Welcome to the first post of my series on Jesus’ Passion. We begin today, Maundy Thursday, the evening Jesus was arrested.
So let’s try and picture the scene. Jesus has been in Jerusalem all week preaching. It is now late Thursday, going into Friday. Jesus has had a last supper with the disciples and broken bread with them. Judas has already gone to fetch those who will arrest Him.
Now to Gesthemene.
Jesus goes on ahead, and prays. He tells His disciples that His soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.
A sorrow so deep in His soul that it is taking over His physical body.
He knows what lies ahead. He knows the path laid out for Him. He knows what He must do.
He grasps it so fully it is overwhelming Him.
So He prays, and He is brutally honest in His prayers.
“take this cup of suffering from me…”
This is not a Jesus certain and confident, or authoritative. It is Jesus in despair, without hope. Trying to find a way out, another way this purpose can be accomplished.
He is trying to escape His destiny.
In many ways, Jesus here embraces His humanity fully. We’ve all been there haven’t we? When some task is ahead of us, something we know we must do, but we would rather do anything at that moment but do what we know we should.
Many of us have been in such a place of despair that we would do anything to escape. We have felt lost, alone, fearful, overwhelmed by pain.
This is where Jesus is in this moment.
He is then, in all our moments of despair, all our moments of lonliness, tragedy, fear and uncertainty. In the moments we feel overwhelmed, in agony – Jesus is in the midst of that, He is part of those moments with us.
However, there is a key part of this quote missing, both at the beginning and the end. He frames this moment of weakness within two phrases.
“Lord, if you are willing…..yet not what I will, but your will be done”
Jesus doesn’t simply ask God to do what He would prefer – He places the condition that God must be willing to do this, it must be God’s plan.
He does not think of His own needs and hurts and merely ask God to deliver them unconditionally – as I have done many times, and many of us often do.
He frames it within the context and condition that it must fit within His plan.
Jesus, essentially, surrenders Himself completely to God.
He does not ignore His own pain, His own despair, His own grief and anxiousness about the path ahead of Him. He doesn’t pretend He desires to go through the suffering in front Him.
He’s brutally honest. But yet He still will not disobey God. He will not forget Him.
There’s a lesson there too.
When we pray in the midst of suffering, in the midst of hopelessness and grief, we must always be honest about how we feel – even if it we don’t think we should feel that way, or we know what we feel isn’t what the religious voice inside us tells us we must feel.
If we’re angry with God, if we do not understand why, if we are upset with God at all – we must be honest.
Just like Jesus’ honest statement: “Take this cup of suffering from me”
But at the same time, if we can, we must also frame our anger, despair, pain and emotion within the context of who God is, remembering the truth of His love. Try and find Jesus in that moment.
When Mum died, I was angry with God. I didn’t want religious people telling me it was okay, that she was in a better place with God. I either wanted her back, or I wanted to know why God had allowed this to happen.
It made no sense. It felt unjust, unfair, wrong.
Yet even in my anger, grief and pain, I still somehow, confusingly, knew God loved me.
Almost despite my anger at God, I still felt somehow I needed Him, that He was with me, and I was not alone. I somehow realised He would eventually make sense of it, even though I couldn’t then see how.
He was all I had to hold on to.
12 years on, I look back and see how He has made sense of it. That the pain was terrible, but through the process of facing it and dealing with it, it has freed me and allowed me to grow. A greater good has been found.
I desperately wanted Mum back when she died – I wanted God to take my cup of suffering away.
Somehow, even despite myself, I somehow still had faith in God. I still could not let go of Him.
Even though I was angry with Him, and wanted to know why Mum had died, I also knew He was the only one who could bring me through the pain and suffering I was going through. The only one who could go on that journey with me and bring me out the other side.
Indeed, in the passing of time I have seen God’s purposes in that experience, for the greater good.
Jesus, in Gesthemene, wants to find a way out. But at the same time, even at His most desperate, He still somehow trusts Himself to God, and surrenders the outcome to Him.
At His weakest moment, He somehow finds the courage and strength to say
“Your will, not mine, be done”
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