March 13, 2016
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
In the current series on the last 168 days of Jesus’ life, today we look at the beginning of Jesus’ last week in Mark 14:32-50. Here in the Garden of Gethsemane with three of His disciples, Jesus prayed directly to His Father as He faced the prospect of His suffering and death.
Jesus’ mood was deeply troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:36). Luke wrote about this same incident, that in Jesus’ anguish “he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Even His disciples failed Him as they kept falling back to sleep when He awakened them. They were still sleeping when Judas, His betrayer, arrived, and were nowhere in sight when Jesus had to stand before the Sanhedrin and Pilate.
The disciples’ strong faith, shown previous to Gethsemane, was quickly turned into weakness. Jesus’ faith, however, became stronger as a result of His prayer to His Father in the Garden (Mark 14:36). Although His circumstances did not change, Jesus’ outlook became more focused, more resolute, more authoritative, more settled after His prayer. What in His prayer changed Jesus?
Three things to pray about when we are in trouble:
1. Acknowledge God’s control over everything.
“Abba, Father, he [Jesus] said, “everything is possible for you” (Mark 14:36). Later Paul wrote that God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). He works through all our circumstances if we have the eyes to see it.
“God is in control” means:
- We have hope because God is in control and can change things as He answers our prayers. If we are praying, we already believe that God provides for us, protects us, heals us, etc.
- There is mystery here because we do not comprehend why God does not always change things as we desire. We wonder, “If God is always in control, why did He allow this?” In the maturing space between God’s answering and not answering our prayers as we request, we discover how God can use pain to change us as we acknowledge His presence in the midst of it.
2. Ask directly and specifically for your desires.
Jesus asked His Father, “Take this cup [of sin and suffering] from me” (Mark 14:36). Just as Jesus did in His sinless humanity here on earth, we can ask openly and specifically for our real heart’s desires. Pray in detail. As much as possible, make it a conversation with God, which discusses our desires from every angle so that we can actually see God’s answers.
3. Admit that God’s will is best.
Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Earlier He had taught in the Lord’s Prayer to the crowds at the Sermon on the Mount, “Your [the Father’s] kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10).
Our prayers, concerning what we want, are never done until we ask God’s will to be done. Recognize that it is hard to see the good when the result is not what we think is best and is not what we feel we desire.
The mystery here is that we simply do not always understand God’s will, and we must trust God (and not ourselves) to know what is best.
Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane did not request confusion and pain for the disciples, and crucifixion for Jesus. How could that possibly be the will of God? Yet our Father in His higher purposes allowed just such events so that the entire world might be offered the Good News: forgiveness of sins and life as His children in His Kingdom here on earth and forever more.
May we see You moving, Father, in control of all life’s issues and situations. Help us, with Your Spirit, to be brave in communicating specifically our heart’s wishes with You. Transform us so that our greatest desire will be that Your will be done and that You will be glorified.