And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Mark 14:32-42 ESV)Jesus' suffering at Gethsemane was excruciating. In fact, in Luke it says that He was sweating so much it was like blood dripping off Him. He was pleading with God that there would be some other way, but God's answer was silence: Jesus already knew God's will. In fact, a few weeks earlier Jesus had said:
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep... No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:11,18 ESV)
Jesus knew God's will, and so He submitted Himself to it. The Father's will was that He die, so he would die. Jesus had His mind so set on obeying God's Will that He actively resisted defending Himself: "Do you think," Jesus said when one of the disciples struck out at the soldiers who came to take Jesus into custody, "that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53 ESV) Jesus could have called in the cavalry, but instead He chose Calvary. Three times Jesus plead for relief from His suffering, but God's will in this case was that He suffer, and Jesus chose God's will.
The Apostle Paul had an enormous revelation of the Gospel. He talked about it in letters to churches with which he had worked, and those letters were later collected and compiled to make up more than half of the New Testament. But God apparently foresaw a problem in Paul's life:
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ESV)Paul had a problem. Like Jesus, he pleaded with God that there would be some other way, but the Lord Jesus did not let him hang in silence. Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Jesus' own grace. The grace that Jesus had when He was pleading with God in the Garden was also sufficient for Paul when he was pleading with God. The grace that got Jesus through the Cross was available, and sufficient, to get Paul through his trouble.
Is there something you've plead to God about three times? Something excruciatingly painful? Does it almost feel like you're going to die? God answers prayer, but in this life, the answer is not always an immediate change in the situation. In fact, God often receives much greater glory, and you get to experience a much greater victory, when God brings you through a hard time, and you endure with His grace. I don't believe that God wants His people to suffer, but sometimes instead of alleviating the suffering by changing the external situation, He alleviates the suffering by giving us peace in our hearts that, by His grace, the grace that carried Jesus Himself through death and to resurrection, He will also bring us through our dire situations to the resurrection on the other side.
Happy Good Friday, and Happy Easter!