Judas and denied by Peter. He knew He would be sentenced to death on a cross like a common criminal. He knew there would be excruciating physical pain and torment. He knew this had been ordained of His life since before His birth. He also knew that the Father was in control of all of this – that if He willed it, the Father could remove this burden from Jesus.
v. 38-39 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
The concept of Jesus as man in the flesh, yet part of the triune God is not easily comprehended by my finite mind. Jesus the man is crying out to God the Father asking that the work he was sent to earth to accomplish be taken away, but more importantly, recognizing that even though this may have been possible, it may not have been God’s will. “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus was sorrowful. He was desperate. He was lonely. He, the son of God, asked something of God (that he knew God could do) yet he submitted himself to God’s will.
We know that Jesus suffered, died and rose again. We know that he sits at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus knew what his life on earth and death were meant to accomplish. But he was still sorrowful. He still asked God to take away his pain. Struggling with what God calls us to do is not a sin – if it were, then Jesus – who never sinned – would have been wrong in this prayer. I do not think that God (who knows our hearts, minds and souls completely anyway) is disappointed in us when we despair or struggle. It is when we refuse to submit to his will that we sin.
I challenge you (as I am challenging myself) to remember to include this line in your prayers and supplications to God, “not as I will, but as you will.” Ask for the desires of your heart, beg for mercy and healing and relief. But follow that up with a sincere acknowledgement that God may not have the answers you think you want in mind.