Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” (Matthew 26:36-41)
Jesus was in great anguish over his approaching physical pain, separation from the Father, and death for the sins of the world. The divine course was set, but he, in his human nature, still struggled (Hebrews 5:7-9). Because of the anguish Jesus experienced, he can relate to our suffering. Jesus’ strength to obey came from his relationship with God the Father, who is also the source of our strength (John 17:11, 15-16, 21, 26).
Jesus was not rebelling against his Father’s will when he asked that the cup of suffering and separation be taken away. In fact, he reaffirmed his desire to do God’s will by saying, “I want your will to be done, not mine” (Matthew 26:39). His prayer reveals to us his terrible suffering. His agony was worse than death because he paid for all sin by being separated from God. The sinless Son of God took our sins upon himself to save us from suffering and separation.
In times of suffering people sometimes wish they knew the future, or they wish they could understand the reason for their anguish. Jesus knew what lay ahead of him, and he knew the reason. Even so, his struggle was intense—more wrenching than any struggle we will ever have to face.
What is your usual response to hard times? What would it take for you to be able to say “I want your will to be done, not mine”? Do you have that level of trust in God’s plans?