Not my will but Thine be done

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, March 25, 2021

Text: Then Jesus went … to a place called Gethsemane … And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, … he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Picture: Jesus in profile kneeling in prayer at a rock on a grassy slope. Caption: Thy Will Be Done, by Richard Hook, hangs at entrance to the prayer chapel in St. Mary's Catholic Church, Cochrane, Alberta

For three years Jesus had proclaimed release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and liberation of the oppressed. Yes, the kingdom of God was at hand, and Light was shining in the darkness. But the darkness wasn’t all that happy about it. Self-interest, hypocrisy, and fear assaulted the Light with ridicule, mockery, and rejection. Jesus’ hour had come. Would He yield to the darkness, or continue to walk in the Light – in fact, to be that very Light, as His Heavenly Father had called Him to be? Would it be Jesus’ flesh-and-blood way, or His Heavenly Father’s way? Which?

For this, our sixth in this year’s series of Lenten columns leading up to Easter in the Christian calendar, I want to visit Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as He faced His ultimate test: would He humble Himself and become “obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross”? (Philippians 2:8 NRSV)

Jesus had forewarned His disciples about just such a terrible hour, but an hour with a breathtaking conclusion: “The Son of Man” – as He often referred to Himself – “must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:22 NRSV)

Thus it was that, with His arrest and crucifixion imminent, Jesus returned once more to the Garden of Gethsemane for a time of prayer – life-and-death prayer in a tug of war between darkness and the Light! The garden was at the foot of the Mount of Olives, along the eastern edge of the old city of Jerusalem.

He brought with Him three from His inner circle, Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and asked them to remain at a little distance and watch with Him. (Yes, I know, they fell asleep on the job, but that’s not where I want to go here.) And as the account in Matthew 26 notes, Jesus “fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’”

One of my favourite recent artists, Richard Hook, captured this sacred moment in his painting, Thy Will Be Done, a copy of which hangs at the entrance to the Christ the King Chapel at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Cochrane. What an inspiration for those who come to the chapel for personal prayer and meditation: yes, not our will, but God’s will be done, a reminder of words in The Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

As Jesus got up from His knees, His hour had come: His arrest and impending crucifixion confronted Him, and as a lamb before its slaughter, so He opened not His mouth but followed the will of His Heavenly Father that would lead to His ultimate exaltation: the resurrection and the triumph of Light over darkness – the theme of next week’s column.


© 2021 Warren Harbeck

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