The Time God the Father Denied Jesus His Request

Mark 14

32And they came to an olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” 33He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he began to be filled with horror and deep distress. 34He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.”

35He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.”

37Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. “Simon!” he said to Peter. “Are you asleep? Couldn’t you stay awake and watch with me even one hour? 38Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak.”

39Then Jesus left them again and prayed, repeating his pleadings. 40Again he returned to them and found them sleeping, for they just couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say.

41When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Still sleeping? Still resting?* Enough! The time has come. I, the Son of Man, am betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42Up, let’s be going. See, my betrayer is here!” (Mark 14:32-42, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

A few years ago I was counseling with a student who was having major doubts about God. Not only was this young man from a strong Christian home, but he was a missionary kid, so his family’s commitment to church and to ministry was greater than most. Given his background and family, it was a bit surprising to hear that he was doubting whether God actually existed.

As I probed further, asking questions to determine the source of his doubt, I learned that the seeds were planted way back in high school when he was part of an overseas youth group.

The group was planning to take a missions trip to a neighboring country during a scheduled school break but the trip ended up being canceled due to civil unrest in the other country.

The leaders and the youth were all aware of the dangers and they knew the possibility existed that their trip would not be allowed by the government because of political tensions. So the whole group began praying, EARNESTLY, that God would allow the trip to happen. They prayed that He would work out the circumstances and arrange events so that their small group would be able to take their trip and complete their planned ministry events.

When the event didn’t happen, this student began to question whether God existed. It didn’t make sense to him why God would not allow the trip. After all, wasn’t God concerned about these people who did not know Him? Wouldn’t He WANT them to take the gospel to those who have never heard? We’ve been commanded to GO, and they were planning and preparing to follow God’s command, so it only made sense to them that God would miraculously orchestrate events to make it happen.

But He didn’t. So this student made the conclusion that because God didn’t act in a way that made sense to him, then perhaps God doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately, this line of reasoning is more common than we might think and it underscores a major misunderstanding of the purpose of prayer.

In Mark 14, after the Passover meal but before Jesus is arrested, He goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Jesus is in distress and His soul is in anguish as He thinks about what is about to transpire. Verse 35 says that,

“He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by.”

In the very next verse, Jesus tells the Father that He knows that “everything is possible with you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me.”

Jesus goes back to the disciples, only to find them sleeping. Verse 39 says that He went back and repeated His pleadings with the Father. Jesus repeats the cycle a 3rd time, each time finding the disciples sleeping before returning and praying and pleading with God the Father regarding His impending suffering.

Jesus is clearly troubled. He said, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” Jesus clearly pleads for a way to avoid this suffering and He appeals to the Father’s ability to do the impossible. Jesus KNOWS that God can do anything, yet Jesus’ request, is not fulfilled. We know how the story ends and Jesus does not escape the suffering that was so distressing to Him.

So why didn’t the Father honor Jesus’ request? Why does Jesus not get saved from His suffering?

The key to this whole passage is in the words that follow Jesus’ request. Jesus does ask for the suffering to pass Him by, but He follows that up with the words “Yet I want your will, not mine.”

Jesus, in His humanity, was looking for a way to escape what He was about to endure. But in His divinity, He humbly submits to the will of the Father.

The point of prayer is not to get what we want. God is not a genie who is bound to grant our wishes and requests. The purpose of prayer then is for us to align ourselves with God’s will, just as Jesus demonstrates. Sometimes this is difficult because we may not be entirely sure what God’s will is in some situations. But this just provides us with a greater opportunity to trust God for the outcome.

My student friend thought he understood God. He determined that God should act in a certain way in a certain situation. He (and others) even prayed diligently that God would respond in the way that made sense to them. When He didn’t, instead of determining that God must have other plans, or God is bigger than we are and we cannot see and understand all the details as He can, this student made the determination that God must not exist.

I want to be clear that I think it’s ok to ask God to respond to our needs and our requests. There was nothing wrong with the students praying earnestly that God would arrange circumstances so that their trip would happen. The error, at least for my student friend, was in assuming that God was obligated to act in the way he desired. He is not. These students, or at least this one student, failed to understand that while God invites me to be honest and to share my needs and preferences with Him, He is not required to give me what I want. Instead, He invites each of us to trust Him and to align ourselves with His purposes and His plans.

Reflection

When have you viewed prayer as an activity in which you try to convince God to give you what you want?

What do you think is the root reason why people approach prayer as if God is a genie who just emerged from a lamp, or as if He’s a gentlemanly Santa Claus, who desires to make us happy by giving us our most desired gift?

How does this passage where Jesus prays to the Father give you insight and instruction on how we should be approaching and thinking about prayer?

What are some other passages and Scriptures that inform your understanding of prayer and your understanding of the nature of God?

 

Photo by Arina Krasnikova from Pexels

Alone and Forgotten

Genesis 40

1Some time later, Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer and chief baker offended him. 2Pharaoh became very angry with these officials, 3and he put them in the prison where Joseph was, in the palace of Potiphar, the captain of the guard. 4They remained in prison for quite some time, and Potiphar assigned Joseph to take care of them.

5One night the cup-bearer and the baker each had a dream, and each dream had its own meaning. 6The next morning Joseph noticed the dejected look on their faces. 7“Why do you look so worried today?” he asked.

8And they replied, “We both had dreams last night, but there is no one here to tell us what they mean.”

“Interpreting dreams is God’s business,” Joseph replied. “Tell me what you saw.”

9The cup-bearer told his dream first. “In my dream,” he said, “I saw a vine in front of me. 10It had three branches that began to bud and blossom, and soon there were clusters of ripe grapes. 11I was holding Pharaoh’s wine cup in my hand, so I took the grapes and squeezed the juice into it. Then I placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

12“I know what the dream means,” Joseph said. “The three branches mean three days. 13Within three days Pharaoh will take you out of prison and return you to your position as his chief cup-bearer. 14And please have some pity on me when you are back in his favor. Mention me to Pharaoh, and ask him to let me out of here. 15For I was kidnapped from my homeland, the land of the Hebrews, and now I’m here in jail, but I did nothing to deserve it.”

16When the chief baker saw that the first dream had such a good meaning, he told his dream to Joseph, too. “In my dream,” he said, “there were three baskets of pastries on my head. 17In the top basket were all kinds of bakery goods for Pharaoh, but the birds came and ate them.”

18“I’ll tell you what it means,” Joseph told him. “The three baskets mean three days. 19Three days from now Pharaoh will cut off your head and impale your body on a pole. Then birds will come and peck away at your flesh.”

20Pharaoh’s birthday came three days later, and he gave a banquet for all his officials and household staff. He sent for his chief cup-bearer and chief baker, and they were brought to him from the prison. 21He then restored the chief cup-bearer to his former position, 22but he sentenced the chief baker to be impaled on a pole, just as Joseph had predicted. 23Pharaoh’s cup-bearer, however, promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought. (Genesis 40:1-23, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Joseph ends up in prison through no fault of his own, yet God continues to bless him. He finds himself overseeing the whole prison, making life very easy for the chief jailer.

In chapter 40, two important officials in Pharaoh’s service find themselves in prison after offending Pharaoh. It just so happens that both of them have dreams on the same night that Joseph is able to interpret.

The first thing of note is that Joseph understands that his ability to understand and interpret the dreams comes from God, not some supernatural or psychic ability. There is no doubt that the reason Joseph is blessed wherever he goes and whatever circumstance he finds himself in is because of his unique relationship with the Lord.

Secondly, after Joseph interprets the dream of the cup-bearer, which turns out to be a favorable outcome, Joseph appeals to the cup-bearer to remember him when he’s back in a position of influence. The text says that after the cup-bearer was reinstated to his former position, exactly as Joseph had communicated from the dream, the cup-bearer “promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.”

Doesn’t it seem odd that the cup-bearer completely forgets about Joseph? After all, it’s not everyday that someone interprets your dream and the events of the interpretation unfold EXACTLY as communicated. In addition, the chief baker also had his dream interpreted and though the outcome was not favorable to him, the events of his dream interpretation ALSO unfold exactly as communicated.

Wouldn’t you think this would make a profound impact on the cup-bearer? But apparently, it doesn’t, at least not yet.

I think there are two things going on here. First, I think it’s in our nature to forget the role others play in the blessings we experience. Most of us, at our core are selfish and we like to think that we alone are responsible for our successes. The reality is that often there are a host of others who play pivotal roles in our accomplishments, no matter how minor they may seem. As we revel in our own achievements, we can easily become self-absorbed and “believe our own press clippings”.

Secondly, God’s sovereignty is also displayed in this story. Though the cup-bearer forgot all about Joseph, God orchestrates events in the coming chapters that reminds the cup-bearer of Joseph’s unique ability. This new information comes at just the right time and elevates Joseph to a position of prominence he likely couldn’t have imagined when he was initially appealing to the cup-bearer to remember him.

The lesson here is that God’s timing is perfect and we don’t have access to all the information. While it may appear that my circumstances aren’t working out the way I want, it’s also possible that God is creating a greater opportunity that is beyond the horizon of my vision.

Reflection

Who are some of the people who have contributed to your successes and achievements? Who are some of the people who have played key roles in the person you are today? What can you do to acknowledge and express your appreciation to those people?

When have you experienced circumstances like Joseph, where you were in a situation that is no fault of your own and yet you felt forgotten?

How has God used a past negative circumstances for a greater purpose that you couldn’t see at the time?

 

Photo by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash