First, a note: if you desire your question to answered in this column, then please sign your letter. I will not use your name in answering, but I will not answer unless signed. The only exception being the question I treat in this article, as I had not made this plan before. The questions have been rather slow to coming in; however, now I have several to answer so the mailbox should appear regularly at least for the present. But this column is dependent for its existence upon your questions.
The following is a question from a reader in Kalamazoo: “This is in regard to the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39). ‘not as I will, but as Thou wilt’; and His remark in John 5:30 that He seeks ‘not mine own will, but the will of the Father who hath sent me.’ It would seem that since the Father and Son are one, that their will would also be one. How could Jesus deny His own will and pray that the Father’s will be done instead? Was there a difference of purposes here?”
In answering this question, we must be mindful that this prayer is brought before the throne of God’s grace by Jesus Christ come in the flesh. Jesus petitions God as He stands before Him in the human nature. And this as the “Man of Sorrows,”-the suffering “Servant of Jehovah”, and as the Head of the Church, our Savior. As such, He is like us in all things excepting sin. And this includes the whole of the moral-rational nature, including a human will. Then, too, we see this particular prayer as one that reveals Christ’s perfect obedience before the Father, in contrast to the disobedience of the elect-those for whom He has entered out flesh to save.
In Gethsemane Jesus stood in the full consciousness of what was still ahead of Him. He knew of the bitter cup of suffering that awaited Him at Calvary, as the Son of God come in our flesh. But as our head, He walks that way of suffering obediently and willingly as our Savior. He could have turned away from that walk of obedience, except that it was His meat and drink to do His Father’s will! And all the events leading to the cross show plainly that our Lord was laying down His life as a sacrifice for the sheep given Him of the Father from eternity.
Gethsemane was the place where all the height of His suffering would open unto Him. Even now, the plotting of the betrayer and the chief priests was begun, and the soldiers were being mustered to take Christ to the cross. It is then, at this point, that the Son of God in the flesh gives voice to unspeakable sorrow and grief of soul, with a view to suffering the eternal wrath of God against the sins of His blessed church. And Jesus prays to the Father, “O my Father, it it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Matthew 26:39. Jesus prays that the cup be removed from Him, if it were possible, and if this could be done in harmony with Father’s will. This gives to us some small insight into the tremendous suffering which was our Lord’s portion to deliver us from sin! So great, that the perfect Son sought after the Father, whether there be another way to deliver God’s Church and His sheep, than the way of the cross and the suffering of God’s great wrath.
But there is no other way! His church has sinned and the wrath of the Holy One must be borne! The answer is that Christ must go the way of the cross, that He must taste the terribleness of the wrath of God; but, as the Father so answers, there is the assurance that He will be sustained in the depth of it all. And this answer is sufficient to the beloved Son.
Not once did Jesus think of disobedience; this never entered His soul! Had this been true even for a moment, there would be no atonement. And it is exactly at this point that we understand Christ’s perfect work as the Suffering Servant of Jehovah. Whereas we always satisfy our own will by nature in the way of sin, Christ does not look to His own ease, but doeth the will of Father in heaven. Perfectly He submits His perfect will in our flesh to His Father’s-even when it means that in His human nature He shall be forsaken of God! Without condition, Christ walks in obedience, even unto death, praying, “Thy will be done.” Thus in each step of His life of suffering, He submitted His will to His Father’s. How blessed is this for the elect sinner! Christ as our Head satisfied God’s Word and law, and quenched His wrath in our stead. And in the power of His merits He sheds forth His Spirit upon His redeemed, and by His Word and Spirit conforms them unto His image. Now already in principle so that we begin to pray, “Not my will, but thine” –but soon perfectly when He brings us to glory. Then we shall perfectly walk in the Father’s fellowship and communion in Christ.