Prevailing Prayer

As events proceed inexorably towards their denoument on Calvary, Jesus seeks both solitude with God and support from His closest companions. He finds the former, but fails to receive the latter. Peter, James, and John, who had been with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, despite repeated wake-up calls from someone who longed for fellowship in the supreme trial of His life. He had offered them the cup of blessing in the Upper Room, but the price was high: His own blood (Matthew 26:28), referred to in His prayer as the “cup” from which He shrank in horror, for this was the cup of God’s wrath against sinners (Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15; Ezekiel 23:33; Zechariah 12:2; Revelation 14:10). James and John had glibly said they were willing to partake of this bitter potion when they sought preferential treatment (20:22), but now they are too selfish even to pray with the one who alone possessed the right to take upon Himself the punishment due for the sins of the world. Peter had promised even to die for Jesus, as had they all, but when it came to living for Him as intercessors, it was too much (26:33, 35). So much for good intentions. As Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (26:41). Thanks be to God! Deliverance from ourselves, Satan’s power, and the righteous wrath of God does not depend upon men, but fell upon the mighty shoulders of the Son of God, Jesus, who as the Son of Mary renewed the combat His ancient forebears had lost in Eden. His flesh, too, was weak, but His spirit cried out to God. After confirming that He must indeed die in order to “deliver His people from their sins” (1:21), Jesus pledges Himself again to God’s redemptive purpose: “Your will be done.” The letter to the Hebrews tells us that He “offered up prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear” (Hebrews 5:7). His righteous innocence recoiling from the prospect of being considered a criminal, His natural aversion to death and His utter grief at the coming separation from His Father produced a piercing agony, so that “His sweat became like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44), but still He persevered: “Your will be done.” His disciples were still asleep when He returned from this hour of wrestling in prayer, but the battle had been won. Our Champion had gained for us what our first parents had lost in paradise. A Man had determined to obey God at any cost. O come! Let us adore Him.