Sometimes doing God’s will is easy to follow. Sometimes doing God’s will is very difficult to follow. There are going to be times in your life doing what God wants you to do is going to feel terrible. You are going to feel grief and anguish to do what God has called you to do. You will feel the full force of dying to yourself to do it.
In Mark 14, Jesus is showing us how to follow God’s will when it is tough, and you would prefer another way to accomplish whatever it is God wants you to accomplish. We have a lot to look at today, so let’s get started.
He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Mark 14:35-36, NLT)
Jesus is showing us how to do God’s will when it’s hard to do God’s will.
- To do God’s will, you have to go a little further
- To do God’s will, you have to go a little deeper
- To do God’s will, you must be willing to suffer
- To do God’s will, you must be willing to die
Today, we are only going to look at the first two and we will look at the other two next week.
To do God’s will, you have to go a little further
Number one, to do God’s will, you have to go a little further. You must go further into the relationship with God. You will need to pray more than you usually do. You will need to seek God’s will harder than you normally do. When you know that to obey God is going to be tougher than normal you will need to go further into the garden with God than others.
Mark says in verse 35 that Jesus went on a little farther and fell to the ground. Let’s unpack this.
After telling Peter, James, and John to stay close by, Jesus went on a little farther. Luke tells us Jesus went “about a stone’s throw” away (Luke 22:41). In Biblical times this was about 40-50 feet. This tells us the three disciples were close enough they would have heard Jesus praying and seen the sweat drops of blood pouring down His face.
Mark also tells us Jesus fell to the ground. When Luke describes this, he says Jesus “knelt down” (Luke 22;41) and Matthew tells us Jesus “fell on His face” (Matt. 26;39).[i] I think what we have here is a progression of events. Jesus walks about 50 feet away, He kneels to pray, becomes overwhelmed with the magnitude of what is about to happen to Him, falls to the ground laid out before His heavenly Father. The phrase fell to the ground is in the imperfect tense, this means that He kept on falling to the ground. What Mark is trying to tell us is that Jesus walked about 50 feet away and dropped to His knees, and then to the ground being overwhelmed with the task before Him. He would get back up to stand and pray and then get overwhelmed again, drop to His knees, and then to ground. This went on for at least an hour. It’s like there is a spiritual boxing match occurring before their eyes. Jesus getting punched hard, knocked down, then gets back up. Punched hard again, knocked down, and gets back up. Here the humanity of Jesus is on full display.
Hebrews 5:7 gives us some insight into the intensity of Jesus’ prayer on this night saying, “While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death” (NLT). Jesus is in agony. He is being crushed by the tidal waves of sin that are being placed on Him. He prays! He pleads! He cries out to God with a loud voice! Tears are flowing down His face! His prayers have the sound of someone sobbing and weeping. Three of the disciples were only about 50 feet away and could hear and see all of this. What is amazing to me is that the disciples could fall asleep while this was going on just a few feet away from them.
Then something significant happens. The mental and emotional pain was so severe that Luke tells us, “Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him” (Luke 22:43, NLT). When Jesus needed angelic help to make it through stress, so He did not die, you know he was seriously stressed out. When you find yourself filled with stress about the future, and you wonder if Jesus understands the pressure you are under, here is your answer. Jesus has experienced more stress than anyone on the planet. Jesus was so stressed out that He sweat great drops of blood.
In Luke 22, Luke goes on to tell us, “He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44, NLT).
Luke gives us a deeper glimpse into the intensity of Jesus’ prayers this night. They were filled with emotion, tears, and crying. He was literally in emotional and psychological agony. We would say Jesus is really stressed out! The stress and anxiety that Jesus was experiencing was so great His “sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” Today, we have a medical term for this. It’s called hematidrosis (he-ma-t-drosis). It is extremely rare and occurs when someone is experiencing a high level of stress. Notice carefully, that Luke says it was like “great drops of blood.” He was not sweating little drops, but great drops of blood. These sweat blood drops would have been running down his face, into His eyes, and dripping off his nose, and running over his lips and dripping onto his clothes. When He wiped the blood sweat off His face He would have gotten it on His hands. Mark tells us Jesus was so stressed, He was at the edge of dying before the cross ever occurred.
Jesus is showing us to do God’s will when it’s difficult you will need to go further into your relationship with God, further in prayer, further emotionally, further into your own garden of Gethsemane.
To do God’s will, you must go a little deeper
Number two, to do God’s will, you must go a little deeper. Your relationship with God needs to go deeper than it is. Your relationship with God needs to be both childlike and adultlike. Let’s unpack this.
In verse 35, Mark tells us Jesus prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me.”
First, I want you to notice that as the spiritual darkness began to enclose and press down on Jesus, He prayed. Remember, Jesus is operating out of His humanity. He is facing this like a person, a man and not God. Instead of turning His back on God, walking away from God, and walking away from His disciples who didn’t seem to care or understand what was truly going on Jesus decided to lay it all out before God. When you are under severe pressure and stress, this is what you need to do. You need to get with God. Talk with Him and hear from Him. Instead of pouting about His situation, He prayed about it.
By the way, the Greek word for prayed (proseuchomai) is in the imperfect tense meaning that it signifies that Jesus prayed this prayer over and over and over again. The Bible only gives us a small portion of what was actually said, but we see the Lord’s persistence and intensity here. I think Jesus is showing us here there are going to be times you will need to pray through something, not just pray about it.
Mark says that the subject of Jesus’ prayer was that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. Way back at the beginning of His public ministry Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4, ESV). That awful hour was soon approaching. It was nearing time for Jesus to be “handed over to sinful men, and be crucified” (Luke 24:7, NASB) and “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NLT). What you are seeing here is Jesus’ humanity on full display. It’s like Jesus is saying, “Heavenly Father, before we go any further, I want to double check to see if there is any way possible the mission can be accomplished in some other way. Is there a way that this awful event I’m about to endure can pass me by?” When you sense God calling you to do something difficult and extremely sacrificial, I think it is healthy to go to God and talk through the options. Jesus is demonstrating this for us.
Look carefully at how Jesus addresses God. It gives us insight into His relationship with the Heavenly Father and gives us insight into how our relationship with the Heavenly Father should be. Jesus cries out to God and calls Him, Abba, Father.
The word Abba is an informal Aramaic term for Father. It is a word that captures the intimacy, tenderness, dependence, and complete lack of fear of the one you call Father. The closest we have in our English language would be Daddy or Papa. The word abba describes a close, simple, childlike, pure deep love relationship with the Heavenly Father. It emphasizes the trust of a child.
The word Father (pater) refers to God’s authority. When the Bible refers to God as Father it is highlighting God’s authority, protection, wisdom, knowledge, and love. Biblically speaking, when you call someone father, you are saying they have authority over you.
When Jesus combines these two together, what you end up with is someone who has a very close, intimate, loving relationship with God, but who has given God authority over His life… Abba, Father.
Not only does Jesus have that kind of relationship with God, but Jesus opened the door for you and I to have that kind of relationship with God.
Listen carefully to Romans 8:15 which says, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:15-16, NLT). One of the ways you know that you are a follower of Jesus is His Spirit is inside you affirming that you are a child of God and that God is your Heavenly Daddy, Heavenly Papa, and Heavenly Father.
Now listen to Galatians 4:6 which says, “And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6, NLT). Followers of Jesus have this longing to have this simple, intimate, close, loving and obedient relationship with the Heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit inside of you is constantly pushing you toward this kind of a relationship.
When your relationship with God is an Abba-Father relationship you have a deep relationship with Him that is both childlike and mature. This is the kind of relationship that causes you to trust your Heavenly Father when He calls you to do something difficult and extremely sacrificial. Your Abba relationship causes you to trust Him, and your Father relationship causes you to obey Him.
When God calls you to do His will and you realize doing His will is going to be difficult, you will need to…
- Go further into your relationship with God
- Go deeper int your trust and obedience with God
- Has God ever told you to do something that was difficult, sacrificial, and caused you to have to die to yourself at a greater level than usual? What was it and how did you respond?
- How do you feel about Jesus being so emotional regarding what lies before Him?
- Jesus felt great stress and pressure from the mission God had given to Him that He sweat great drops of blood. What does this say about Jesus’ humanity? What’s the most stressful thing you have been through and how did you handle it?
- When you pray how do you view God? Who is He to you?
- Jesus addressed God as “Abba Father,” what does that say about His relationship with God? What does that say about what kind of relationship God wants with you?
- What do you learn from Jesus about doing God’s will?
[i] The common position of prayer in Jesus’ day was standing, but in this case the gravity of the situation drove Jesus to His knees and eventually face down on the ground. The weight of humanity’s sin and God’s wrath was beginning crush Him.