Gethsemane: Take This Cup Away from Me

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Sunday - 9:15 AM Sunday School, 10:30 AM Worship Service

by: Denise Robinson

03/23/2022

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Gethsemane: Take This Cup Away from Me

Mark 14:32-38; Matthew 6:10

Gethsemane: the place Jesus went to pray before his crucifixion and death. This season of Lent, we are going with Jesus to Gethsemane as he prepares for his final week on earth to see what lessons there are for us in that place. Last week we looked at how Jesus, for the first time in his ministry, did not want to pray alone; he wanted friends with him as he prayed to give him comfort and strength. If Jesus needed others to be with him, wait with him, watch over him, and even pray with him, then it’s never weakness for us to say we need the same. This week, however, our focus is not on how Jesus prayed, but on what he prayed.  

Each Sunday before the service, if you’re in the sanctuary, you will see and hear a version of the song Gethsemane from “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The song definitely displays the human agony Jesus went through at Gethsemane and while some of its words don’t align with Scripture, the essence of it does. Today’s focus is on these words from the beginning of the song: “I only want to say, if there is a way, take this cup away from me for I don't want to taste its poison, feel it burn me, I have changed. I'm not as sure, as when we started.” And then these words from the very end: “God, thy will is hard, but you hold every card. I will drink your cup of poison. Nail me to your cross and break me, bleed me, beat me, kill me. Take me, now! Before I change my mind.”

One of the most famous paintings in the world, titled Christ is Gethsemane, dates back to 1890. Painted by Heinrich Hofman, it is etched in stained glass in many churches. Most of you probably have seen it; it shows Jesus, kneeling and resting on a rock as he prays looking up. The colors of the painting are dark. Jesus is dressed in scarlet and purple and there is a small halo cast above his head as a ray of moonlight breaks through the heavy clouds and shines down on him. While the painting is beautiful, I’m not sure it expresses the reality of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane that night, because its depiction is too peaceful. When we read the Gospel accounts of Gethsemane, we see a Jesus who is in pain, who sees what lies ahead and would prefer to avoid it, a man who is agonizing over the path that up to this point he has faithfully followed.

Those telling the story of what happened in Gethsemane are the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They all believed in Jesus as divine and offered their lives in witness of their belief. And yet, when it comes to Gethsemane there is no attempt to avoid the facts. Always before, there had been a serenity of soul about Jesus – a peacefulness, a bond of unity with God – his Father, an utter fearlessness, a complete certainty in his mission. When Jesus had spoken of his betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, and death before, and he had on numerous occasions, he always spoke about his future in simple terms – it was going to happen and the disciples needed to accept it. But at Gethsemane there is a change. Suddenly, as we listen to Jesus pray, we hear in his words, sadness, turmoil, fear, hesitation, and perhaps even doubt as to God’s will. Jesus reveals something even more surprising: that there is a distinction between his will and the will of God, that he wants something different from what God wants: “Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”

Jesus’ prayer is a baring of his soul to the Father, and it opens with a statement of his desire to avoid the awful fate that now weighs upon him. “If it is possible, remove this cup.” As the song says, the cup is one of poison and it burns. Jesus knew he was sent to offer us forgiveness of sin, to offer us a path for reconciliation with God, but in this moment his prayer to God was asking if there might be another way. In other words, he was asking God if there was a plan B.  

The second part of the prayer expresses a very human truth: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” As the song says: “God your will is hard.” Jesus wasn’t saying he wouldn’t go through with what God had called him to do, but he was honestly stating how he felt in that moment. His flesh was weak and what God wanted him to do was demanding.    

It is the third part of the prayer where Jesus puts his faith and trust in God. Perhaps he was remembering when he taught the disciples to pray. We all know the words: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In his prayer, Jesus admits what is coming is not what he wants, but he surrenders his will to God’s will. Once Jesus takes a short break and returns to his prayer, there is no longer any mention of his will; now there was only the question of the Father’s will. In his moment of all-to-human weakness, Jesus wants to be certain that he’s on course. God’s course, that is. He can’t trust himself or rely solely upon his own judgment any longer. He is asking for guidance and by the time he and the disciples leave the garden he knows God’s will. He is on his way to the cross.     

What can we learn from Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane? None of us have ever had to face the future that Jesus faced, but we have all had life-changing and life-determining decisions to make. Many here have had, or have now, cups you would rather have pass from you – a chronic illness, pain that won’t go away, a frustrating job, a life you never envisioned, the suffering or pain of a loved one. Some may feel alone, abandoned by family or friends or even God. Jesus understands, because he felt all those things in one night. We don’t know how long Jesus’ prayer lasted. But I think it says something that it took place at night. Because it’s in the night that our pain hurts more, our fears run rampant, our doubts are magnified. Jesus was alone at Gethsemane, Jesus felt the pressure of life at Gethsemane, Jesus needed reassurance and sought answers at Gethsemane, and Jesus accepted God’s will at Gethsemane.

In this same way, we can enter our garden of Gethsemane as well. We can bring all of our fears, disappointments, loneliness, hopelessness, despair, and pain to a God who understands because he has been there. In our Gethsemane moment, we learn to pray honestly. Jesus told God he didn’t want the cup, that his will was for something different to happen. He wasn’t afraid to say how he felt and ask for what he wanted. We can do the same. We don’t have to be concerned that we will offend God or that God will turn away from us. Sometimes, for lack of a better term, life sucks and we want it to change. If Jesus can tell God that, so can we. Expressing our feelings honestly and openly is not a sign of weakness, but of our humanity and of humility. It’s even a way, if we invite others to be with us as Jesus did, of letting in others who love us and will support us. 

A second lesson from Gethsemane is to keep praying. Jesus prayed three times just that night before he felt any sense of peace or assurance as to God’s will. His words weren’t particularly eloquent, but his prayer was persistent. He basically prayed out of his pain over and over and over again. Sometimes in our grief, frustration, or doubt, we don’t have new words to add to our prayers. When that happens and we’re stuck, the message is just keep praying. 

A final lesson from Gethsemane is to learn to place our trust in God. This was probably easier for Jesus than it is for many of us. But it still wasn’t easy for him to get out the words: “Not my will but thy will be done.” The words were easier to say when he was teaching them to his disciples a few years earlier. Luke’s account of Jesus’ prayer tells us: “In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.” So, if the words weren’t easy for Jesus, then how can we say those words and mean them? There’s really only one answer and that comes in the context of our relationship with God. If you don’t know God – don’t know God’s love for you and aren’t praying regularly – then you’re going to have a difficult, if not impossible, time praying those words. They will stick in your throat and make you angry. The words to the song say not only “God your will is hard” but adds “you hold every card.” I’m not sure what Tim Rice meant when he wrote those words, but I think when taken with Scripture they are a statement of willingness to submit to what was in store and an understanding that God’s knowledge surpassed his own in that moment. Just because we can’t see a plan in what is happening in our lives doesn’t mean there isn’t one. The question comes down to whether we trust God. 

We know that despite his prayer, Jesus still, from his own divine power, could have stopped the events of the next day before or at any time as they happened to him. We don’t have that kind of power, but he did. Once Jesus walked out of the garden, he consciously chose to go on to the end. We, too, though, have the power of choice. We can choose how we will live and we can choose how important our faith will be. 

Years ago, Bill Gaither wrote a song called, “Have You Had a Gethsemane?” Some of the lyrics are: “Have you had a Gethsemane? Have you prayed in despair? In the dark of those weary hours did the Lord meet you there? Have you had a Gethsemane? Have you prayed the night through? Have you shed tears in agony when no hope was in you? Have you prayed, “If it is thy will may this cup pass from me? But if it’s Your will, Lord, I will bear it for thee?”

At some point in our lives, we will all have a Gethsemane. It’s a tough place to be, but there’s no shame in it. Suffering of any kind is always difficult to understand and perhaps even more difficult to accept. That one night, it seems that it was even difficult for Jesus to grasp. It was certainly difficult for the disciples to understand. But see here’s the thing. They will understand it completely in three days. Because Easter is coming. After death comes the resurrection. With the cross comes our promise that our sins can be forgiven. With the resurrection comes our promise of resurrection and eternal life. 

I invite you to join with me again as we pray that prayer that Jesus taught us and this time really think about what some of those words might mean in your life: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come;
thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

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Gethsemane: Take This Cup Away from Me

Mark 14:32-38; Matthew 6:10

Gethsemane: the place Jesus went to pray before his crucifixion and death. This season of Lent, we are going with Jesus to Gethsemane as he prepares for his final week on earth to see what lessons there are for us in that place. Last week we looked at how Jesus, for the first time in his ministry, did not want to pray alone; he wanted friends with him as he prayed to give him comfort and strength. If Jesus needed others to be with him, wait with him, watch over him, and even pray with him, then it’s never weakness for us to say we need the same. This week, however, our focus is not on how Jesus prayed, but on what he prayed.  

Each Sunday before the service, if you’re in the sanctuary, you will see and hear a version of the song Gethsemane from “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The song definitely displays the human agony Jesus went through at Gethsemane and while some of its words don’t align with Scripture, the essence of it does. Today’s focus is on these words from the beginning of the song: “I only want to say, if there is a way, take this cup away from me for I don't want to taste its poison, feel it burn me, I have changed. I'm not as sure, as when we started.” And then these words from the very end: “God, thy will is hard, but you hold every card. I will drink your cup of poison. Nail me to your cross and break me, bleed me, beat me, kill me. Take me, now! Before I change my mind.”

One of the most famous paintings in the world, titled Christ is Gethsemane, dates back to 1890. Painted by Heinrich Hofman, it is etched in stained glass in many churches. Most of you probably have seen it; it shows Jesus, kneeling and resting on a rock as he prays looking up. The colors of the painting are dark. Jesus is dressed in scarlet and purple and there is a small halo cast above his head as a ray of moonlight breaks through the heavy clouds and shines down on him. While the painting is beautiful, I’m not sure it expresses the reality of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane that night, because its depiction is too peaceful. When we read the Gospel accounts of Gethsemane, we see a Jesus who is in pain, who sees what lies ahead and would prefer to avoid it, a man who is agonizing over the path that up to this point he has faithfully followed.

Those telling the story of what happened in Gethsemane are the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They all believed in Jesus as divine and offered their lives in witness of their belief. And yet, when it comes to Gethsemane there is no attempt to avoid the facts. Always before, there had been a serenity of soul about Jesus – a peacefulness, a bond of unity with God – his Father, an utter fearlessness, a complete certainty in his mission. When Jesus had spoken of his betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, and death before, and he had on numerous occasions, he always spoke about his future in simple terms – it was going to happen and the disciples needed to accept it. But at Gethsemane there is a change. Suddenly, as we listen to Jesus pray, we hear in his words, sadness, turmoil, fear, hesitation, and perhaps even doubt as to God’s will. Jesus reveals something even more surprising: that there is a distinction between his will and the will of God, that he wants something different from what God wants: “Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”

Jesus’ prayer is a baring of his soul to the Father, and it opens with a statement of his desire to avoid the awful fate that now weighs upon him. “If it is possible, remove this cup.” As the song says, the cup is one of poison and it burns. Jesus knew he was sent to offer us forgiveness of sin, to offer us a path for reconciliation with God, but in this moment his prayer to God was asking if there might be another way. In other words, he was asking God if there was a plan B.  

The second part of the prayer expresses a very human truth: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” As the song says: “God your will is hard.” Jesus wasn’t saying he wouldn’t go through with what God had called him to do, but he was honestly stating how he felt in that moment. His flesh was weak and what God wanted him to do was demanding.    

It is the third part of the prayer where Jesus puts his faith and trust in God. Perhaps he was remembering when he taught the disciples to pray. We all know the words: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In his prayer, Jesus admits what is coming is not what he wants, but he surrenders his will to God’s will. Once Jesus takes a short break and returns to his prayer, there is no longer any mention of his will; now there was only the question of the Father’s will. In his moment of all-to-human weakness, Jesus wants to be certain that he’s on course. God’s course, that is. He can’t trust himself or rely solely upon his own judgment any longer. He is asking for guidance and by the time he and the disciples leave the garden he knows God’s will. He is on his way to the cross.     

What can we learn from Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane? None of us have ever had to face the future that Jesus faced, but we have all had life-changing and life-determining decisions to make. Many here have had, or have now, cups you would rather have pass from you – a chronic illness, pain that won’t go away, a frustrating job, a life you never envisioned, the suffering or pain of a loved one. Some may feel alone, abandoned by family or friends or even God. Jesus understands, because he felt all those things in one night. We don’t know how long Jesus’ prayer lasted. But I think it says something that it took place at night. Because it’s in the night that our pain hurts more, our fears run rampant, our doubts are magnified. Jesus was alone at Gethsemane, Jesus felt the pressure of life at Gethsemane, Jesus needed reassurance and sought answers at Gethsemane, and Jesus accepted God’s will at Gethsemane.

In this same way, we can enter our garden of Gethsemane as well. We can bring all of our fears, disappointments, loneliness, hopelessness, despair, and pain to a God who understands because he has been there. In our Gethsemane moment, we learn to pray honestly. Jesus told God he didn’t want the cup, that his will was for something different to happen. He wasn’t afraid to say how he felt and ask for what he wanted. We can do the same. We don’t have to be concerned that we will offend God or that God will turn away from us. Sometimes, for lack of a better term, life sucks and we want it to change. If Jesus can tell God that, so can we. Expressing our feelings honestly and openly is not a sign of weakness, but of our humanity and of humility. It’s even a way, if we invite others to be with us as Jesus did, of letting in others who love us and will support us. 

A second lesson from Gethsemane is to keep praying. Jesus prayed three times just that night before he felt any sense of peace or assurance as to God’s will. His words weren’t particularly eloquent, but his prayer was persistent. He basically prayed out of his pain over and over and over again. Sometimes in our grief, frustration, or doubt, we don’t have new words to add to our prayers. When that happens and we’re stuck, the message is just keep praying. 

A final lesson from Gethsemane is to learn to place our trust in God. This was probably easier for Jesus than it is for many of us. But it still wasn’t easy for him to get out the words: “Not my will but thy will be done.” The words were easier to say when he was teaching them to his disciples a few years earlier. Luke’s account of Jesus’ prayer tells us: “In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.” So, if the words weren’t easy for Jesus, then how can we say those words and mean them? There’s really only one answer and that comes in the context of our relationship with God. If you don’t know God – don’t know God’s love for you and aren’t praying regularly – then you’re going to have a difficult, if not impossible, time praying those words. They will stick in your throat and make you angry. The words to the song say not only “God your will is hard” but adds “you hold every card.” I’m not sure what Tim Rice meant when he wrote those words, but I think when taken with Scripture they are a statement of willingness to submit to what was in store and an understanding that God’s knowledge surpassed his own in that moment. Just because we can’t see a plan in what is happening in our lives doesn’t mean there isn’t one. The question comes down to whether we trust God. 

We know that despite his prayer, Jesus still, from his own divine power, could have stopped the events of the next day before or at any time as they happened to him. We don’t have that kind of power, but he did. Once Jesus walked out of the garden, he consciously chose to go on to the end. We, too, though, have the power of choice. We can choose how we will live and we can choose how important our faith will be. 

Years ago, Bill Gaither wrote a song called, “Have You Had a Gethsemane?” Some of the lyrics are: “Have you had a Gethsemane? Have you prayed in despair? In the dark of those weary hours did the Lord meet you there? Have you had a Gethsemane? Have you prayed the night through? Have you shed tears in agony when no hope was in you? Have you prayed, “If it is thy will may this cup pass from me? But if it’s Your will, Lord, I will bear it for thee?”

At some point in our lives, we will all have a Gethsemane. It’s a tough place to be, but there’s no shame in it. Suffering of any kind is always difficult to understand and perhaps even more difficult to accept. That one night, it seems that it was even difficult for Jesus to grasp. It was certainly difficult for the disciples to understand. But see here’s the thing. They will understand it completely in three days. Because Easter is coming. After death comes the resurrection. With the cross comes our promise that our sins can be forgiven. With the resurrection comes our promise of resurrection and eternal life. 

I invite you to join with me again as we pray that prayer that Jesus taught us and this time really think about what some of those words might mean in your life: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come;
thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

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