MIDWEEK LENTEN SERVICE #6
March 21, 2018
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Matthew 26:36-46
“ONLY JESUS WOULD LET SOMEONE ELSE DETERMINE HIS DESTINY!”
Matthew 26:36-46 (NIV) “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." (37) He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. (38) Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." (39) 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." (40) Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. (41) "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." (42) He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." (43) When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. (44) So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. (45) 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. (46) Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
Giving up your independence, letting someone else be in control is not something we like by nature. Senior saints deal with those feelings when it comes time to give up the home you raised your family in to go to assisted living or maybe even bigger when it’s time to give up the car. You feel it at a job interview for a job you desperately want and think you need when you hear the interviewer say, “We’ll call you tomorrow and let you know what we decide.” It’s out of your control. Wouldn’t you much rather have the job offer and then you decide whether to take it or not? Of course you would. The fact of the matter is we all like to be in control or at least think that we are. Even as we mouth the words, “Let go and let God,” or pray “Your will be done,” there is a part of us that rebels and screams against it or really means “As long as it is what I want.” We don’t like it when we are not the ones in control when someone else makes decisions for us. Perhaps that is why Americans struggle so much with the Bible’s beautiful teaching of submission. But Jesus didn’t. Only Jesus would let someone else determine His destiny. He let someone else do that even though doing so meant He would have to go through Hell--literally.
Why? The first reason was His love for His heavenly Father. Did you know that the Book of Revelation, which looks not only to the future but also to the past calls Jesus, “the lamb that was slain from the Creation of the world?” (Revelation 13:8) What do you think that means that He was slain, killed, already at the Creation of the world? It means dear friends, that our all knowing, all loving God had a plan. He knew Adam and Eve would blow it and we would be no better. Yet He loved them and us so much He went ahead with Creation even though the only way He could redeem them and us was for His Son to die. God had a plan.
It was Jesus’ plan too. He also wanted to crush Satan and win you and me for God. That’s why something we heard Jesus say tonight might have surprised you. Jesus said, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." (39) 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." Jesus was in agony as he looked to what would happen on the next day—beatings, torture, thorns, dried and cracked lips, thirst, pain. Remember, Jesus was human too. And just like none of us look forward to pain, especially the closer it gets, neither did Jesus. None of us tell the dentist, “Don’t use pain killer. Please drill closer to the nerve. Yeah that’s it. Really grind it.” Jesus didn’t look forward to the pain. We can understand that.
But there was more pain in store for Jesus. Pain we can’t understand. We can’t understand what it means to be holy and pure and sinless and then have the vileness of sin piled on you. Think of the agony the Holy and pure Son of God felt when the guilt burden of rape and murder and blasphemy was tied to Him on the cross. We understand why He pleads that there be some other way. And yet how does He close His prayer? “Not as I will but as you will.” Jesus was willing to let someone else determine His destiny. He loved His Father so much He was willing to submit to His will.
And He loved us too. We can see that in the progression of Jesus’ prayer. The first time Jesus 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 went back to His disciples, His friends, Peter James and John, the three He was counting on for support. The three He had asked to watch with him for one little hour. And what were they doing? Sleeping! Can you imagine Jesus’ disappointment when He had to say to them, "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. (41) "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." How weak they were!
But let’s not blame them too much. It was late. They’d had a full meal. They’d had the Passover wine. From our Thanksgiving Dinners we know how they felt. And we’ve been weak too, haven’t we? It is a display of our weakness when we start praying in the morning and before we’re two minutes in our mind has wandered. It’s a display of our weakness when we proclaim with our lips that Jesus is the Lord of our lives but can’t even live the 16 waking hours of one day in a way that proves it. It’s weakness when we let our children watch a few more minutes of TV rather than read them a Bible Story. It’s weakness when we spend two hours a night watching sitcoms but can’t find the time or energy for God’s Word. It’s weakness when can only complain to God about the things we don’t have rather than thank Him for what we do.
When Jesus saw the weakness in His disciples what did He do? He went back to praying. Now look at how this second prayer differs from the first. This time Jesus prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." Do you hear the difference? It’s as though Jesus were saying, “I see this is the only way. I see the weakness of these ones I love. I’m still not looking forward to it but I’ll submit, not just because I love you, Father. I love them too.” Could it be that Our Savior saw the sleeping disciples and said, “If I leave it to them they’ll never make it.” Could it be He saw us with our minds wandering prayer? Did He see our misplaced priorities, our short sightedness, our doubts? He did. And He loved us. And His love for us gave Him the resolve to let someone else determine His destiny. And willingly suffer in our place. 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. (46) Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
Sometimes love gives you no choice, doesn’t it? Ask the father who dashes into the burning home to save his baby daughter from the flames. Does he think of the pain? Does he think of the scarring, the endless hours of agonizing recovery? Does he ask if someone else will go? NO. Love determined his destiny. Just like love determined Jesus. Roman soldiers did not force Jesus Christ to the cross. Nails did not hold Him there. Love did. Love for the Father. And love for you and me. A type of love only Jesus has! Amen.