"And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark 14:36).
What a contrast within the space of a few hours! What a transition from the quiet elevation of that, "He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father! I will," to that falling on the ground and crying in agony, "My Father! not what I will." In the one we see the High Priest within the veil in His all powerful intercession; in the other, the sacrifice on the altar opening the way through the rent veil. The High-Priestly "Father! I will" precedes the sacrificial "Father! not what I will," but this was only to show what the intercession would be once the sacrifice was brought. The prayer before the throne, "Father! I will," had its origin and its power in the prayer at the altar, "Father! not what I will." From the entire surrender of His will in Gethsemane, the High Priest on the throne has the power to ask what He will, and the right to make His people share that power, asking what they will.
For everyone who wants to learn to pray in the school of Jesus, this Gethsemane lesson is one of the most sacred and precious. To a superficial scholar, it may appear to take away the courage to pray in faith. If even the earnest supplication of the Son was not heard, if even He had to say, "Not what I will!" how much more we must need to say it! Thus it appears impossible that the promises which the Lord had given only a few hours previously, "Whatsoever ye shall ask," "Whatsoever ye will," could have been meant literally.
A deeper insight into the meaning of Gethsemane would teach us the sure way to the assurance of an answer to our prayers. Gaze in reverent and adoring wonder on this great sight: God's Son praying through His tears, and not obtaining what He asks. He Himself is our Teacher and will open up to us the mystery of His holy sacrifice, as revealed in this wondrous prayer.
To understand the prayer, let us note the infinite difference between what our Lord prayed earlier as royal High Priest, and what He here prays in His weakness. There He prayed to glorify the Father and to glorify Himself and His people as the fulfillment of distinct promises that had been given to Him. He asked what He knew would be according to the Word and the will of the Father. He could boldly say, "Father! I will."
Here He prays for something in regard to which the Father's will is not yet clear to Him. As far as He knows, it is the Father's will that He should drink the cup. He had told His disciples of the cup He must drink. A little later He would again say, "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" It was for this He had come to this earth. But in the unutterable agony of soul that gripped Him as the power of darkness overcame Him, He began to taste the first drops of death-the wrath of God against sin. His human nature, as it shuddered in the presence of the awful reality of being made a curse, gave utterance in this cry of anguish. Its desire was that, if God's purpose could be accomplished without it, He might be spared the awful cup: "Let this cup pass from me." That desire was the evidence of the intense reality of His humanity.
The "Not as I will" kept that desire from being sinful. He pleadingly cries, "All things are possible with Thee," and returns again to still more earnest prayer that the cup may be removed. "Not what I will," repeated three times, constitutes the very essence and worth of His sacrifice. He had asked for something of which He could not say, "I know it is Thy will." He had pleaded God's power and love, and had then withdrawn his plea in His final, "Thy will be done." The prayer that the cup should pass away could not be answered. The prayer of submission that God's will be done was heard and gloriously answered in His victory first over the fear, and then over the power of death.
In this denial of His will, this complete surrender of His will to the will of the Father, Christ's obedience reached its highest perfection. From the sacrifice of the will in Gethsemane, the sacrifice of the life on Calvary derives its value. It is here, as Scripture says, that He learned obedience and became the Author of everlasting salvation to everyone who obeys Him. Because in that prayer He became obedient until death-the death of the cross-God exalted Him highly and gave Him the power to ask what He will. It was in that"Father! not what I will," that He obtained the power for the "Father! I will." By Christ's submittal in Gethsemane, He secured for His people the right to say to them, "Ask whatsoever ye will."
Let us look at the deep mysteries that Gethsemane offers. First, the Father offers His Well-beloved the cup of wrath. Second, the Son, Who is always so obedient, shrinks back and implores that He may not have to drink it. Third, the Father does not grant the Son His request, but still gives the cup. And last, the Son yields His will, is content that His will be not done, and goes out to Calvary to drink the cup. O Gethsemane! In you I see how my Lord could give me such unlimited assurance of an answer to my prayers. He won it for me by His consent to have His petition unanswered.
This is in harmony with the whole scheme of redemption. Our Lord always wins for us the opposite of what He suffered. He was bound so that we could go free. He was made sin so that we could become the righteousness of God. He died so that we could live. He bore God's curse so that God's blessing would be ours. He endured God's not answering His prayer, so that our prayers could find an answer. He said, "Not as I will, "so that He could say to us, "If ye abide in me, ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
"If ye abide in me": Here in Gethsemane the word acquires new force and depth. Christ is our Head, Who stands in our place and bears what we would otherwise have had to bear forever. We deserved that God should turn a deaf ear to us and never listen to our cries. Christ came and suffered for us. He suffered what we had merited. For our sins, He suffered beneath the burden of that unanswered prayer. But now His suffering succeeds for me. What He has borne is taken away from me. His merit has won for me the answer to every prayer, if I abide in Him.
Yes, in Him, as He bows there in Gethsemane, I must abide. As my Head, He not only once suffered for me, but He always lives in me, breathing and working His own nature in me. The Spirit through which He offered Himself to God is the Spirit that dwells in me, too. He makes me a partaker of the very same obedience and the sacrifice of the will to God. That Spirit teaches me to yield my will entirely to the will of the Father, to give it up even unto death. He teaches me to distrust whatever is of my own mind, thought, and will, even though it may not be directly sinful. He opens my ear to wait in great gentleness and teachableness of soul for what the Father day by day has to speak and to teach. He shows me how union with God's will (and the love of it) is union with God Himself. Entire surrender to God's will is the Father's claim, the Son's example, and the true blessedness of the soul.
The Spirit leads my will into the fellowship of Christ's death and resurrection. My will dies in Him, and in Him is made alive again. He breathes into it a holy insight into God's perfect will, a holy joy in yielding itself to be an instrument of that will, and a holy liberty and power to lay hold of God's will to answer prayer. With my whole will, I learn to live for the interests of God and His Kingdom and to exercise the power of that will-crucified but risen again -in nature and in prayer, on earth and in heaven, with men and with God.
The more deeply I enter into the "Father! not what I will" of Gethsemane, and into Him Who said it, the fuller is my spiritual access to the power of His "Father! I will." The soul experiences that the will has become nothing in order that God's will may be everything. It is now inspired with a Divine strength to really will what God wills, and to claim what has been promised to it in the Name of Christ.
Listen to Christ in Gethsemane as He calls, "If ye abide in me, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Be of one mind and spirit with Him in His giving up everything to God's will; live like Him in obedience and surrender to the Father. This is abiding in Him-the secret of power in prayer.
Lord, teach us to pray
Blessed Lord Jesus! Gethsemane was the school where You learned to pray and to obey. It is still Your school, where You lead all Your disciples who wish to learn to obey and to pray just like You Lord! Teach me there to pray, in the faith that You have atoned for and conquered our self-will and can indeed give us grace to pray like you.
O Lamb of God! I want to follow You to Gethsemane! There I want to become one with You and abide in You, as You to the very death yield Your will to the Father. With You, through You, and in You, I yield my will in absolute and entire surrender to the will of the Father. Conscious of my own weakness and the secret power with which self-will would assert itself and again take its place on the throne, I claim in faith the power of Your victory. You have triumphed over it and delivered me from it. In Your death, I will daily live. In Your life, I will daily die. Abiding in You, may my will, through the power of Your eternal Spirit, become a finely tuned instrument which yields to every touch of the will of my God. With my whole soul, I say with You and in You. "Father! not as I will, but as Thou wilt."
Blessed Lord! Open my heart, and the hearts of all Your people, to fully take in the glory of the truth: That a will, given up to God, is a will God accepts for use in His service, to desire, determine, and will what is according to God's will. Let mine be a will which, by the power of the Holy Spirit, exercises its royal prerogative in prayer. Let it loose and bind in heaven and on earth, asking whatever it chooses, and saying it will be done.
O Lord Jesus! Teach me to pray. Amen.
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