Submitting to the Father’s Will
Posted March 26, 2023
Lesson 4 Spring Quarter
Lesson Text: Matthew 26:36-50
Golden Text: Matthew 26:39
This week’s lesson takes us into the second unit of lessons for this quarter as we are nearing closer and closer to Easter. Our lesson this week takes place in the garden of Gethsemane where we see Jesus praying hard to the Father. We are going to be taking a look at faith in our lesson this week and how faith requires obedience to the Father’s will – His instructions.
Jesus Praying in the Garden
In our lesson last week, we saw where Jesus spoke of Himself, as the Son, being equal to the Father. The Godhead (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) as “three persons” working together as one has always been a difficult topic for people to understand. The religious leaders were like many people today who only think of the Father as God only, when that, according to Jesus, is not the truth.
Praying to the Father
The time was at hand and Jesus knew this full well. Prior to praying in the garden, Jesus and the disciples celebrated Passover in the upper room (Matt. 26:17-25). It was at this feast where Judas Iscariot had left early so that he could betray Jesus as he had agreed to do (Matt. 26:14-16).
So our lesson opens with Jesus leading the disciples to a place that they often visited, Gethsemane (v.36). In scripture, we will see that Jesus would often go to the “Mount of Olives” to rest or even teach; Gethsemane sat at the base of the Mount of Olives. So, going here was a very common place for Jesus and the disciples to go as He was going here for calm and to pray to the Father.
When the topic of Jesus praying comes up, people often ask: Who would Jesus pray to if He is supposed to be God? Some also ask the question: Why would Jesus need to pray if He was supposed to be God?
Scripture actually gives us the answer to these questions. In the next verse, when He is getting Peter, along with James and John (the two sons of Zebedee) to come with Him, scripture tells us that He was sorrowful and deeply distressed (v.37). I touched on this thought a couple weeks ago about when we saw the human nature of Jesus mentioned in scripture after He had fasted forty days and forty nights.
Jesus prayed in the garden because He knew that His time was at hand and His physical death was approaching. So, imagine how you would feel and act if you knew your time was at hand and you were about to be executed. I believe some of us would be deeply depressed while others would desperately try to fight their way out of such a predicament.
So, I would say that Jesus’ response to His time being at hand, knowing the way He would die (John 3:14; 12:30-36), was very natural. Though He was God in the flesh, we have to remember that Jesus is God the Son. So, His natural reaction in the flesh was to cry out to the Father, who was/is in heaven.
When we ask, who did Jesus pray to since He is God, we know it was the Son desperately crying out (praying) to the Father. Why was the Son desperately praying to the Father? Jesus said to His disciples, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death (v.38)”; He prayed because He was about to be arrested and executed!
I know people try to make this a controversial and complicated thought, but in actuality, it’s not controversial nor is it that complicated. We have to remove worldly thought and logic from our heart so that we can clearly understand a spiritual lesson. If Jesus prayed, you and I who are not God in the flesh certainly should pray. Satan would certainly want to block that thought from you and will try to cloud your understanding of Jesus praying in the garden.
Take this cup from me
Scripture tells us that He went a little deeper into the garden, leaving the three disciples behind, so that He could begin praying. Jesus prayed to the Father, “if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will (v.39).”
Jesus, I would tell you, was desperate because He was fearful about what He was about to take on, or in this case, drink. The “cup” that Jesus was about to drink from was not filled with some sweet or good tasting to drink. The cup, we could say, was representative of the cross and what happened on the cross?
Yes, Jesus died for our sins but something else happened on that cross that we often overlook. While Jesus hung on the cross, Matthew and Mark tell us about Jesus crying out with a loud voice, “My God, why have You forsaken (left) Me (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34)?”
Why would the Father turn from the Son while He was hanging on the cross? On the cross, Jesus was becoming mankind’s propitiation – our atonement offering. If you think back to our lessons on the Day of Atonement, you will remember that lambs, goats, and bulls were sacrificed to atone for the sins of all of Israel. Then, after the offering of the blood, the sins of all of Israel were laid on a goat and then it was taken far away from camp and let go.
Jesus was having His blood shed for not just one nation of people but for all nations of people. Not only was He undergoing physical suffering, but we often overlook the fact that He was undergoing spiritual suffering as well. Jesus, the one who was holy, righteous, innocent and knew no sin was becoming sin for the world. When Jesus became sin, the Father’s barrier to sin was raised and Jesus felt forsaken on the cross.
The cup that Jesus prayed about in the garden was filled with nothing but bitterness. Like a child that would want nothing to do with a bitter drink, Jesus cried out to the Father to take that cup (or bitter drink) away from Him; He didn’t want it. Yet, as we will see, this thought passes and Jesus commits Himself to carrying out the Father’s will. Why? Because there would be good to come from carrying out the Father’s will.
I said this in a bible study that I wrote about submissive faith that faith requires obedience – submission. If we are going to be of true faith in the Lord, we must do away with our own will for God’s will. God, His will and way, should always come first in the believer’s life or else our faith is not true. So, though there may be some things that terrify you when it comes to carrying out what God has called you to do, we must learn to trust Him and move forward because good will come from doing His will.
The betrayer comes
Scripture tells us that after this first prayer, Jesus went out to the disciples and found them sleeping so Jesus prayed the same prayer a second time. Then, after praying a second time, Jesus went back out to the three disciples and found them still sleeping. So, Jesus went and prayed the same prayer as the first prayer a third time!
How often do you find yourself praying about the same thing over and over again? We do it all the time! Paul said he desperately prayed about his thorn in the flesh (his affliction) three times (2 Cor. 12:7-8). I’m telling you, this was very human of Jesus to be so troubled and desperately praying about the bitter cup He was about to drink for the world (vss.40-44). The persistent widow is used as an example for us in showing that there is nothing wrong when it comes to praying about the same thing (Luke 18:1-9).
After His third prayer, Jesus went back to the disciples to wake them up because the hour was at hand for Him to be betrayed (vss.45-46). I do want to say something about the three disciples falling asleep because there is a lesson to be learned in their sleeping.
Peter, James, and John were Jesus’ closest disciples without a doubt. Peter, Jesus called the rock His church would be built on (Matt. 16:18). John was the disciple whom Jesus loved and was His closest friend (John 13:23). James, along with John, was one of Jesus’ first disciples and they both desired to sit at the hands of Christ (Mark 10:35-45).
All three disciples were present when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter who was to the point of death (Mark 5:21-43; Matt. 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56). All three of these disciples were also present at the transfiguration of Jesus (Matt. 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13). So, when Jesus told these three to wait while He prayed, these were three that should have been able to hang in there. I would say that in their later years, that would have had no problem as their faith had increased greatly.
Jesus telling them to wait while He prayed, reminds me of how we are told to wait on the Lord while He works on our behalf. Waiting on God is a sign of being patient and having faith. While we wait, we are to keep watch – be on guard. Jesus said that since nobody knows the day or hour of His second coming, we should be on watch because He will come at an hour we do not expect, like a thief (Matt. 24:36-44). Should one fall asleep during this hour, they will miss His coming and simply remain.
The three disciples almost missed Judas Iscariot coming to betray Jesus because they fell asleep. Granted, it was likely late in the night and they were tired, but spiritually, regardless of how tired you are when it comes to the faith we must keep the faith.
Iscariot betrays Jesus
Iscariot came to Jesus, who was returning with the three to the other eleven disciples, with a great multitude who were carrying swords and clubs (v.47). The multitude of people with Iscariot were given to him by the chief priests and elders of the people and they were ready for a fight!
Iscariot went up to Jesus, greeted Him, and kissed Him, as a sign to the arresting crowd to apprehend Him (vss.48-49). Not mentioned in Matthew’s gospel is the fact that Iscariot knew exactly where Jesus would be because Jesus visited this place often with the disciples (John 18:2). Also not necessarily portrayed in Matthew’s gospel is the fear of the multitude of troops that came to arrest Jesus; there is a reason they came with weapons (John 18:3,5). Jesus even questioned why they had come in such a manner (John 18:7).
Because Iscariot and the troop approached as they did, it made a tense situation even more tense. Outside of the scripture that our lesson covers, there was a commotion that ended with Peter cutting off the ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest. There was a fight to stop Jesus’ arrest but Jesus calmed the commotion so that the Father’s will could be carried out; He was arrested which we know led to His crucifixion (v.50).
There are many times where we end up going against the Lord’s will when, honestly, there is nothing we can do to hinder the Lord’s will. The disciples often tried to get Jesus not to avoid going to Jerusalem because He foretold His death happening by going there. Jesus, though He prayed about the bitter cup, submitted Himself to the Father’s will. Again, trust in the Lord, in His will, and no matter what, everything will work out for the good (Rom. 8:28).