Take this cup (question mark)

[My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me]. Matthew 26:38

This morning God poked me with another reading, Matthew 26: 35-56

It's the day that Jesus is going to be betrayed by Judas. And he knows it. Jesus and the disciples go to Gethsemane, and he decides to go pray. He asks the disciples to stay where they are so he can go alone.

He tells them, "My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."

First of all, have you ever been overwhelmed to the point of death? I have definitely experienced some overwhelming situations in my lengthy lifetime (finals week, planning a wedding, Honduras), but I don't think I can safely say that I have ever been overwhelmed to the point of death. Yet, the Bible specifically says this. I think the reason Matthew uses this terminology is to get the point across. Jesus was REALLY overwhelmed. He was REALLY struggling. Maybe, he was REALLY scared to do what he was about to do.

He walks a little farther, probably to get further from his disciples and be alone. And he prays, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet, not as I will but as you will."

So here we are, not long before Jesus will be betrayed and crucified on the cross and he asks God to "take this cup," meaning: take what is about to happen, don't let me go through the pain of being beaten, scorned, and crucified. Allow me to do this is another way, would you? And yet he says the most interesting and humbling thing, "Yet, not as I will but as you will." He tells God, "but you know what, if this isn't what you want to do and it's only what I want because I am afraid to suffer and I am sad to leave my friends, then let your will be done, allow me to still be tortured and crucified."

What I find really interesting about this, is that he goes back and says this same prayer two more times. He continues to pray while he still has unrest about the situation. In fact, he continues to pray until he knows the "hour is near" and he is about to be betrayed by Judas.

There are two bits of info I am taking from this part of scripture. The first is this: I have the ability and freedom to ask the Lord anything I want. The second is: I have the ability and freedom to ask the Lord anything I want, as long as I am willing to allow His will to be done and not necessarily mine.

Freedom of Prayer. So here is Jesus, moments before he is taken into the hands of his persecutors, and he is praying for a different option. He is praying for this "cup" to be removed from him.

Why would he do this? My guess (and this is only my humanistic pull) is he was not at peace with the situation and was unsure. He knew how much pain and suffering he was about to go through and was now afraid to go through with it. As a human, he had human feelings and he was feeling them.

[A brief insert. I want to be perfectly clear that I believe that Jesus was 100% God AND 100% human. I in no way believe Jesus was solely human, but I do think that because he was human he could feel, think, and act in some of the ways that humans do. I am only trying to understand this scripture as it is written. Thanks].

This helps me to see that even Jesus himself felt fearful, had struggles, and was overwhelmed. Even Jesus had to run to the Lord's feet to ask not to do the one thing the Lord wanted him to do. Even Jesus felt scared and needed to be reassured. This helps me to feel freedom in my prayers. I don't have to always have the perfect heart, perfect intentions, or perfect desires to be able to run to the Lord's feet. I am still capable no matter what state I am in to run to the Lord for guidance.

His will, not mine. The second thing that stands out to me is that after asking the Lord to remove the cup from him, Jesus then says, "Yet, not my will, but as you will." More simply: if my desire is not what you want, then do what you want. I think this is so God honoring. This helps me to relate to Jesus even more. He tells the Lord, "but if my will stinks, then let's go with yours. Let your will be done."

In the past, I know I have been disappointed in myself for not having the best intentions or desires or not knowing what to do. Yet, the Lord knows the whole plan better than we do. He knows that the "immediate feel-good answer" to a prayer may not be the best thing for us in the grand scheme of things.

Just think about Jesus. If the Lord had given Jesus what he wanted at that time and said, "Ya know, okay. Why don't we just not go through with this, because I can tell you're experiencing a lot of pain," where would we all be be today? We would not be given eternal life. We would not be able to be called children of God. No, it was through Christ's death that we inherit eternal life and are able to be with the Lord. And in that moment, in that prayer where Jesus asked God to take the cup, maybe he was seeing the short picture, the pain and suffering; whereas, the Lord was seeing the grand scheme of things, the big picture. Therefore, he answered Jesus' prayer according to His will, according to the grand scheme of things, according to the big picture.

Now don't get me wrong. I think sometimes the Lord does take pain and suffering from us at certain times, but when he does that I think it is because it is according to His will (and ours too).

Finally, after Jesus has been captured his disciples show resistance. Jesus tells them to stop. He says, "But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"

We can see from Jesus' response that he was at peace with the situation. He was content with what was about to happen. He wasn't showing resistance or putting up a fight like his disciples were. He knew this is what must happen. Possibly the Lord had spoken to him, reminding him the importance of "taking the cup," and Jesus was willing to die on the cross for us. I like to think that the Lord answered his prayer with direction and guidance and that he will do the same with us if we just ask.

From now, I am going to try to pray like Jesus: coming humbly and honestly before God in my prayers and ultimately asking God for His will and not mine, even if I don't feel like it.

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