Gethsemane: Not my will but yours
Core scripture: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4: 32).
Message: As we prepare our hearts for Easter, the next three weeks of my blog will be dedicated toward to road to the cross. In past years I have blogged multiple times about Easter through the week of Easter. This year I hope to ready our hearts with a more proactive approach. By the time Easter rolls around, I want this group of Christian teachers to be fully prepared to celebrate the greatest miracle known to mankind: the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Now, where to begin? How about at the beginning of that long road to Calvary. The Last Supper. Betrayal. Gethsemane. The arrest. The trial. How God is going to speak all of this through one blog is beyond me, but I must attempt it. Here we go.
That word forgiveness might be the most difficult word to live out in the Bible. Have you ever been through a broken relationship? Maybe it’s a divorce. Maybe a colleague backstabbed you. Maybe a student threw you under the bus and your administration failed to see your side, caving to the needs of an angry parent. Maybe you’ve wronged someone, and YOU need some humility. Ever been there before? I tell you, I have been on both sides of the forgiveness scale, and neither side is pretty. I have needed it desperately from others, and I have needed to give grace to others as well. That is why Ephesians 4: 32 is the end all solution for both sides. It all points back to Christ. Will you go there with me?
Think about it. The Last Supper is the epitome of an emotional roller coaster. Ups and downs. Loop-de-loops. Whiplash turns. Do you ever wonder if it made the disciples queasy? Was Judas about to lose his lunch? The thing that I marvel at the most is that through it all, Christ knew the end result. He knew it was all for a greater plan that would lead Him to the cross. After washing his disciples’ feet to model servant leadership, I can imagine Jesus saying with tear-filled eyes, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’” (Matthew 26: 31). Did you catch that? His best friends. His most cherished disciples. When push came to shove, they abandoned Him. Judas betrayed. Peter denied. The rest were falling asleep on the job and scattering like frightened mice, not able to face the onslaught of ridicule.
Jesus may have faced His trial alone, but was he really alone? No. He was so full of the Holy Spirit, so full of God’s omnipotent power, that He readily embraced the cross. Not by His own will but by God’s. Think about that. Have you ever prayed that prayer before? Not my will but Yours? I’ve been there. I have some scars from my first year of teaching that I recall praying about. Long story short, I was under ridicule for not being qualified to teach 9th grade Pre-AP English. A certain student in my 7th hour class had bullied me, mocking my teaching, telling me I was a nobody online, even rallying a group of her friends to pepper a teacher ranking website with insulting comments that hid behind a wide range of screen names. It was a far cry from what Christ endured, but before I knew it, I was under fire from above. Parent meetings. Administrative discipline. By the end, near Spring Break 2004, I was called in for the ultimate insult. I was being asked to step down, move buildings, teach a new grade level, and start over.
I fell on my knees that night. God, stop this madness! Allow me to stay! I’ll prove I can teach Pre-AP, I know I can! Turn the tables for me in my favor, and I will prove my naysayers wrong. My prayer ended. I wept bitterly, lying on the floor of my condo. It wasn’t that God didn’t hear my prayer. He heard it alright. He just had a different answer. An answer that led me to start fresh the following school year at Indian Trail Middle School, my home away from home. My family for the last 14 years. The school that was there for me through my darkest depression five years ago. Isn’t it funny how God does that? You want to go one way, God takes you another way, and suddenly His perfect plan for your life is magically woven through artistry that can only be attributed to something bigger. Something higher. Something that might bring more glory to Him. Something you can learn from. Something beautiful.
Somebody else was led through some pretty heart-wrenching moments on His road to Calvary. Christ didn’t want to go there. But He did. Out of complete obedience and submission to His Father. You see, Jesus didn’t have to be arrested that night. Could he have sent down a thousand angels from heaven to take care of business when Judas betrayed? Heck yeah. I’m pretty sure that whole Son of God tag would have taken care of that in a heartbeat. But He didn’t. He submitted to God. He prayed. Not my will but yours. His sweat poured out in blood. He arose and faced Judas. “Friend, do what you came to do” (Matthew 26: 50). I can think of 95 other words Christ would have like to call Judas at that moment. Traitor. Jerk off. But no. Friend? Probably not the words I would have chosen. What about you?
I have healed a lot since that first year of teaching. God’s beautiful tapestry has been woven yet again. Hard feelings to those who wronged me that year have been swept under the rug. If I saw the young lady that wrote those awful things about me in my class, I would gladly tell her she’s forgiven. Why? Because of that verse above. Because I am a sinner too, and Christ forgave me. And if He asks me to be kind and tenderhearted toward one another, forgiving one another, I suppose that’s the way to go. Love trumps hate. Forgiveness trumps grudges. Know that as you forge on toward the finish line in May. And know this too … Christ’s finish line has already been crossed at Calvary. That is where we’re going next week. The cross. The love He showed there. Its symbolism is all we need to passionately take up our own crosses in His beloved name. In the meantime, be Christ to others. Forgive. Be forgiven. It’s what He did for you.
Challenge: Think of one person that you are harboring a grudge against. This could be a student, colleague, friend, family member—anyone. Pray that your heart might be set free from that bitterness, and take one small step in offering a hand of forgiveness toward that person. If they ask why you are acting graceful, simply reply that God is working in you.
Song to bring it home: There are so many songs about forgiveness that speak truth to me, but one steals the show. Listen to Matthew West’s “Forgiveness” if you want inspiration to set your heart free from grudges that hold you back.
Prayer: Father, You showed us what forgiveness was through your son as He went to the cross. Let us be that person to others. Allow love and grace to wipe clean all the muck of resentment and hard feelings. Let your love shine through me today. Amen.