“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over 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…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.”
As my pastor focused on this passage yesterday, one detail he emphasized was the change in Jesus’ demeanor from His wrestling in the garden to His exit toward the cross. It’s something that hasn’t left my thoughts since.
In the accounts of Jesus’ prayers in Gethsemane, we see Him crying out in sorrow and agony, stressed to the point where His sweat becomes drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Asking the Father if it’s possible for this cup of wrath to be removed. Wrestling for surrender to the Father’s will, surrender to this act of sacrifice that would save us.
He prays three times with this intensity, and the response we see in the midst of those prayers is the appearance of an angel, strengthening Him (Luke 22:43). Then Jesus rises and His wrestling appears to be over. As He leaves the garden and in the passages that follow, He demonstrates unmistakable power and peace throughout His arrest and crucifixion.
Jesus prevailed over the temptation to abandon us. He wrestled, but He surrendered to the Father, and we see this decided victory as He gathers His disciples with the words, “Rise, let us be going.” Jesus walks forward toward the cross, no further question in His steps.
Considering this example stirs this question: How often does our surrender reflect this settled peace, this strength in moving forward in obedience to the Father’s path before us? Sometimes it seems that we simply move forward in our wrestling, not fully coming to a point of surrender where the matter is settled. We might justify it, saying we’re only human. We could view it as us just “being real,” sharing our struggle with others in vulnerability. And sharing those things, being vulnerable, is a good thing in certain contexts. But we must take care that it doesn’t become an excuse to settle into that struggling as an ongoing state.
The goal is surrender.
The aim is holiness like Jesus.
We have been given all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and we are to press on to take hold of that, for we are Christ’s (Philippians 3:12).
God hasn’t completed His work in us yet – though He will (Philippians 1:6). We haven’t reached perfection. But we are to pursue it wholeheartedly because we are His, bought with a great price, and we walk in His strength.
We pursue it because we pursue Him, and He is glorious and righteous and holy, and the way He has called us to live is the best, most abundant and joy-filled life we could imagine. Difficult at times, with temptations to wrestle with as Jesus did, but worth it. Settling for less – and a life lived in sin, with characteristics and choices that don’t align with Scripture, is far less – will leave us disappointed, empty, and facing the devastating consequences of our actions.
Hebrews 12:1-2 provides a glimpse of Jesus’ focus on that horrible day, connecting it with our call to endure the race before us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus endured for joy. He set His gaze on the outcome and surrendered to the will of the Father.
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:10-11
As we wrestle with aspects of surrender – whatever struggle you face – where do we train our focus? Do we fixate on how hard it is, or do we lift our eyes to the joy set before us, allowing the truth and strength of God to correct our perspective and set us decidedly on His path of holiness and joy? Perhaps this is a reality – an amazing, God-filled and God-glorifying reality – we often miss out on: that our God is able to strengthen us to the point where we leave the wrestling behind and move forward in His power and peace, as Jesus did toward the cross.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.”