The events in the life of Jesus that unfolded in the life of Jesus between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Day (Easter Sunday) are of utmost importance to the faithful and the unbelieving. One blog, one book, or one whole library of books could never unpack the full explanation of that statement. I would like to call your attention to one of those events, Thursday night after the Last Supper. Jesus and the disciples have gone to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Leaving the disciples on watch, Jesus went deeper into the garden for a time of prayer so intense, one Gospel writer noted “His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44). Using the most intimate of terms to address the Father, the Son prayed, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me [referring to the crucifixion]; yet not what I will, but what You will (Mark 14:36).”
In this text, we stand on the holiest of ground, allowed to overhear an exchange between God the Father and God the Son that brings some light to one of humanity’s most perplexing questions. Clearly Jesus was not eager to embrace the Cross. He perfectly understood the unspeakable depth of suffering that would come from enduring the complete wrath of God as our Substitute, so that we could be forgiven. Jesus was not eager to endure the penalty for our sin, but just as clearly, He was willing. Even as He asked for the cup of incomprehensible suffering to be removed, Jesus affirmed His total commitment to embrace the cost obedience would require. His willingness to act as the instrument of God’s profound love overshadowed His reluctance. The Father’s choice to proceed with Christ as our Substitute in spite of this deeply moving prayer gives greater clarity and affirmation of God’s love for us than we could hope to expect.
This one event of Holy Week contains enough truth to fuel a lifetime of meditation. Yet this year I find myself being drawn to one particular application suggested by Paul the Apostle. In Romans 8:31, Paul makes the thrilling observation that “If God be for us, who could possibly be against us?” This leads to an inevitable question. How can we know that God is for us, that God is on our side? As evidence Paul refers to the meaning of that night in Gethsemane. In Romans 8:32 Paul writes: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not with Him freely give us all things?” The fact that the cross was not endured eagerly or casually, but rather was embraced reluctantly but willingly is evidence for the ages of God’s love for us. We are certain of the depth of His love because we are certain of the extent of His sacrifice.
Every believer will encounter moments along life’s way when it seems God is silent or even absent. We become mired in the despair of feeling alone and abandoned. In such moments, the Gethsemane prayer takes on a crucial significance. Reading that prayer provides a vivid reminder of this amazing truth. God held nothing back, not even His dear Son, to make my salvation possible. Knowing the depth of His love expressed in the cross, I know He never forsakes nor abandons His children. We maintain confidence that in spite of our circumstances we are sure God loves us and God will care for us. Heavy fog may completely hide the skyline of a city, but it does not, it cannot make that city disappear. It is there. It is real. Difficult circumstances may temporarily shield my perceptions of God’s love and God’s presence, but they cannot make it disappear. Keep clinging to Jesus. The fog of discouragement will be dissipated. The reality of His presence, His love, and His power for you will prove to be unchanged. As Stuart Townend said so eloquently in his hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” God’s love is “vast beyond all measure.” There may be many things you do not know or understand. There may be much about which you are uncertain. But about this you can be sure: God loves you, and He will always be there for you. When in doubt, go to the Gethsemane prayer.