Matthew 26:39 “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
This is no perfunctory prayer, prayed politely before supper or bedtime. Jesus’ whole body is involved, not just his mouth. There he lies stretched out on the ground, his sweaty, tear-streaked face pressed against the Judean sand and gravel. The words pour out from the depths of his soul. Who is this praying, pleading, so? Who is this begging for some way, any way, to be delivered from the suffering he is about to face? This is Jesus, the Son of God, heaven’s Prince, the King of Kings! For all his divine power and heavenly glory, how utterly human he had become. How inconceivably awful the agony he had to suffer must have been.
In the whole history of Jesus’ sufferings and death, without a doubt the most frightening words we hear are Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” There he suffers the fate of the damned and forsaken, an eternity of torment for the sum of all souls packed into few hours on a cross one sad Friday. But next to that, is there anything more frightening than this scene: the very Son of God, so overwhelmed with sorrow at his coming death, so troubled, that at this late moment he is seeking any possible way to avoid it all?
Jesus asked for the cup to be taken from him. He sorrowed over his death just hours away. But that did not mean he was unwilling. He continues to pray, and he is ready to accept his impending death: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
This prayer is a true prayer, prayed in faith–not an attempt to push God off his throne. He does not attempt to change the changeless God. He does not dictate terms to the Almighty. He prays. True prayer trusts God’s will. It accepts that God’s will is better than my own, even though it may mean pain, discomfort, disappointment and apparent defeat. There are worse things than suffering. God often does his best work through suffering. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope,” Paul wrote the Romans. Jesus’ suffering was the salvation of the world. “May your will be done.”
So Jesus accepted his impending death. He embraced the heavy load. He did not set it down. He carried it forward for our salvation. He does not whimper or whine. He does not turn away. He does not even hesitate. He meets his killers. Courage, resolve, faith–these characterize his path ahead. He carries the heavy load of our guilt all the way to his cross and death. He carries it until we are redeemed, and we are free.