Recently a friend asked me to look at the account of Jesus Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. While the account is recorded in Luke’s Gospel and Mark’s also, I was directed to Matthew’s treatment, found in Matthew 26:36-46.
As he reflected on Christ’s wrestling in prayer prior to the cross, what was impressive to my Christian brother was the necessity of prayer to being in the will of God. As our Savior fought His most intense spiritual battle, His victory was modeled through His humble, dependent posture of fervent prayer. Jesus persisted in prayer that evening until He found rest in the good, pleasing and acceptable will of His Father.
What a lesson! The victorious Christian life is laid hold of through persistent prayer. This was a lesson of which I needed to be reminded.
Yet, what I, myself, discovered, as I reflected on that same passage, were words that “became for me a joy and delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16).
Previously when I had thought of Jesus’ prayer in the garden, I essentially would think of His request that the cup, which represented God’s wrath against sin, might pass. That is essentially how Mark and Luke present the prayer of Jesus. Yet, the record that Matthew gives is consistent, and expansive.
Matthew records that Jesus first requested that the cup might pass from Him, with the caveat that the Father’s will should take priority. Next, we read that Jesus settled firmly upon the plan and will of God when He prayed, “if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done” (v. 42, emphasis added).
What I find to be such a blessing is our Lord’s acceptance that the cup of God’s wrath would pass, if He would drink the cup. In other words, consistent with what all of Scripture teaches, we witness Jesus assuming His substitutionary role. The cup would pass, passing over those who trusted in Jesus, because Jesus drank.
It wasn’t that I had not known of the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, that Jesus took my place in absorbing the wrath of God due me because of my sin. It is clearly taught in other passages. “He (God) made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). I knew, believed, and taught this glorious doctrine. I had just never witnessed it in the garden, as my Savior wrestled with the cup, and then, through prayerful submission, determined to drink so that the cup might pass from me, from all who would trust in Him.
Jesus Christ our Passover has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7)!