39And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-45, ESV)
One of the most difficult realities of the Christian journey is this: It’s not about me. Jesus did not die so that I could have everything I ever wanted. God did not orchestrate the greatest rescue mission in the history of the cosmos so that we could gather around dinner tables and reminisce about how bad it was “out there” before we were rescued. This kind of thinking goes in the face of what the bible teaches and, more importantly, it diminishes the worth and glory of God. Any and every failure on our part to live our lives according to the sacrifice of Christ is a travesty and an insult to God’s grace and love.
Ok, I know that all of that was a mouthful, but let’s take some time and think about it. God did not send his son to die, and Jesus did not die for the sins of the worlds so that we could continue living a life focused on our own desires. Selfishness should never be the resulting reality of a sacrifice like that. If we can so easily forget where we were and where we were heading and move on from the fact that hell was our destination, something is very wrong. But, maybe, that is exactly the issue. We don’t fully understand the gravity of the situation that Jesus removed us from. Maybe, we don’t want to think about the fact that our sin is as awful and disgusting as it is. I think that this is fundamentally the issue that must be resolved.
I look at this event in Jesus ministry and I am reminded of the fact of what it took for me to be saved; what it took for me to enjoy the pleasure of God’s company forever; what it took for me to no longer fear death and the grave and the torment of hell, Jesus had to suffer. Jesus is pleading with God the Father in prayer. He has moved away from his disciples, maybe for privacy, maybe Jesus didn’t want the disciples hear him pleading with God to get out of this situation. I don’t know. What I do know is that Jesus called out to God and was in need of comfort and reassurance. Even Jesus, whose existence was also defined by his full humanity felt the full weight of what was about happen to him. Any person that thinks that God takes pleasure is sending people to hell must turn to this moment and remember this truth: In Jesus, the Triune God experienced the torment of hell!
On the cross, the full wrath of God for the entire history of sin was laid upon the shoulders of Jesus and in that moment God understood what was to come. Some might think that this is taking it to far. No, the mystery of the Trinity does not need to be explained for the reality that Jesus experienced separation from God to be understood. If Jesus is God the Son (and he is), then we have to see, that at Calvary, the three persons of the Trinity had the perfect fellowship that defines the nature of God broken because of sin. Sin does not only affect humanity. Sin entered into the experience of God’s own existence. And God chose to let it! Let that sink in.
From start to finish, salvation was God’s idea. There is nothing that we can do to change God’s mind. That is why when the Bible says that were sin abounds, grace much more abounds is so amazing. Even thought the cost of sin is so great; even though the penalty of sin is so horrible God’s grace and love and mercy reach out from heaven and somehow unravel the tangled mess of our lives. Here is the miracle of salvation. Here is where the wonder of God’s grace is found. Here is what it means to be loved unconditionally.
This moment in Jesus’ journey on earth reveals a couple of things. First, Jesus is our model for everything pertaining to the faith. In everything that Jesus said and did we are confronted and challenged to evaluate where we stand. When we thin about what God has called us to, how often do we see it as a challenge? Do we understand what it is going to cost us to accomplish the task that is set before us. Too often we think that giving up an hour or two; or a weekend once a year somehow qualifies as a sacrifice. This is more of an inconvenience than a sacrifice. It is what I did when I could squeeze it in. Some of you who will read this will probably think that this is unfair, overstated or just plain ridiculous. And you would be wrong. Jesus himself said that we should not be surprised that the world hates us. But, most of us are not hated by the world. Jesus said that if we are going to follow after him that we should take up our cross every day. What do you think a cross is for? We are not taking up the Jesus’ cross. We are supposed to take up our own and following him to our own Calvary; our own place of death. But, nobody wants a Christianity that demands that much. We want our appointments with Jesus to be fun, care free, encouraging and uplifting. None of us wants a hard faith, a demanding master, a difficult journey or a sorrow filled life. If that was what the church was selling, we might just see smaller churches.
But the second thing that stands out here is this: The will of God is worth the cost. Many of us are familiar with phrase that Jesus uses here, “Not my will, by yours be done.” Many of us may even have used that phrase. But, notice that in this simple phrase Jesus is declaring that God’s will is more important and worth everything that it costs to see it done. It does not matter what it takes. I am growing in my conviction that a life spent doing the will of God will not be a wasted or misspent life. But, I get the sense sometimes that this is exactly what some Christians believe. To give God everything, and to forsake our own desires would be unfair. Was it unfair for Jesus to die for sins he did not commit? Was it fair for Jesus to be humiliated because no one had the courage to speak up and tell the truth? Is it fair that I continue to live my life according to my own desires and not really stop to consider what God would want?
Faith in Christ is not about things being fair. Faith in Christ is about recognizing what has been done for us and what needs to be done by us. And on both counts God is the one that chooses what that means for us.
Faith is surrendering to the Will of God in all things and at all times.