Thy Will Be Done

KEY VERSE: “Father if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” —Luke 22:42


AS the evening hours of Jesus’ last earthly day began to pass away, his thoughts no doubt began to center upon the circumstances that would surround his death. He knew that he had lived a righteous and upright life in the sight of God and all men. Yet he knew also according to the Scriptures that he must die and that this death would be brought about by crucifixion. In order for him to be thus condemned by any tribunal, whether Jewish or Roman, his enemies would have to misrepresent his character and his teachings. Somehow they would have to make it appear that he was the vilest of criminals and a blasphemer of the true God.

Crucifixion was considered such a horrible and humiliating form of death it was reserved for the very lowest class of criminals. The pains of death were protracted for an especially long period by this method, sometimes lasting for days. The English word excruciating literally means ‘from the cross’. Death was finally brought on by the utter exhaustion, hunger, and thirst of the victim, and sometimes was accelerated by the breaking of his legs.

For Jesus, such a death by crucifixion would carry with it, in the minds of many, a double significance: first, it would imply that he was a criminal in the sight of his fellow men—those whom he loved so dearly, to whom he had ministered so unselfishly, and for whom he was actually laying down his life. Secondly, it would also carry with it the thought that he was accursed of God, being punished as a blasphemer and one who had dishonored the name of Jehovah. This was to be his lot, Jesus could see, even though he had endeavored throughout his entire ministry to magnify and honor the name of his Father in all that he said and did. What a fate for one who had come to earth for the very purpose of demonstrating God’s love, of glorifying his name, and of providing redemption and salvation for the human race! No wonder Jesus was overcome with anguish and grief as he contemplated the scene that lay just ahead.

Did this indicate weakness on Jesus’ part, or a lack of courage? No! Looking back upon his ministry, we see how thoroughly Jesus was dedicated to the accomplishment of the Father’s purpose and the tremendous determination and will power that marked his efforts. Time and again he had shown no fear of the authorities as he taught the people, and on many occasions had found it necessary to speak out openly against them. However we interpret Jesus’ request to have the cup removed, surely, then, it could not contain any element of weakness or lack of courage.

Our Lord’s reaction to Gethsemane’s cup was that of one possessed of perfect virtue and of an infinite capacity for love and justice. These would combine to make him keenly aware of the shame that death by crucifixion would heap upon him and of the unjust nature of the accusations. Possessed as he was also of such perfect sensibilities and tender feelings, he would be especially susceptible to the cruel pain and physical suffering of the cross. But above all else was the thought that he was to be slain as a blasphemer and opponent of God—the one whom he loved so supremely and whose character he had revealed. This seemed almost too much for the Master to bear.

It was this shame and ignominy which attached to death by crucifixion and the wholly unjust suggestion that he was cursed of God, that we consider the primary aspect of Gethsemane’s cup. In his petition to the Father, Jesus was merely requesting that, if it were possible, his impending death be brought about in some other way than to bring such disgrace upon one who had been so faithful in revealing the Father and leading men to him. Let us not fail to take note that in this request, as fervently as the desire was expressed by the Master, it was accompanied by the qualifying words, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”

In Matthew’s account of this experience we note two further prayers, which express how full submission to the Father’s will became dominant: “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” (vss. 42,44) Yes, at the end, Jesus was fully resolved to accept the Father’s will, to which he then obediently submitted.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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