Not only is Christ our Lord, our Master, our Teacher, and our Rabbi, but He is also our example. All that He calls us to, He experienced equally. In Luke 22, in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion, He had one of the most difficult conversations ever recorded. In verse 42, Jesus prays, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke, who was a doctor, is the only Gospel writer who records that Jesus shed blood from His sweat glands. Under extreme moments of stress, the blood vessels near the temples and forehead break and mix with the sweat, giving the appearance of sweating blood. What was the source of this pressure and strain? What caused this level of pressure?
Matthew’s rendition of the story in 26:39–42 depicts something that sheds light on these questions: Christ prayed for the cup to pass from Him—meaning the course of death to be averted. It wasn’t only the physical death but the separation from the presence of the Father that He desired to avoid. This desire was so passionate that He asked again, in verse 42, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink, Your will be done.”
Though He had a literal choice of whether He would die or not, there was also the underlying issue of whether He was going to deny self or not. After the first and second time, Christ utters, “Not as I will, but as You will” and “Your will be done” respectively. He completely denies self and gives God His knowing, being, and having; He entrusts the future to God.
Being unwilling to separate from the Father was not a bad thing; if anything, that is the one thing we all should desire. But here Christ was not battling what was moral or not; He was not choosing between good and evil. Here Christ was struggling with whether to follow His desires or the desire of His heavenly Father. The temptation was to use His divinity in a way that could indulge a selfish desire.
The response to both prayers was silence from heaven. This is where Christ was different from the rest of humanity—He undid what Adam had chosen. And now, in Him, we can partake in Christ’s choice, in Christ’s strength, and in Christ’s victory. This is where Christ’s disciples follow Him, and this is the challenge set before us. Discipleship, spiritual development, evangelism, witnessing, and mentorship are elements from which our selfish hearts will naturally recoil. It is possible that if we do not resonate with some elements of this quarter’s lessons on discipleship, it is potentially because we lack self-denial. While we are not called to die for humanity as Christ was, we are called to deny self in order to partake in preaching of the Man who did die for all and also call others to join in the work.