Going a little farther, [Jesus] fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Mark 14:35-36

 

A small sculpture embedded in the wall of the Garden of Gethsemane. A powerful portrayal of Jesus’s sorrow as he “fell to the ground.” Photo used by permission from Mark D. Roberts. All rights reserved.

Photo used by permission from Mark D. Roberts.
All rights reserved.

Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is, in my opinion, the most astounding prayer . . . ever. There is no prayer in Scripture that surprises us more than this one. And there is no prayer in Scripture that more passionately invites us into the very heart of Jesus and the mystery of God’s nature. (Photo: A small sculpture embedded in the wall of the Garden of Gethsemane. A powerful portrayal of Jesus’s sorrow as he “fell to the ground.”)

Throughout the latter half of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus often predicted his imminent death. He not only knew that he was going to die in a terrible way, but also that his death was necessary. As he said in Mark 8:31, “the Son of Man must suffer many things” and be killed. This was not optional, but divine necessity.

Yet in the Garden, Jesus actually asked to be relieved of his duty. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me” (14:36). Of course he also added, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Christians often leap to Jesus’s submission to the will of the Father without letting his request sink in. It’s almost as if we don’t take it seriously. The fact is that even though Jesus knew that it was necessary for him to die, he still asked for some other way.

Perhaps no other passage in Scripture more pointedly demonstrates the humanity of Jesus. No other passage allows us to feel just how much his experience was like our own. Jesus knew what it meant to struggle with God’s will for his life. He was familiar with the challenge of following the Father when his way is difficult, painful, and overwhelming.

This means that Jesus understands our struggles, not as an outsider looking in, but as an insider, as one of us. Thus when we are struggling with the Lord, when we find obedience hard to maintain, we can know that Jesus gets it. This gives us the confidence to ask for his help, without guilt or shame. It allows to feel, indeed, to know that Jesus is with us, truly, deeply, passionately, and graciously. Thanks be to God!

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

How does the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane impact your prayers?

Have you ever wrestled with God’s will in a way rather like that of Jesus in the Garden? What happened?

Do you believe that Jesus really understands you “on the inside”? If not, why not? If so, what difference does this make?

PRAYER:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Ev’rything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Ev’rything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our ev’ry weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In his arms he’ll take and shield thee;
Thou wilt find a solace there. Amen.

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” by Joseph Scrivens, 1855 (public domain)

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentaryExperiencing the Prayerful Agony of Jesus, Part 1
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4 Responses to An Astounding Prayer of Jesus

  1. Larry McIntyre says:

    Interesting thought that even Jesus had an unanswered prayer.

  2. Robert Clemmons says:

    I have long been struck with this profound prayer; that Jesus put the will of the Father before his very human desire that he not suffer. So when I have been in situations where I would rather not face what is ahead, I have often prayed that God’s will be put before mine. Amazingly, while I may not see it at the time or immediately after, in retrospect I have learned that God’s will was perfectly aligned with what I truly needed. So yes, I feel he does know me intimately, and usually better than I know myself. Thank you for this wonderful reminder.