Christ The Sacrifice
By Andrew Murray
“He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take this cup from Me: nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36).
What a contrast within the space of a few hours! What a transition from the quiet elevation of lifting up His eyes to heaven and saying, “Father, I will,” to falling on the ground and crying in agony, “My Father! Not what I will.” In the first we see the high priest within the veil in His all-prevailing intercession, in the other, the sacrifice on the altar opening the way through the rent veil. The high-priestly “Father, I will,” in order of time precedes the sacrificial “Father, not what I will.”
However, this is only to show what the intercession would be once the sacrifice was brought. It is the prayer at the altar, “Father, not what I will,” in which the prayer before the throne, “Father, I will,” has its origin and its power. It is from the entire surrender of His will in Gethsemane that the high priest on the throne has the power to ask what He will, has the right to make His people share in that power too, and ask what they will.
For all who would learn to pray in the school of Jesus, this Gethsemane lesson is one of the most sacred and precious. To a superficial scholar, it may appear to take away the courage to pray in faith. If even the Beloved had to say, “Not what I will!” how much more do we need to speak so? Thus it appears impossible that the promises which the Lord had given only a few hours previously, “Whatsoever ye shall ask,” “Whatsoever ye will,” could have been meant literally.
A deeper insight into the meaning of Gethsemane will teach us that we have here the sure ground and the open way to the assurance of an answer to our prayer. Let us draw nigh in reverent and adoring wonder, to gaze on this great sight, God’s Son thus offering up prayer and supplications with strong crying and tears and not obtaining what He asks. He Himself is our teacher and will open up to us the mystery of His holy sacrifice, as revealed in this wondrous prayer.
To understand the prayer, let us note the infinite difference between what our Lord prayed a little while ago as a royal high priest and what He here supplicates in His weakness. There, He prayed for the glorifying of the Father and for the glorifying of Himself and His people in fulfillment of distinct promises that had been given Him. Since He asked what He knew to be according to the word and the will of the Father, He might boldly say, “Father I will.”
Here He prays for something in regard to which the Father’s will is not yet clear. As far as He knows, it is the Father’s will that He should drink the cup. He had told His disciples of the cup He must drink. A little later, He would again say, “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” It was for this He had come to this earth. But when in the unutterable agony of soul that burst upon Him as the power of darkness came upon Him and He began to taste the first drops of death as the wrath of God against sin, His human nature, as it shuddered in the presence of the awful reality of being made a curse, gave utterance in this cry of anguish to its desire that, if God’s purpose could be accomplished without it, He might be spared the awful cup.
“Let this cup pass from Me.” This desire was the evidence of the intense reality of His humanity. The “Not as I will” kept the desire from being sinful. He pleadingly cries, “All things are possible with Thee,” and returns again to still more earnest prayer that the cup may be removed. It is His thrice “Not what I will” that constitutes the very essence and worth of His sacrifice. He had asked for something of which He could not say, “I know it is Thy will.” He had pleaded God’s power and love and had then withdrawn it in His final “Thy will be done.” The prayer that the cup should pass away could not be answered. The prayer of submission that God’s will be done was heard and gloriously answered in His victory first over the fear, and then over the power of death.
It is in this denial of His will, this complete surrender of His will to the will of the Father, that Christ’s obedience reached its highest perfection. It is from the sacrifice of the will in Gethsemane that the sacrifice of the life on Calvary derives its value. It is here, as Scripture says, that He learned obedience and became the author of everlasting salvation to all that obey Him. It was because He there, in that prayer, became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross, that God highly exalted Him and gave Him the power to ask what He would. It was in that “Father, not what I will,” that He obtained the power for that other “Father, I will.” It was by Christ’s submission in Gethsemane to have not His will be done that He secured for His people the right to say to them, “Ask whatsoever ye will.”
Let me look at them again, the deep mysteries that Gethsemane offers to my view. The first is that the Father offers His well-beloved Son the cup of wrath. The second is that the Son, always so obedient, shrinks back and implores that He may not have to drink it. The third is that the Father does not grant the Son His request but still gives the cup. The last is that the Son yields His will, is content that His will be not done, and goes out to Calvary to drink the cup. O Gethsemane! In thee I see how my Lord could give me such unlimited assurance of an answer to my prayers. As my surety He won it for me by His consent to have His petition unanswered.
These truths are in harmony with the whole scheme of redemption. Our Lord always wins for us the opposite of what He suffered. He was bound that we might go free. He was made sin that we might become the righteousness of God. He died that we might live. He bore God’s curse that God’s blessing might be ours. He endured not having His prayer answered that our prayers might find an answer. Yea, He spoke, “Not as I will,” that He might say to us, “If ye abide in Me, ask what ye will; it shall be done unto you.”
“If ye abide in Me.” Here in Gethsemane the words acquire new force and depth. Christ is our Head, who as surety stands in our place and bears what we must forever have borne. We had deserved that God should turn a deaf ear to us and never listen to our cry. Christ comes and suffers this too for us. He suffers what we had merited. For our sins He suffers beneath the burden of that unanswerable prayer. But now, His suffering avails this for me: What He has borne is taken away from me; His merit has won for me the answer to every prayer if I abide in Him.
Yes, in Him, as He bows there in Gethsemane, I must abide. As my Head, He not only once suffered for me, but ever lives in me, breathing and working His own disposition in me. The eternal Spirit, through which He offered Himself unto God, is the Spirit that dwells in me too and makes me partaker of the very same obedience and the sacrifice of the will of God. The Spirit teaches me to yield my will entirely to the will of the Father, to give it up even unto the death, in Christ to be dead to it. Whatever is my own mind and thought and will, even though it be not directly sinful, He teaches me to fear and flee.
He opens my ear to wait in great gentleness and teachablilty of soul for what the Father has day by day to speak and to teach. He reveals to me how union with God’s will in the love of it is union with God Himself, how entire surrender to God’s will is the Father’s claim, the Son’s example, and the true blessedness of the soul. He leads my will into the fellowship of Christ’s death and resurrection; my will dies in Him, in Him to be made alive again. He breathes into it, as a renewed and quickened will, a holy insight into God’s perfect will, a holy joy in yielding itself as an instrument of that will, a holy liberty and power to lay hold of God’s will to answer prayer. With my whole will I learn to live for the interests of God and His kingdom, to exercise the power of that will, crucified but risen again, in nature and in prayer, on earth and in heaven, with men and with God.
The more deeply I enter into the “Father, not what I will,” of Gethsemane and into Him who spoke it, to abide in Him, the fuller is my spiritual access into the power of His “Father, I will.” And the soul experiences that the will, which has become nothing that God’s will may be all, now becomes inspired with a divine strength to will what God wills and to claim what has been promised in the name of Christ.
O let us listen to Christ in Gethsemane as He calls, “If ye abide in Me, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” Being of one mind and spirit with Him in His giving up everything to God’s will, living like Him in obedience and surrender to the Father, this is abiding in Him. This is the secret of power in prayer.
Blessed Lord Jesus, Gethsemane was the school where Thou didst learn to pray and to obey. It is still the school where Thou leadest all Thy disciples who would learn to obey and to pray even as Thou. Lord, teach me there to pray in the faith that Thou hast atoned for and conquered our self-will and canst indeed give us grace to pray like Thee.
O Lamb of God, I would follow Thee to Gethsemane, there to become one with Thee and to abide in Thee as Thou dost unto the very death yield Thy will unto the Father. With Thee, through Thee, in Thee, I do yield my will in absolute and entire surrender to the will of the Father. Conscious of my own weakness and the secret power with which self-will would assert itself and again take its place on the throne, I claim in faith the power of Thy victory. Thou didst triumph over it and deliver me from it. In Thy death I would daily live. In Thy life would I daily die. Abiding in Thee, let my will, through the power of Thine eternal Spirit, only be the tuned instrument which yields to every touch of the will of my God. With my whole soul do I say with Thee and in Thee, “Father, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”
And then, blessed Lord! Open my heart and that of all Thy people to take in fully the glory of the truth, that a will given up to God is a will accepted of God to be used in His service to desire, purpose, determine, and will what is according to God’s will. A will which in the power of the Holy Spirit the indwelling God, is to exercise its royal prerogative in prayer, to loose and to bind in heaven and upon earth, to ask whatsoever it will and to say it shall be done.
O Lord Jesus, teach me to pray. Amen.
– From Learning To Pray (With Christ In The School Of Prayer) by Andrew Murray.