Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken awayg unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!” (Matthew 26:36-46, NLT)
One cannot help but notice struggle Jesus experienced coming to terms with the cross. Just as the crushing press would be lowered three times on the olives, Jesus prayed three times. His prayer is simple yet sustained, “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
The cup Jesus mentions is a reference to his crucifixion. If he drinks the cup he dies. If he does not drink the cup, we die. Can Jesus accept the Father’s will? His will is for the cup to pass. But the Father’s will is for him to drink the cup. I believe that the thing that enabled Jesus to accept the cup and drink it was his trust in the Father. Reason and rationale became secondary to his trust in God. In the words of my friend Tom Clegg, “You do not have a relationship unless your will can be crossed.” Clearly Jesus relationship with the Father is strong and his trust in the Father carries him through, in spite of what he knows.
We can identify with Jesus’ struggle. Adversity strikes and the challenges become difficult, often without notice. God does not ask us to “approve of” those things. But he may require that we accept those things. Our ability to accept adversity and grow through it is directly tied to our level of trust in God. Jesus was able to trust the Father in prayer because trust and prayer had been a habitual part of his entire earthly life. What if Jesus had never breathed a prayer until that dark night in Gethsemene? We cannot develop trust if the only time we pray is on the eve of crisis. Trust is cultivated through the daily disciplines of prayer, study, worship and reflection.