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At Gethsemane

Jesus is Mount of Olives

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed Him. On reaching the place, He said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:39-42 NIV)

After celebrating Passover with the disciples in the Upper Room, Jesus brought them to the Mount of Olives to an olive grove called Gethsemane. Two things jump out at me as I read the first two verses of this text. The words "as usual" and what Jesus said to the disciples before He began talking to the Father.

Jesus went out as usual... This was a familiar place to Jesus and His disciples. They gathered in this quiet grove of olive trees on a regular basis. It raises an important dynamic for our discipleship: do we have a "usual" place to meet Jesus and spend time with Him in prayer? Is prayer and reading the Word of God a regular part of our lives? Nothing else can substitute for this routine practice in our lives in terms of drawing us close to Jesus in a deep, personal relationship. Every day I spend time in the same spot reading Scripture and praying to my Lord. It is my "usual" practice. There are days it feels mechanical and not inspirational, but it's not a matter of my feelings, it's a matter of my usual practice in drawing close to my Savior.

Jesus told the disciples to pray that night. We normally focus on Jesus's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. But He also made it a place of prayer for them. He said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” They were about to do that very thing - fall into temptation. They were tempted to sleep from their weariness instead of praying. The spirit is willing, but the flesh, indeed, is weak. They were tempted to abandon their Master when the soldiers came with Judas to arrest Him. I am tempted every day to live my life in quiet safety instead of daring abandonment to Him. I am tempted to remain in the place where Jesus is my Savior and I receive the benefit of His gift of redemption for me, and to resist making Him my Lord who directs my life in every area.

Gethsemane is a place of prayer for us, not just for Jesus. It is the place of surrender of our will to His, no matter the sacrifice. It is the place of facing down the temptation to make it all about me instead of all about bringing glory to Him. And Gethsemane is also the place of prayer for Jesus...

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 

What cup is Jesus praying about? The cup of His suffering. The cup of the scourging and mocking and crucifixion that He must drink in the next 24 hours. The cup of His flesh-and-blood sacrifice for the sins of all humanity. For my sins. And for yours. The very human side of Jesus did not relish the thought of the physical suffering He must endure. He asks His loving Father if humanity can be redeemed in any other way besides this sacrifice.

I believe Jesus is facing down His last temptation here - the temptation to save Himself rather than save all of us. But love compels Him. Love for you and love for me drove Jesus to the center of God's will, even though He knew that would be a place of abandonment and pain and ridicule and death. "Yet not my will, but yours be done." This is the place of surrender that is so very difficult for all of us to come to. It does not turn God off to have the children He loves come to Him and make our requests known to Him, as long as it comes from the deep place that says, "Yet not my will, but yours be done."

The deepest place of discipleship, it seems to me, is the place where my heart and mind and will have already died to myself and to my own will for my life. My life becomes no longer my own, but His. There is no reason to ever say, "No, Lord" in that place of utter consecration. And sadly, the fact that I am too prone to say, "No, Lord, that's not convenient," or "No, Lord, that requires too much of me," or "No, Lord, I have other plans," exposes my heart. I do not easily live in that place of utter consecration.

The doorway to my redemption from sin and death is the doorway of Christ's willingness to drink this cup and lay down His life to pay the wages of sin. Jesus is about to prove the truth of what He has just told His disciples in the Upper Room (John 15:13): Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

And here's the thing. The doorway to the redemption of a friend or relative or acquaintance or neighbor just might be my willingness to lay down my life for them in the form of acts of kindness and sacrifice and service that shows the heart of Jesus to them. Is it convenient to build deep relationships with my neighbor? Nope. Does it require sacrifice of time and perhaps money or food or other material things? Yes. Might it become the bridge over which Jesus moves from one heart to the other. Oh yes!

There is a turning point in our relationship with Jesus that moves from His being our Savior to His being our Lord. That turning point is our surrender. It is our consecration. It is our praying what Jesus prayed at Gethsemane: Yet not my will, but yours be done." We know we are moving deeper into holy love (sanctification) when our lives become all about God's will and not our own.

Your will, Lord. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else.


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