Human nature is strong.
The will to survive is perhaps the strongest force in the human heart. In the garden called Gethsemane the battle between the will to survive and the demands of absolute love raged in the quietness of the night.
Before the soldiers broke the silence of that night with the sounds of sandals rhythmically pounding the floor of the garden and swords rattling in their belts, drops of blood fell to the ground, the telling residue of the silent battle of will against love. This blood was not drawn by the blade, but by the bitter anguish of a soul in torment. Jesus’ sweat became as blood as He faced the cup of iniquity filled to overflowing by all the sins of mankind, past and future.
- Roman cruelty and religious bigotry were in the cup,
- as was the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart,
- the idolatry of the nations, including Israel,
- the genocide of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot,
- the hedonism, racism, greed, and infanticide of America, and
- the institutionalized hatred of radical Islam.
- Our private little sins were there, too.
This bitter cup was abhorrent to Jesus.
For more than thirty years He had lived a sinless life although beset by every temptation known to man. Now He must swallow all sin, taking into his human life the poison of the ages from Eden to the end of time. He was God incarnate, the divine merged with the human. In a mystery we cannot unravel in this life, Jesus had laid aside His divinity to live by the power of the Spirit in the flesh. The Spirit of God had never failed Him:
- Demons fled at the sound of His command.
- Sickness, impairment, and disease vanished at His touch.
- Lies and liars melted away at His reasoning.
- Even the winds and waves obeyed Him.
On this night, in this garden, the will of the Father was not to deliver Him; it was the Father’s will that Jesus deliver us.
He asked His friends to watch and pray with Him.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
They were unable to do as He asked. Sleep overcame them. His prayer of agony echoed through the stillness of the olive trees:
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Returning to the sleeping disciples, Jesus revealed the nature of the battle within Him:
“The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
His spirit was powerful, calling for Him to lovingly submit to the agreed upon plan from ages past. But now, having entered willingly into time, in this moment the human will to survive was strong. It was the last temptation He must resist. He prayed the prayer of submission a second time, and then a third and final time:
“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
This silent night was broken by the shouts of soldiers and followers, the greeting of one who betrayed and his kiss, the scrape of swords drawn from leather, the cry of a wounded temple guard and the amazement of all who saw the severed ear restored. As soldiers dragged Jesus away and His friends scattered into the safety of darkness, the stillness beneath the olive trees returned as if nothing had happened there.
But something did happened there—the world was redeemed.
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them… “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed… When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people …Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him… With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
Lord Jesus, You did not submit because of weakness. You said Your spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. This I understand. I have felt the failure of my human soul to follow the will of my human spirit. You had something to do that no one else in the world who ever lived could do. You did it. You drained the bitter cup of the sins of the world, taking all of it into Your sinless self. “Thank you” seems all too beggarly a word to use but I must express my gratitude to You for this. You did this for me as much as You did it for anyone. I submit to You. I know that my salvation is a gift that I could never earn yet something in me wants to serve You the rest of my days—starting today! Amen.
What Wondrous Love Is This?
1. What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?
2. When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down;
when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.
3. To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM –
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
while millions join the theme, I will sing.
4. And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved