The Agony of Gethsemane
Not as I will, but as you will
Jesus and His disciples left the Upper Room, crossed the brook Kidron and traversed the Mount of Olives. From there, as was His custom, He entered a garden called Gethsemane. Jesus, aware that His hour had come, and that of His disciples (for their allegiance to God would soon be tested), calls eight of them to sit and pray. We are told that Jesus then took with Him those three disciples who had witnessed the glory of His transfiguration, Peter, James, and John.
Uncharacteristically, Jesus became “greatly distressed and troubled” (Mk 14:33). The English rendering of the Greek verbs hardly gives justice to the intensity of our Lord’s anguish. The feeling of extreme amazement, intense mental distress, and the sense of being lost and not at home helps colour the picture. Why such turmoil? It was at this moment the sight of all the sins of His people came before Him; He saw the black storm of God’s wrath gathering thick above Him; He saw the curses of the righteous law stacked up against Him; and He saw the sword of divine justice drawn from its sheath, polished and made ready, for it would not return until it was made drunk by His blood. With the same earnestness He had warned the eight disciples, He now warns His closest three, saying, “Remain here and watch” (Mk 14:34).
Alone now, and going a little farther, Jesus fell on His face and prayed, saying,
… not as I will, but as you will (Mt 26:39).
Stop for a moment and think through this. Jesus here is yielding His own will, that desires to avoid the cross with its cup of divine wrath, to the Father’s will, who calls Him to drink it to the dregs. In that simple statement, “not as I will, but as you will,” uttered in the greatest ever trial known to man, Jesus lays out the fundamental law of His life. All that He did, from the refusal to accept food (Jn 4:34), to speaking the truth despite the danger (Jn 5:30; 8:55), He did according to the will of God.
It was now past midnight and the activities of the day, and the news of Jesus’ departure bore heavy upon the disciples, so they yielded to sleep. Now truly alone, Jesus pressed further into prayer. But this time, there was a marked change, for He prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done” (Mt 26:42). In those words, the victory of the cross had been won. Jesus raised Himself like a man from battle, having been delivered from His fear; that is to say, He now possessed a profound peace which perfect submission gives to the soul. He had given Himself up to the Father’s will entirely. Henceforth He walked with a firm and confident step to meet the cross, the sight of which only moments earlier made Him stagger.
Not as I will, but as you will. That is the absorbing passion and controlling principle of Jesus’ life. It was this principle that yielded not to sin, nor Satan, and but to the cross, through which He redeemed His church. This same principle must be the controlling principle of every person who follows Christ:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5).
Ask yourself, have I likeness to Jesus through full acceptance of this principle for my life? Is this prayer of Jesus the foundational prayer for all my prayers? Does the desire for certain sins, or self-advancement, or intellectual attainment, or work and family success stand out more clearly in my mind than the passion to know the will of God in my daily life and to do it? Let us today recalibrate our minds to the mind of Christ and walk forward in life with firm and confident steps, wholly committed to the will of God, even if that will lead us to a cross.
Pastor Craig Baxter