It is my strong opinion that the real tipping point of the whole week of passion is the garden of Gethsemane. It is the moment of decision for Jesus that truly shows the human side of him. He can see what God has in store for him but the human side of him longs for another option and so his prayer reflects this. Those of you who read this blog or have heard me preach know I don’t subscribe to a lot of fatalism in my theology as an open theist. Jesus fulfilling of prophecy is not a passive thing where he is going through the motions but an active one where he is actively seeking to fulfill those prophecies about him. He knows there are a whole bunch of them ahead in the next few days and most of them are not pleasant for him. His humanity cries for an alternative.
Jesus has set aside his divinity as well, he has put himself into a position where he, like us, has limits and so he prays for an alternative. Jesus wasn’t very fatalistic in his prayer. ‘If it is possible, let this cup pass from me” is a statement of a man looking for another way. His divinity set aside, he cannot see all the possibilities and has to let his heavenly Father guide him. His prayers have always reflected this idea of prayer having the power to change the future even with God. His teaching on prayer has reflected this as well. This prayer is no exception but Jesus accepts that the answer will probably be ‘no.”
This is an interesting thing that we should remember about this moment. Here is the Son of God, the only sinless person to live asking for an alternative plan of redemption. If anyone should get a positive answer to prayer it is Jesus and yet even his heavenly father tells him ‘no’. So when we pray do we should also have this understanding that God is sovereign in the ‘no’. I have met many people who have left the faith because God didn’t answer their prayer. To them I ask the question” What kind of god would God be if he always had to answer ‘yes’ to everything we prayed? If this was his nature, then we would be God and he would just be some all-powerful bellhop bowing to our every whim. It would make us a spoiled and selfish race. We should go to our Father expecting he will answer ‘no’ and we should be overjoyed and humbled when he says ‘yes’. If Jesus prayed expecting a ‘no’ but still remained fervent to get God to say ‘yes’ then we should follow his example.
The disciples kind of illustrate to us a side lesson as well. There lack of concern for praying for themselves to not enter into temptation kind of sets them up for failure in the next hours. I often wonder if the Bible would have read differently had they not been so unconcerned about the future moments what would have happened. I mean after hearing all the teaching in John 14-16 as they waked to the garden and hearing Jesus’ prayer over them in John 17, you would think they would have realized something big was about to happen. Instead they fall asleep. However, I do not get after them that much as I used to, and the reason is simple. I would wager in our own lives we have had these moments when we should have been praying and watching, but instead found ourselves asleep and prayerless and susceptible to temptation.
The moment of decision is over and what will now happen is set in stone by Jesus willingness to do his Father’s will. Everything that follows for Christ he is prepared for as he has sweat drops of blood in his agony of decision and the angels has strengthened him. everything is ready for the play’s final act.