This is an on-going series that provide an “overflow” of information or application from my weekly preaching. A preacher cannot, nor should not, get everything into a sermon. These will be posts that give some direction and resources related to the sermon that will help people better understand and apply the passage.
In Gethsemane, we have a moment of theological and spiritual weight that is rarely equaled, let alone surpassed in the history of redemption. Here we have in the soul of Christ spiritual combat of the highest order. Here we see into the very depths of Jesus’ soul as he calls out to God with great agony. Here we have a life or death struggle where the salvation of the human race hangs in the balance. Here, we see nothing less than the Savior who is readying himself for the cross. As Jesus leaves the upper room with his disciples and comes to the garden of Gethsemane, he kneels down, laying face-down onto ground, prostrate before God in prayer because his soul was sorrowful, even unto death (Matt 26:38-39). What has made Jesus so desperate before God? Because he faces before him the cup of God’s wrath. The cross is imminent. And cross is not just about pain. It is not just about suffering. The cross is about the wrath of God.
Just over twelve hours from now, Jesus will hang on the cross as the propitiating sacrifice for the sins of the world. He will feel what he has never felt before. For all eternity, he has been the supreme object of the Father’s love. Now, he will be the supreme object of the Father’s wrath. For all eternity, there has been blissful harmony between Father, Son, and Spirit. Now, he will experience not heaven, but hell. And not for anything that he has done. Rather, it will experience it because of what we have done. Jesus will endure the unrelenting judgment of God because of the sins of others. Before him is not his cup, but our cup. It the cup that we deserve. So, as Jesus considers the cup of God’s wrath, the very core of his being is recoiling in absolute revulsion. Christ is horrified of the cross because of his complete and utter holiness. So, he prays out of the anguish of his soul, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me” (22:42). But Jesus also prays, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (22:42). Both in his shudder at the cup, and in his resolve here to take it up, Jesus appeals to the will of God. Jesus is not against the will of God here. Jesus will not consider the taking away of the cup unless it willed by the Father. What is required in the soul of a man, to stand like Christ, holding in your hands, as it were, that awful cup, being able to say not my will, but yours, be done? Nothing less than a full, confident, absolute trust in God. Even as he stares into the abyss of God’s coming wrath—the worst possible pain imaginable—and Jesus can still trust God. He can still see God’s goodness and love for him.
This sermon was a heavy one. I found it hard to convey the weight and pathos of these hours in Jesus’ life as Luke records them for us. The message itself can heard online or downloaded here.
Gethsemane takes us into the depths of the Triune nature of God and the mystery of the Incarnation like few other passages. John McKinley does a good job here showing how Jesus’ prayer doesn’t divide the Father, Son, and Spirit.
On a more devotional level, Luke Stamps points out how much overlap their is to the words of Jesus’ instruction and prayer in Gethsemane and what is known as the Lord’s Prayer. He suggests that we spend some time meditating on these two passages together, thinking about how Jesus is both our substitute and our example.
Finally, although I would quibble a little with verse 3, this song by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend captures the moment beautifully. We sang in response to the sermon on Sunday.