Jesus in Gethsemane, Accepting the Cup Given
He was in such distress that His sweat became as drops of blood. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus bore a heavy load. Knowing the cup He was about to drink, He began to become full of sorrow and turmoil. Like in the wilderness, the devil is at Him once again in the garden. “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Wait here, and watch with me”, He requested of His disciples.
Just previously, all the disciples had agreed together with Peter, “If I have to die with you, I will never deny you.” They believed themselves to be disciples of great dedication, yet we find shortly that they are disciples of sleepiness and yawning – even while their dear Jesus suffers. “Wait here, and watch with me”, Jesus said to Peter, James, and John. And yet Jesus quickly finds them sleeping.
Last week we learned the Lord’s Supper is a truly present remembrance of our Lord’s Passion, in His body given and blood shed. This week, we remember ourselves – that, though we often think of ourselves as people of faithfulness and dedication, as the disciples thought of themselves, in practice we find that we cannot even watch and pray with our Lord one hour.
To each other, we can speak, speak, speak about what issues distress us. Yet, do we speak with the same fervency and at such length to God in prayer? Prayer, which would be effective if we prayed it. Scripture says, “You do not have because you do not ask” [James 4:2].So much goes undone, unremedied because we do not watch and pray. Our speaking to each other is strong, but prayer to our Lord is an afterthought, a quick fulfilling of a duty. We have right intentions, but we are sleepy and yawning Christians.
What distress our Lord Jesus was in, in the Garden when His disciples slept instead of watching and praying with Him – and for themselves. Anguish of soul, knowing the cup He was about to drink from His Father’s hand. He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup from me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will.”
Three times, Jesus asks that this cup be taken from Him: “Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup from me”; “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me”; “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” Yet, each time, “not my will, but yours be done.”
And His agony increased through this progression of prayers. Yet in between these prayers, ministering angels appeared to Him, strengthening Him to receive His Father’s will.
He finds His disciples sleeping, and goes away again to pray. This time, in a fourth utterance, there is a change in His words: “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, your will be done.” He is becoming strengthened in His willingness to drink what His Father gives Him.
The cup that the Father is about to give Jesus is the Cross – the bearing of the evil and darkness of all of man’s sins. Making man’s sin and guilt His own and thus taking on Himself the agony of separation from God, separation from love, the bearing of Hell, severed from goodness, sunk into the outer darkness, no good, no God, only death and the presence and torments of the devil. All this that is ours for our sin was about to become His in our place. “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6].
Jesus was about to drink this cup of God’s wrath and repudiation against man’s sin so that man is saved from it. Because Jesus loves God with all His heart, soul, and strength, and because Jesus loves you to the end and as Himself, His will agreed with the Father’s will to bear this awful load. You are freed at great price, that He bore this load for you.
We thank Jesus for agreeing, in the Garden of Gethsemane, to drink this cup from the Father – to proceed to the cross – for us. For, without His willing agreement, we would bear that awful load of our sin ourselves. But He, in that garden, willed to do it for you – “if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, your will be done.” He drank it. The Father’s will was done. The cup has passed for you. It is finished.
Jesus’ final mention of that cup is when He is surrounded by the Judas’ entourage, about to be arrested, and the disciples ask, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” Jesus responds, “Put your sword into its sheath… the cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink of it?” He became strong and bold to drink that cup for you.
Yet, in this life and time of flesh – with our sleepy flesh still clinging to us until the day of the resurrection, and with the shamed and defeated devil still prowling around angry at us until the day of judgment – in this time, there are still ways in which we bear the cross – ways in which we, to a limited degree, participate in our Lord’s drinking down of that difficult cup – and that way is (1) in love for our neighbor, bearing a difficult load for them; and (2) in enduring the devil’s assaults against us while remaining in faith till the end. Therefore, we are called also to watch and pray in the Garden.
The devil assaults you with temptations to sin, with falls into great vice, and with sickness and harm to your body. The devil does all this to convince you that Jesus didn’t really drink the cup for you but that you must pay for your sins yourself. So, when you become very sick you start to think, “God hasn’t forgiven me.”
Turn to God right away in prayer, every time. If the devil attacks you every minute with those thoughts of “God hasn’t forgiven what I’ve done”, then pray again every minute. The devil will flee. God will strengthen you with His ministering angels as He did for Jesus. Though you might spend a long while in the Garden as Jesus did, God will strengthen you.
Those words, “Father, not my will, but Yours be done”, are the Holy Spirit’s triumph within you over the devil. Prayer by prayer, God will bring your lips closer to those words. Willingness to accept whatever cup the Father gives us extinguishes the devil’s false and fake might. So, as Jesus said, “Watch and pray that you do not enter into temptation.”
And Jesus said, “Watch and pray with Me” – “Could you not watch with me one hour?” Likewise, brothers and sisters, stand watch for one another by fervent, deliberate time in prayer for each other’s needs.
When a brother or sister in the congregation is on the sick list, is hospitalized, is enduring a trial or temptation, they are in the Garden and are drinking a hard cup. Don’t sleep. Stand watch for them in prayer. Take deliberate and serious time for them in prayer. It makes a difference. When you do ask, you do have. Love one another as Christ has loved you – watch and pray for each other, not as a quick checkmark off your list, but in love that is willing to work at it hard.
Above all, brothers and sisters, meditate on what Jesus has done for you. He drank the cup due to you in full, in your stead, and faced the Garden and the Cross because He loves you. He agreed with the Father’s will to save and forgive the sinner. So love and forgive each other. It is the Father’s will. Amen.