Jesus is praying in the garden the night before his death. He goes at it so hard he actually sweats blood.
WHAT WAS JESUS UP TO?
Was he terrified of death? No.
Was he demonstrating how to be a good little victim of a capricious god who gives us endless misfortunes to teach us lessons that we never understand? No.
Jesus had already explained several times that he “came to give his life as a ransom for many.” He knew what he wanted: to make one sacrifice for sin forever — to bring our endless misfortunes to an end. Now the time comes for Jesus to pay the price, “drink the cup,” and get what he wants — and suddenly he’s not too excited about going through with it. (Have you ever been there?)
So he starts praying. (Good idea!)
His first prayer: “My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” His first choice is to get out of the assignment, for the cup (our sin) to pass from him; he’s searching the Spirit to see if there is another way.
Evidently he didn’t find one. Therefore …
His second prayer: Same prayer, same search, same result.
His third prayer: He works through the process a third time — this time, hard enough to sweat blood. (I don’t know about you, but I’ve never come close to sweating blood in prayer. I also don’t generally get the results that Jesus did … I wonder if there’s a connection?) He ends up praying, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Jesus wants to be sure that there is no other way for it to happen before he pays the price. (I wonder how many problems we could avoid by asking, “Do I really need to do this?”)
HE GETS HIS ANSWER
Evidently the answer came back, “Son, there’s nobody else. If you want this cup to pass, you’re going to have to drink it.” To which Jesus says, “OK, thy will be done.” (You see this moment acted out incredibly well near the beginning of the movie “The Passion of the Christ” when Jesus suddenly changes from sweating blood in sorrow to stomping on the head of the serpent.)
YOU’RE LIKE JESUS!
— but not in that you suffer: Most people’s suffering accomplishes absolutely nothing. You’re like Jesus in that you are a human being. The Father has given him (us human beings) the last word. Jesus is unusual only in that
- he never says or does anything stupid (he’s “free from sin”),
- he thinks really, really big and
- he knows what he wants.
In this episode Jesus’ objective is clear: He wants the cup (our sin) to be taken away. So, for the joy set before him (our redemption) he goes through with it and frees us by offering himself as ransom. As a result, in his presence today we are free from sin and it’s consequences: disease, dullness, doubt and the rest. (That doesn’t mean that if we are suffering we are bad people. It just means that in ourselves we’re the same as ever. On the “me” level, who he is and what he did is totally irrelevant until we come to our wits’ end.)
NO GUTS, NO GLORY.
Why not take a break from suffering over (or under) what we imagine might be God’s will and imitate Jesus? How about figuring out what we really want and getting our will lined up with our purpose through prayer, introspection? We might find that underneath all the superficial desires each one of us has a great overarching purpose that perfectly aligns with Gods will.
You may discover that you not need to do a thing but be yourself. Being yourself may or may not include going through hell to fulfill your purpose. (If you want to hike to the North Pole or pray without ceasing it’s not going to be comfy.) In that case, say, “So be it.” “Thy will be done.” “No guts, no glory.” God will advise you, back up your words with his power and get the job done — through you.