“Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)
Darkness had descended on Jerusalem. Its residents had finished their Passover meals. The lamb and unleavened bread had been consumed; the sandals, staffs, and belts put away (Exodus 12:1–11).
In Caiaphas’s house, a conference was underway with some members of the Sanhedrin, some officers of the temple guard, and one of Jesus’s closest friends. In the secluded hillside olive garden of Gethsemane, just outside the city’s eastern wall opposite the temple, Jesus sat with his other eleven closest friends. The eleven friends could not stay awake. Jesus could not sleep.
The Great Passover Unveiled
Earlier that evening, Jesus had shared with his disciples the most marvelous Passover meal of all time, though his disciples only recognized this in retrospect. Jesus had “earnestly desired” to eat it with them (Luke 22:15). For the Great Passover, the one for which the Passover in Egypt was a type and shadow, was about to take place.
The angel of death was coming to claim the Firstborn Son (Colossians 1:15). The worst plague of God’s judgment was about to fall. But this Firstborn Son, being all and in all (Colossians 3:11), was also the Passover Lamb who would be slain to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29; Revelation 5:6). The eternally obedient Firstborn Son, the spotless Lamb of God, would take on himself all the sin of the sons and daughters of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6), his blood would cover them, they would receive his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), and they would forever be shielded from the death angel’s blow (John 11:26).
So the Firstborn of many brothers (Romans 8:29), the Great Passover Lamb, had taken bread and wine and said to the first eleven of those brothers, “This is my body . . . This is my blood . . .” (Mark 14:22–25). And in doing so, the old Passover was subsumed into the new Passover.
From that moment on, the new Passover meal would be eaten in remembrance of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:23–26) and how he delivered all his brothers and sisters out of the slavery of sin and death and led them into the promised eternal kingdom of the beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).
Nine Unfathomable Words
But now, among the olive trees, Jesus was praying. Many times he had prayed in “desolate places” (Luke 5:16). Yet never had he known desolation like this.
In this familiar garden of prayer, Jesus looked deeply into the Father’s Cup he was about to drink and was terrified. Everything in his human flesh wanted to flee the impending physical torture of crucifixion. And his Holy Spirit groaned with ineffable dread at the far greater impending spiritual torture of being forsaken by his Father.
Such was his distress over this “baptism” (Luke 12:50), the very thing he had come into the world to accomplish (John 12:27), that Jesus cried out, “Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).
Yet not what I will, but what you will. Nine words. Nine unfathomable words.
God, having longed, and even pled, to be delivered from God’s will, expressed in these nine simple words a humble faith in and submission to God’s will that was more beautiful than all the glory in the created heavens and earth combined. Mystery upon Trinitarian mystery: God did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but became obedient to God’s will, even if it meant God dying an incomprehensibly horrifying death on a Roman cross (Philippians 2:6, 8). God wanted God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, even though in that dark moment, God wished in body and soul that God’s will could be done another way.
Obedience in Suffering
And in that moment, another mystery came into view. God the Son, perfectly obedient to God the Father from all eternity, “learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). Never has another human felt such an intense desire to be spared the will of God. And never has any human exercised such humble, obedient faith in the Father’s will. “And being made perfect” — having exercised perfectly obedient trust in his Father in all possible dimensions — “he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9).
As the Son learned this perfect and preeminently humble obedience as he yielded to the Father’s will, the first drops of his bloody agony seeped out of his pores (Luke 22:44).
Barely a kilometer away, in the high priest’s courtyard, his treacherous disciple prepared to lead a small, torch-bearing contingent of soldiers and servants to a familiar garden of prayer.
Your Will Be Done
No one understands better than God how difficult it can be for a human to embrace the will of God. And no human has suffered more in embracing the will of God the Father than God the Son. When Jesus calls us to follow him, whatever the cost, he is not calling us to do something he is either unwilling to do or has never done himself.
“No human has suffered more in embracing the will of God the Father than God the Son.”
That is why we look to Jesus as the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He is our great high priest who understands, far better than we do, what it’s like to willingly and faithfully endure the sometimes excruciating, momentarily painful will of God for the sake of the eternal joy set before us (Hebrews 4:15; 12:2). And now he always lives to intercede for us so that we will make it through the pain to the eternal joy (Hebrews 7:25).
So this Maundy Thursday, we join God the Son in praying to God the Father, “Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10). And if we find that, in body and soul, we wish God’s will for us could be done in a way different from what God’s will appears to be, we may wholeheartedly pray with Jesus, “Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” But only if we will also pray with Jesus these nine gloriously humble words, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Because God’s will for us, however painful now, will result in joy inexpressible and full of glory and the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:8).