Matthew 26:39-44 (Not As I Will)

On Wednesday evening of Passion Week Jesus retired to the garden of Gethsemane after eating His last Passover with the disciples.  Having left the meal earlier, Judas would have been in the company of the Jewish religious leaders and was perhaps already enroute with those dispatched by them to arrest Jesus.  He knew where to find Him, for Jesus was accustomed to stay here during the feasts.  For in God’s providence it was there on the Mount of Olives in a garden whose name means an olive press that His Son would be pressed for the Oil of His Holy Spirit that would be poured out upon us richly through Him in order to save us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by that Holy Spirit of sacrifice; see Tit 3:5-6.  As the hour had come and all the weight of the sins of the world bore down upon Him who knew no sin He was overcome with the same human emotions we feel even when suffering justly, but much more because He was suffering unjustly; cf. Lam 3:39.

The words used to describe His condition indicate that He was grieved, sorrowful, and even angry, frightened and distressed, and in such agony that He sweat drops of blood from the stress and anguish that overcame Him (Luk 22:44).  In this state He sought the comfort of His inner circle of closest friends, Peter, James and John, to keep watch with Him; their failure to do so no doubt added to His torments.  Now, alone, having gone a little beyond them He has sought relief in His only Comfort, beginning “My Father…”, and praying according to His human desire that if it was in some way possible, the cup of sufferings that was now before Him might pass from Him.  Considering that the most perfect and innocent Man who ever lived recoiled at the prospect of suffering and death, what should we learn about the law of self-preservation that is by design impressed upon the soul of man?  Cf. Act 9:23-25.  Is it ever one’s right to violate this law and needlessly throw away one’s life if there is a way of escape?  Why not?  See 1Co 6:19-20.  In what way is suicide a violation of this law?  Think: If our life is not our own, is it our right to end it according to our own will, or is that up to the will of Him to whom we belong?  Consider also that Jesus, who knew what was about to take place, could have escaped, as he had many times before; cf. Joh 8:59,10:39.  Similarly, Paul, as he returned to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey with alms from the Gentile churches, knew the sufferings that lay before him and had opportunity to flee; see Act 21:4,11-14.  Why were their actions not a violation of the law of self-preservation?  See note[1].  What is the great law that first rules that one must do all he can to preserve his life, but then rules that he must lay it down?  See Joh 15:13; cf. Rom 13:8-10, Gal 5:13-14, Jam 2:8.

In spite of His own desire to avoid the suffering that was before Him, and was even now descending upon Him, what was the even greater, overarching desire of Jesus’ life, reflected in His prayer, to which He subjected all other desires?  See Mat 26:39; cf. Psa 40:7-8, Joh 4:34, 5:30, 6:38.  As we follow Jesus and seek to become more like Him, are we as willing to subject our own will to the will of the Father?  Are we like Jesus in delighting to do the Father’s will, even though it is not our own will, and even causes us to suffer?  Have we the faith, built upon a relationship of faithful prayer, such as demonstrated here by Jesus, to trust that the will of our heavenly Father who is all-knowing and all powerful, and who has demonstrated His great love for us especially in the giving to us of His Son, will in the end work out even better for us than following our own will that has been corrupted and deceived by the awful poison of sin?  Have we the faith to believe that in this way His commandments are not burdensome (1Jo 5:3), but for our blessing?  How does this help us to understand the true nature of what it means to be saved through faith?

How many times, and for how long, did Jesus pray in this manner, that if possible, the cup of sufferings pass from Him, but if not, that God’s will be done?  See Mat 26:40,42,44.  Consider that there are times when we know how we ought to pray, and perhaps pray as we ought, but perhaps also hope that God won’t answer that prayer, and don’t want to pray it again for fear that He will.  But as every matter is determined on the testimony of two or three witnesses, even if it is our own witness (2Co 13:1-2), as we continue to pray the matter becomes all the more resolved, not just in God’s answer, but in our acceptance of that answer.  Are we as willing to continue in prayer for the things we know are right and true, even though they are not our will and may cause us to suffer?  Is it possible that the reason we are so ineffectual in our prayers for God’s kingdom to come is that we are not as effectual as we need to be in praying for God’s will, and not our own, to be done?

[1] The law of self-preservation is impressed upon the innocent nature of man, and rules there till overruled by some other law.  Matthew Henry.