Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 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.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
(Matthew 26:36-46 ESV)
We are currently studying the events of Jesus and His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane which begins the final hours of Jesus life. Jesus came to the Gethsemane, a quiet location just east of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, to pray before being arrested.
Notice that in each of Jesus’ three prayers He addressed God as Father. This expressed an intimacy with God that was anathema to the Jews of the day and still is with most people. People see God as a distant and impersonal authority figure. They don’t consider Him to have, or even to want to have, a personal relationship with them. Here in this passage Jesus clearly expresses a personal relationship with God by calling Him “My” father.
But Jesus always called God “Father”, even using the Aramaic word “Abba” which means “daddy” [Mark 14:36]. This was the reason the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Him. They considered Jesus to be committing blasphemy [John 5:18]. The problem was not Jesus, however. The problem was they did not understand who God really was.
Such is still the state of the human race. They think they understand God, but they don’t. So when they see someone having a personal relationship with God, or trying to serve God in a way that makes no sense to them (such as a Christian baker who won’t bake a cake for a gay wedding), their response is wrought with hostility born of arrogance based on erroneous thinking.
Despite what we like to think, we don’t inherently know the proper way to think or behave. Our will is almost always at odds with God’s will. By studying the events in Gethsemane we learn the necessity of having a relationship with God through prayer.
The purpose of prayer is to align our will with God’s to bring us to the point where we submit our will to God’s. An effective prayer results in yielding to what God wants for us regardless of the cost – even if the cost is physical death. When we pray we should be seeking God’s strength to resist the temptation to reject His plan for our lives. We should be seeking to annihilate our own will.
When Jesus entered Gethsemane His will was at odds with God’s. Because He was completely human, He would rather skip the cross and all that went with it. But in the end, after praying three times, Jesus gained the peace and confidence that goes along with exchanging His will for God’s. His betrayal was at hand and He was willing to be going (to the cross).
In Gethsemane we see in the disciples the effects of not praying and instead being self-confident and relying on our own strength. The result was they failed their friend when He needed them most. But we also see in Jesus the spiritual victory that is available to those who, through prayer, depend on God.
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