We are treading here on very holy ground and we must tread reverently.
The Lord Jesus Is like us as he is fearful as to his human nature “Take this cup away from me but let not my will but your will be done” (Luke 22:42). When we are in fear we may recall that the Lord in his humanity faced fear too, fear far worse than any we will ever face.
But he is not like us for He has a choice. Even when he says, “I am he” (John 18:5) this invocation of the divine name causes the soldiers to fall on the ground in terror. We have no choice normally in our suffering. The Lord has both the means to escape suffering - one angel is terrifying while a legion would be overwhelming - and the grounds, for he, unlike us, is totally innocent of any wrong-doing. Death has no jurisdiction over him.
But He is treated as a criminal. He willingly takes the cup of suffering that we deserve, the cup of God’s judgement on our sin, and he freely drinks it for the love he has for us.
“My soul is sorrowful unto death“ (Matthew 26:38). Where does sorrow and suffering come from? From sin. From our sin. Jesus carried our sorrow and our sin to the cross. He is the man of sorrows which means he is acquainted with sorrow.
Gethsemane shows that Jesus is a man of prayer. Prayer is a confession of weakness, but Jesus was also God so why did he need to pray? Because as Philippians 2 tells us he humbled himself becoming a servant. I find prayer very hard and although my prayer life has improved a little since I’ve been ill I still feel ashamed at how weak it is. How much we can learn from the Lord and his constant prayer. Are we in trouble in fear and suffering and facing death? Then like the Lord we must ask for help.
“Your will be done”, which is of course a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer; the will of the Father was that Jesus would be the sacrifice for our sins. He alone can pay the bill. We are bankrupt. But how much must we be conformed to him as He prayed that God’s will would be done. He is a man of prayer. His prayer is the prayer of faith and so must ours be. He learned obedience in suffering and so must we. But friends this is very, very, hard to do. I don’t think it’s wrong at all to pray that God would relieve us of our suffering, but it may be that he will not or at least not for a time. And this is very, very, hard to accept. I know from my own experience. I just found out (May 2020) that I have to restart chemotherapy. Praying “let not my will but yours be done” we simply cannot do by ourselves in our suffering, but the Spirit can and will help us.
Hugh Martin in his wonderful classic book “The Shadow of Calvary” urges us to join the Lord in Gethsemane “Be in prayer beside the saviour, mingling your crying and tears with his: when Jehovah looks on his anointed, he will lift on you the light of his face.” The way of Christ is the way of the cross - the way to death. We must go down into the Jordan to come up into the promised land and “Jordan’s river is chilly and wide”. But the Saviour bids us follow in his footsteps. He has paid the bill which was our bill and which we can’t possibly pay, and he has drained our cup of suffering and he will ferry us safely to the other side.
Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards mankind sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature and to suffer death upon the cross so that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility, grant that we may both follow the example of his patience and also have our part in his resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.