Thy Will Be Done - Matthew 26:36-46

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
— Matthew 26:36-46

This past August, Robin and I had the opportunity to take, what would be for many, the trip of a lifetime. We were able to go on a pilgrimage to “The Holy Land.” Many people asked us after returning what were some of the experiences that impacted us the most. Without a doubt, visiting the Garden of Gethsemane was one of those locations for me. 

The Garden of Gethsemane is a mere 10-minute walk from the old city, Jerusalem; a short distance passing through the Kidron Valley and about half way up the Mount of Olives. It was here that we lingered and considered what transpired on a dark, ominous night 2,000 years ago. We spent at least 45 minutes there, first listening to a devotional and then spending time alone in prayer looking toward Jerusalem and considering what Jesus must have felt and experienced the night of his betrayal. It was a powerful moment sitting in the midst of gnarled trees where Jesus once prayed.

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” - Matthew 26:39

When we consider all that occurred just before, during, and after this scene in Scripture, there is much to contemplate. One of those aspects is the phrase “not as I will, but as You will.” This phrase hits us so hard. For many of us I believe there is a longing and desire to be in control. To not only know what is going to happen, but to give input and direction to what will happen in our lives. We think that by being in control we can influence, actually determine, the outcomes of life that we so yearn for. To say, “thy will be done” is something we run away from, not toward. Full and complete surrender is foreign to our desires. 

Jesus gives us the opposite example, which frees us of our need of being in control. As Jesus surrenders His life to the will of the Father, and in so doing, to the cross, He gives his life in our place providing the way for us to be right with the Father. Being right with the Father secures our future and gives us the hope of being with Jesus forever in eternity. And because of this, we can declare with Jesus’ help, “not as I will, but as you will,” since our future is in a loving Father’s hand who is always good.  We can entrust him not only with today, tomorrow, or this year, but also with our lives in every situation. May grace be given for us to say, “Your will be done,” to our gracious and loving Father in the midst of doubts, questions, sufferings and even joys. 

Further Reflection:

  1. Why is it hard for you to say, “Your will be done”?
  2. How does Jesus’ prayer encourage you in your own prayer?
  3. Where in your life do you need to relinquish control and trust your good Father?

- Jon Rees

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