Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
Have you ever struggled to follow through with what you know you should do? Of course, all of us have! We resonate with the Apostle Paul when he said, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Rom 7:15). The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Heb 4:15). I can think of no greater example of this than what Jesus experienced that night in Gethsemane.
Jesus knows what’s coming. He speaks of the “cup” that lay before him, which was a symbol of God’s wrath. Jesus, in his fully human nature, naturally shrunk from the horror of the cross. Who wouldn’t?! But his temptation had to be magnified precisely because he was also fully God. Think about it. The eternal Son of God who had always been in perfect fellowship with the Father knew exactly what it would mean to be forsaken by God and experience the full weight of God’s judgment for the sins of his people.
And he is in agony over the prospect of following through.
He asks the disciples who were with him to pray that they would not fall into temptation. Temptation was on his mind. Jesus prays that God would remove the cup from him and yet submits to the Father’s will. God answers his prayer. Not by removing the cup, but by sending an angel to strengthen him to follow through with the heart of his prayer: “yet not my will, but yours be done.” Then, in anguish, Jesus prayed more earnestly, so much so that he sweat drops like blood. I can’t imagine the intensity of that prayer time where Jesus wrestled with the Father, pleading for the grace and strength to go forward with what God called him to do. Once he received confirmation, he no longer prayed for the cup to pass but asked for the strength to drink it.
And praise God that the Father answered those prayers because God’s glory and our salvation hung in the balance. Because God heard his prayer, there is salvation for all who believe—even salvation for us who struggle to do what we know we ought. And because Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin, Hebrews urges us: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb 4:16)
Note: Each day’s devotional is written by a different member of the GRC family.