They went to a place called Gethsemane; and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’
Jesus knew the pain, the torture, the disgrace and the humiliation that awaited him. Jesus wanted to run from that pain, to run from all that crucifixion entailed. And yet Jesus knew that it was the Father’s will for him to suffer. In anguish, Jesus cries out, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’
Most of us cannot begin to imagine what it was for Jesus to face the cross. Jesus didn’t have to go through with it: there was time for a hasty escape and Jesus makes clear in John 10:18 and 20:11 that he lays it down of his own accord; but Jesus chose to lay down his life for our sake. Jesus chose to suffer so that we might see the true extent of God’s love. Jesus chose to “[bear] our infirmities and [carry] our diseases,” to be “wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Jesus chose to ransom us from the powers that hold us captive (Mark 10:45). Jesus chose to forgive us and make us right before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus chose to invite us to live our lives in him, and him in us (Galatians 2:20).
It is both humbling and awe-inspiring to reflect on the choices Jesus made and what they mean for each one of us. It is also incredibly challenging to realise that Jesus’s attitude and choices are an example to us. We may not face crucifixion, but every day we face choices: will we follow our will, or God’s will? Will we seek God’s Kingdom, or our own kingdoms? We will stand up for the gospel, or stay silent? Will we choose to love and bear the cost, or not? May we pray as Jesus prays, and do as Jesus does: ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’
Abba, Father, for you all things are possible…
We are overwhelmed by your love for us, choked by your mercy, humbled by your grace, delighted by your new life and transformed by your hope.
…remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want.
We confess that it can be hard for us to choose your will over our will, your kingdom over our own petty little kingdoms.
Help us, Abba, Father, to follow the example of Jesus every day, choosing You and others over myself; love over hate; mercy over unforgiveness; grace over cost-counting; new life over death; and hope over despair. Amen.
The Rev’d Matt Stone is the minister of Herringthorpe URC, Rotherham.