Week of May 9

I Give Up. . .To The Heavenly Father

Read: 2 Samuel 17; Psalm 71; Matthew 26

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;
nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Matthew 26:39, ESV


Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911) once said, “It is wonderful what miracles God works in wills that are utterly surrendered to Him.” The American evangelist, reformer, and leader in the Holiness movement perhaps did not conceive of how significant her words were when applied to Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Savior models for us the type of trust that leads to full surrender to the Heavenly Father. Let’s learn today how we may live fully yielded to God.

Let's See What the Bible Says

The events leading to the cross fall in fast succession from Matthew 26:1 forward. All that we will read in this chapter occurs on Thursday night of Holy Week or earlier (NAC). Jesus will soon be arrested and delivered up to the Jewish Sanhedrin. The three segments in the chapter show preparations for Jesus’ death: Jesus’ anointing and Judas’ steps to betray the Savior (26:1-16), the Last Supper and events in the Garden of Gethsemane with disciples (26:17-46), and the Lord’s arrest and trial by Jewish leaders that includes a secondary “trial” of Peter (26:47-75; NAC). Each event no doubt adds to the pressure that was building in the lives of Jesus and His followers.

Following the Passover observance and inauguration of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus and the disciples make their way to a garden on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. He leaves eight of the disciples behind and takes Peter, James, and John with Him and instructs them to “watch” with Him, likely meaning they were to stay awake and pray (26:40-41). They failed in this important task, but He did not! This response to “watch” factors heavily in how Christ succeeded and the disciples failed to meet the upcoming trial.

Christ was severely troubled or anguished, as we may well expect (cf. Psalm 42:5-6; 43:5). He knew what was forthcoming in the trials and crucifixion that would follow. Dear friends, there was so much more than the physical weight of pending suffering upon His shoulders that caused Him such distress. He recognized the spiritual agony involved in bearing the sins of the world (cf. Luke 22:44).

God would soon work the miracle of salvation through Christ’s surrendered life, and a prayer of surrender was at the center of this victory over death and the grave. Both the Father and the Savior knew that the purpose for Jesus’ coming into the world needed to be completed exactly as God directed (cf. Hebrews 5:7). On the one hand, we need to be reminded of the singular nature of this particular event (26:36-46). Christ was providing once, and for all time, the redemptive sacrifice for the sins of humanity (Romans 3:21-26; 4:25; 5:6; 9:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:18; 4:15; 5:7-9; 1 Peter 2:24; EBC). Even so, Craig Blomberg reminds us that God did hear Jesus’ prayers to be saved from death. He answered them, however, by raising Him from the grave (NAC).

We will not ever be able to comprehend what Jesus in His sinlessness must have felt as He became sin for us. No words will ever be able to capture the significance of the prayers that He offered that night in the Garden. We need to examine His garden prayers in light of His previous statements (1:21 and 20:28) and His mission to establish a new covenant and provide redemption from sin for His people (26:26-30; EBC). In addition, there are several lessons in this passage that we can learn about prayerful surrender.

First, Jesus demonstrates His humanity when the text tells us that He began to be “sorrowful” (26:38; cf. Psalm 42:42-43). His sorrow was so deep that it was life-threatening! There are some who read this devotional who have known sorrow to this degree. Secondly, we should notice the intimacy of the prayer that He prayed. He addresses God as “Father,” which was not a common occurrence in the Old Testament (cf. Matthew 6:9). Thirdly, Jesus displays His dependency on the Father and the Father’s will when He prays that this “cup” would be removed from Him (v. 39). The cup was not only a metaphor of suffering and death, but God’s wrath as well.

Finally, and this is a key element in Jesus’ success, He surrenders wholly to the Father. Surely, we may grasp the significance of the suffering and death, but to feel the wrath of God being poured out on the sins of all humanity is beyond our grasp. Thank the Lord that it was not beyond the reach of our Savior! He was “all in” as we say in our common vernacular. On the one hand, He asks that the cup might pass from Him if another path was morally consistent with the Father’s redemptive purpose. On the other hand, and more deeply still, Jesus wants fully to do the Father’s will (EBC). Let’s make application to our lives.

Let's Deepen Our Walk

This passage is not about partial effort on the part of the disciples and full determination on the part of Jesus. So, the “no pain, no gain” of self-effort was not the issue in the Garden of Gethsemane. Allow me to illustrate what I mean. I was approached by a tennis coach in a college P.E. class and asked if I would be interested in playing tennis at the collegiate level. I decided to decline the invitation because I really did not have an interest in putting forth the effort (hard work) necessary to compete at a high level. Well, I have long regretted that decision because soon thereafter tennis became widely popular through the influence and success of Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors.

Here is a thought for our spiritual growth. I believe that this passage is about a full surrender that eliminates any possibility that Jesus’ sacrifice would be less than God required to satisfy the need for our salvation. The point is for us to learn daily to take up the cross by laying aside self-effort and offer God our self-surrender (Romans 12:1-2). The key for us is to live (watch) in that “moral moment” where we say in full trust, knowing that suffering may well come, “Father, let Your will be done.”

Let's Think and Discuss

1. What attitudes may be hindering your watchfulness? Is there an area of your life where you are laboring in your own strength? If so, pursue daily self-surrender that says to God, “Let Your will be done.”

2. For families: Older children can learn to trust God fully and to surrender to Him. Sometimes children do not fully understand why God is asking them to surrender, or trust Him, but it is important that they choose to do so anyway. This may be a great time to take your kids out for ice cream and talk to them about choices. Surrendering to God means that they will find there are things they will not be able to do or, on the other hand, will need to complete things they had rather not do. Trusting that God loves us and is making us like Jesus means that we say “yes” to God and “no” to some other things.

Ask your children about some places in their lives where they have already had to say “no” because they are surrendering to God. Help them to think of situations that could arise, and to think through several responses that could be made. Which response is an act of surrender to God instead of pleasing self? Older children and preteens will benefit from thoughtful practice sessions with parents they trust. Pray with your children every day, and ask God to make them strong on the inside—strong enough to surrender everything they are to Him. The best thing we can do as parents is to take our children to God and leave them there. He will not fail to complete what He has planned for their lives, if only they will learn full surrender. The same is true for us.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock