Jesus did not want to do what God wanted him to do.
Does that surprise you?
After 33 years of life and ministry, Jesus is on the cusp of the crowning achievement of his mission. He was going to be named “King”, but the crown wasn’t going to be so glorious. In fact, the actual crown in his crowning achievement was an apt metaphor, as it was a crown of thorns. Pain. Suffering. The weight of the world on him. Added to the physical pain, he was also going to endure betrayal and denial from his closest friends. Loneliness. Agony of all kinds. And finally, he would die.
Imagine how he must have felt as he was just hours away from experiencing all that.
He felt like just about all of us would feel, that he didn’t want to go through with it. Would you want to give yourself over to unimaginable suffering? I wouldn’t.
So Jesus prays a prayer that makes a lot of sense to me: “Father, if it is possible, take this from me.”
Many of us can identify with that because we pray that exact same prayer ourselves, and we pray it often, maybe every time we are going through some kind of hard time. Jesus is in a pickle. God is asking him to complete the mission for which he was born. But the completion will require sacrificing himself, and all the pain associated with being beaten and killed. Jesus wants to obey God, but he doesn’t want to have to experience all that pain.
I’ll admit that at this juncture, I’m asking the same question as Jesus, “Lord, is there no other way?” Did Jesus have to go through that? Did he have to die? People have been asking that question for centuries. It seems like a strange way to save the world. So if that question is leaving you scratching your head, I urge you to read Hebrews 8-10, as much is said there, and more eloquently, than I will endeavor here.
Instead I want to focus on what Jesus chose to do while faced with a task that God had given him, a task that he didn’t want to do. You and I are faced with many such tasks, though much less consequential ones, and we can feel the strain, the weight, the stress of wanting to obey God, but also of not wanting to obey him at the same time. If obedience to God means that we will likely have to endure pain, change, give up something, or do something that we are uncomfortable with, we usually don’t want to do it. And we pray “Lord, is there no other way?” Or we simply procrastinate, or avoid. We delay, seeking escape.
Let me ask you this: at what point does delay become disobedience?
Jesus didn’t delay. While he did tell the Lord his true feelings, that he didn’t want to go through with the crucifixion, take a look at his approach. He says, “Is there any other way?” He doesn’t say “I’m not doing this.” He doesn’t procrastinate, to make it look like he will obey, but then not do anything. What he does is remain up front with God by asking if there is another way. We can learn from Jesus’ approach. We can be honest with God and ask if there are other ways. God may choose to say “Ok, yeah, there are other options.”
When God said that he was going destroy Israel and start over with Moses, Moses prayed “Is there any other way?”, and God said “Yeah, Moses, good point…I’ll give Israel a second chance.” When God said that Hezekiah was going to die, Hezekiah prayed, and God said “Okay, Hezekiah, I hear you, and I’ll give you 15 more years.”
It is okay, when you don’t want to do what God wants you to do, to ask God for another way.
But there is something more. Jesus also prays, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” That is an intense prayer. A dangerous prayer. It is not just tacking an empty or perfunctory “Lord-willing” at the end of the prayer. It is a description of a heart, mind, and will that is submitted to the Lord. Jesus, though he didn’t want to go through with the completion of his mission, was still willing to do so!
Though he knew that it would be severe and painful, he was still willing to go through with it because God wanted him to. Jesus placed his life in God’s hands and is basically saying, “Lord, you know best. Though this thing you are asking me to do sounds crazy, and though it will hurt like crazy, I trust that you not only have my best interest in mind, but you also have the best interest in the world in mind, and you love us. So…since you will it, I will do it.”
When God wants us to do something we don’t want to do, we can pray for another way, but we must also pray that we are willing to do what God wants us to do.
So what is God asking you to do that you don’t want to do?
In what ways is God asking you to change that you don’t want to?
Are you sensing that he wants you to start something? Stop something?
On Silent Sunday this past week at Faith Church we gave people an opportunity to physically express their desire to the Lord, saying to him that though it might be hard, they still want do his will. We placed a large vase on a table in the front of sanctuary, and around the vase, we placed small cups of colored sand. We broke the silence by praying the Lord’s Prayer together, which talks about God’s will being done, and then we sang Oceans, during which people could walk forward and prayerfully pick up a cup of sand and pour it into the vase, an act of saying to God “I give _________ to you, so that not my will, but yours will be done.”
Again, what is God asking you to do that you don’t want to do? Will you pray like Jesus prayed? And then will you do what Jesus did, which was to do what God wanted?