This weekend many Christians reflect on centerpiece of the Gospel message: Christ. Though we benefit from His death and resurrection all year long, there is something about taking time out of our year to feel the weight of this gift that still beckons to believers and unbelievers alike. Sunday will likely bring the fullest churches and some of the most meaningful sermons of the year. Some of them will focus on the heinous crime of His death. Many will focus on the glorious miracle of His resurrection. I would like to take a moment to focus on something often skimmed over in the story…something that caught my attention in a season when I just needed to be reminded that it is not sinful to be human.
Between Jesus’ celebration of Passover and His arrest in Gethsemane, our Savior spent some very important moments with the Father in prayer. As a matter of fact, these moments, though barely half a chapter long, are spoken about in 3 of the 4 Gospel accounts of His life. This prayer is an intricate part of His story, but also of ours and I have missed the lesson in it until recently.
Jesus was fully human and fully God, at the same time. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder how that could even be possible because it seems like complete opposites. When someone says “I’m human.” they are often referring to mistakes or sins that they have committed or are committing. We tend to think that being human is what makes us sinful. In this line of thinking, we are even content to stay bound to sin because we excuse it as the normal human condition…after all, human = sinful. But actually, this is not the case at all.
Humans were created in the very image of God.
Jesus came to remind us of that. He could come in human form only because it isn’t sinful to be human. And He showed us throughout His life that moments of weight, weakness, or suffering are not sinful in themselves. It is the choices that we make in the middle of those moments that can lead us to sin.
That’s why I have come to love this prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Here is Jesus, Son of GOD, fully aware of His mission and His call…yet dreading and struggling with the physical, mental, and human requirements of it. He, too, had to count the cost. He, too, wanted an easier way. He shows us here that it is okay to struggle to embrace the Will of God.
“If it is possible, take this cup from Me.”
I don’t know of any other place in the Word, where Jesus shows us more pure humanity than in these words. Do you remember all the other prayers that He prayed throughout the Gospels? Prayers for the Father to show Himself through the Son…for Him to be glorified…for Him to fulfill His plan for the world. Yet, here He is in the Garden knowing that God is about to answer all those prayers and He chooses these words to the Father.
Let me just tell you, Mama. It is not sinful for you to say to God “if it is possible to accomplish Your purpose without taking my child, can we do it that way?”. It is not sinful, my brother, to say to God “if it is possible to accomplish Your purpose without my wife walking out and taking my children, can we do it that way?” It is not sinful to say to God “If it’s possible, can we do this without all the pain and suffering?”
In that Garden, He got “real” with God to show us that just because we are human does not mean that we are sinning. Not as long as we ultimately choose to trust Him.
“Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.”
Ummm, Jesus, did you forget that You ARE God? Aren’t You and Your Father’s will the same? Of course they are. But in this scene, I see Jesus laying down all of His Godly emotion protection and entering fully into what this would be like for one of us…for you…for me. He literally put Himself in our shoes. He exchanged His capital “H” for a little “h”. And He showed us exactly how to handle those moments that we feel we just can’t handle.
He made it clear that we are allowed to ask for an “out”. Y’all. Listen. We are allowed to ask for an “out”. We don’t have to just assume that the suffering and the pain is necessary to accomplish His purposes. We are allowed to look up and say “Can You PLEASE rescue me from this???” That IS NOT SINFUL…and that is NOT resisting the Will of God.
But He didn’t stop there. He then gave us the key to submission.
Think about your will…your idea of life…your decisions over the course of your days…how have they worked out for you? How many other people have they helped? How much eternal treasure have you stored up doing it your way?
Now think about a time when He intervened in your life…when something happened that you weren’t expecting…when things seemed to be falling apart and then suddenly He was putting them back together.
Whose will is better? Whose will takes into account every bit of the future? Whose will plans for all the potholes in the road? Whose will gets you to finish line?
Maybe I should ask it a different way. Who loves you much, much more than you love yourself? Who knows every single time what is best for you?
Praying for the Will of God to be done is only praying for your own good and His glory. We can trust His plan because He loves us entirely.
But we expect way too much from ourselves as humans if we think that the goal is to never struggle with the Will of God.
JESUS struggled with the Will of God.
As a matter of fact, even AFTER He had prayed and submitted Himself to God’s Will and decision, He was troubled so deeply that He began to sweat tears of blood. His prayer for the Will of God to be done did NOT end His struggle with the suffering ahead of Him. It did not immediately give Him peace. NO. He actually still wrestled within His human self.
Jesus sinlessly wrestled with what God had called Him to do.
Are we better than Jesus? Certainly not and never. We, too, will wrestle with obedience sometimes. We might plead with God to do it another way. We may have to say “not my will, but Yours” over and over for months or years to stay on the right road. And that is okay. It doesn’t make you sinful. It doesn’t make you a weak Christian. It doesn’t make you less spiritual. It doesn’t make you less pleasing to God.
As long as you let His Will win in the end, it simply makes you like Jesus.
“This High Priest of ours understands our (human) weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15