"O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me—nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will. O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, Your will be done."—Matthew 26:39, 42
"Abba, Father, all things are possible unto You; take away this cup from me—nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will."—Mark 14:36
"Father, if You be willing, remove this cup from me—nevertheless not my will, but Yours, be done."—Luke 22:42
The prayer of our Lord in Gethsemane was based on the Fatherhood of God. Because God was His Father, He, as a Man, had a will of His own, for He was "made in the image of God," and He knew that His Father recognized and honored that will in all His dealings with Him—"Father, my will." And because God was His Father, He, as man, submitted with absolute resignation—"Father, not my will, but Yours be done."
Our Lord in His agony sought relief in prayer. He addressed a personal God, distinct from the universe of Nature; the Author, Preserver, and Ruler; a God everywhere present, taking notice of all His creatures. He showed that the human soul can hold converse with the Divine, and not appeal in vain for sympathy and support.
He poured forth His heart to God as His Father. God was His Father in a special and exclusive sense. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten from the Father. No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." At His baptism, the voice from heaven proclaimed, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Not only in this Divine relationship did Christ appeal to God as His Father, but as the Representative of humanity also; as Son of Man as well as Son of God. Union with Christ by faith unites us with Him in sonship. He taught us to pray—"Our Father, who are in heaven." When returning to His glory He confirmed the relationship—"I ascend to my Father and your Father." "He is not ashamed to call us brethren."
God the Father has supernaturally and of His special grace, created to be His children, those who are regenerated or born from above. He is Father to all by natural creation, but only they who accept Him as such are in the full sense His children. The prodigal, while sinfully away from home, could not share its privileges; but when he arose and went to his father, saying, "Father, I have sinned;" when he returned with penitence to plead for a share in the father's regard, then he received the kiss, and wore the robe, and joined the feast. If we thus have returned to God, He has given us a new heart and welcomed us home, and we, reconciled through the "only begotten Son," illustrate the word—"As many as received Him to them gave He the right to become children of God, even to those who believe on His name." "And because we are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba Father"—dear Father. "You received the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." (John 1:12; Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15, 16.)
A universe contemplated as without a creating and upholding God, however beautiful, is but as a beautiful corpse, and man a friendless—a wretched wanderer. "The universe is not dead and demoniacal, a charnel-house with spectres; but God-like and my Father's." (Carlyle.) Although from marks of design we infer a contriving mind, and an intelligent force directing nature, we never truly believe in God until we recognize His personal nearness to ourselves, His knowledge of all our circumstances, His approachableness and readiness to help us—until we can say, "My God."
God is to us no cold abstraction, not mere power, or intellect; not a mere ruler, however mighty and wise; but a Being with emotions kindred to those with which He endowed man when made "after His image." He ordained the parental relationship, and represents parental love as an emblem of His own. This Fatherhood is more than a figure of speech, and must not be explained away to suit a philosophical theology.
He who made the parental heart knows how a true father yearns over his child, grieves at its sorrow, rejoices in its gladness, consoles, caresses, succours it, encourages its appeal to him, loves its voice, and delights to give whatever is in his power to promote the child's real good. There are many fathers, alas, who do not feel thus; but these are unnatural parents, not such as God had in view when He inspired the word—"Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them that fear Him."
Would not you, if a father, wish your children to tell you all their troubles, however trivial others might deem them; to confide in you and seek your help and sympathy at once, making you the earliest and chief minister of comfort, instead of uttering those troubles first to others, or hiding them in their own sad hearts? If the sorrow were such as you could not remove, would you not nevertheless welcome the utterance of it, and strive to console where you could not cure? And if some part of your wise and kind training should be felt very irksome and painful, would you not still wish it to be told you rather than borne in silence; and even if some request were made which you could not, or ought not to gratify, would you not still wish that the child should bring to you the impossible or unwise request, rather than silently brood over it, or be tempted to some unfilial mode of obtaining it? So with our Heavenly Father.
As a father's pity is employed to illustrate Divine sympathy, so is a mother's tenderness. "As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you." What comforter can be compared to a mother? Bearing her little one in her bosom, shielding it from the cold, supplying its needs from her own life-stream, soothing its griefs by her tender caresses and the gentle murmur of her voice, "dandling it on her knees" (as the Divinely directed prophet graphically depicts in this illustration)—then, when grown older, entering into all its childish griefs and troubles; not despising them because trifles to her, but patiently listening and earnestly consoling, because to that little one those troubles are real and great—afterwards, when the child has become the man, so making his sorrows her own, that the heart, locked perhaps against all besides, can unburden itself on that bosom where in infancy it first found solace—never wearied by the long enumeration of woes, and by what to others would be the tedious repetition of the same sad tale; cheerfully sharing the trouble even when there may be little hope of lightening it; never treating it with levity or indifference; advising, but, at such a time, never rebuking; and even when that child has been the cause of her bitterest grief—when his troubles have come on him by his own folly or wickedness—when he has forsaken his childhood's home and scorned the counsel and affection of his parents, yet, when he comes to her with a heart bursting with anguish, forgetting his faults in the contemplation of his sorrows, and with undiminished maternal tenderness, folding him to her bosom, wiping his tears, pleading his cause—O how a mother comforts!
The Creator of that heart, when "the Word was made flesh," experienced, as the babe of Bethlehem, the child of Nazareth, the Man of Sorrows, how it can console. Beneath the cross, when strong men had fled, hour by hour stood one weeping woman, whom no weakness of body, no agony of mind, no threats or jeers of foes, could separate from her Son in His greatest need; and whose silent sympathy, when her arms could no longer embrace Him, nor her tongue any longer find utterance for her choking sorrow, ministered, who can tell how much of comfort, to that tender human heart which was breaking with its great agony. And He who, both as God the Creator and as Man the Mediator, knows so well what is meant by a mother's consolation, has said, "As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you."
The Divine fact cannot be less than the human figure. The finite cannot transcend the infinite. Man's love cannot exceed God's. He must be more full of pity than any earthly father, more tenderly compassionate than any earthly mother. Therefore He is not indifferent to our sorrows, under the discipline by which He promotes our highest good. He is not a stern preceptor who, knowing that his plans are wise, cares not for the pupil's troubles in the process. Though He cannot alter or regret methods which will secure our supreme welfare, He yet pities us for the passing sorrows they cause. As our unerring Guide He perseveres in bringing us along the very best road homeward, in spite of its difficulties and dangers. He is too wise to take us out of it, and also too kind to be unmindful of our flint-cut feet, our thorn-torn hands, our rain-drenched garments, our hunger and thirst and weariness.
Our Lord's appeal to God as "Father" was evidence that He was not, even then, forsaken in His humanity. He experienced the deep depression, the spiritual eclipse, the midnight darkness, under which we may speak as if utterly desolate. But a feeling of forsakenness is no proof of the reality. As the sun is not altered when eclipsed, so God was as near in Gethsemane as on the Mount of Transfiguration. The Sufferer expressed this confidence when calling on Him as "Father." God has forsaken no one who utters this cry. The appeal is the response to His own call. If as a child I say "My Father," He as Father has already said "My child." "Mourning after an absent God is an evidence of love, as strong as rejoicing in a present one." (F. W. Robertson.)
Speak to me, my God;
It may be Gethsemane midnight with some reader, and friends whose sympathy was relied on may slumber or depart; and it may be Satan's hour of supreme assault; and body and soul may be in agony, and the horror of a great darkness surround us, yet let us cling to this relationship—"My Father! Abba, Father! Dear Father!" He ever watches over us, loves, pities, listens, delights to support and console. Therefore, as children plead with earthly parents, we may plead with our heavenly Father. He needs not our importunity to dispose Him to help us. "He delights in mercy. He waits to be gracious." We may shed our tears and utter our sighs and groans in the presence of One ever attentive to His children's cry. He who inspired the desire for Him will not contradict Himself.
There are seasons when we cannot express our sorrows in form of words. The pain may be too acute, the heart too broken, the spirit too crushed for more than this one cry, "Father!" But what other word, what array of language, so eloquent in His ear! It pierces the thickest overhanging cloud, it is heard amid the most jubilant anthems of heaven's choir. We may be confident that God is still with us while enabled still to utter his own Name, and that He already has responded to all it involves. "Before you call I will answer, and while you are yet speaking I will hear." His love leads us into the Garden of Grief, that our wounds may be healed by the leaves which grow there alone. Assured of His fatherly pity we may appeal to Him—"My soul is exceeding sorrowful, O my Father! Even unto death, my Father!"
My Father! from the depths I cry to Thee;