"O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, YOUR WILL BE DONE."

"He was heard for His godly fear."

The remarkable passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, supplementing the Gospel narrative, says of Christ, the High Priest of the Church—"Who in the days of His flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and having been heard for His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered" (Heb. 5:7, 8)

Two important questions arise—
What was the prayer?
How was it heard?

The prayer being addressed to "Him who was able to save Him from death" has been interpreted by some to mean a request to be delivered from the impending crucifixion. If so, the prayer was not heard. Consequently this was not the request. A marginal note in the R.V. says "Out of death." And some have considered that our Lord prayed that, though He must die, death might be the speedy entrance to the life beyond. Thus He prayed for the Resurrection and Ascension, and so was heard.

The Old Version renders the clause, "He was heard in that He feared," and many interpreters have maintained that the prayer was answered by our Lord being delivered from the oppressively agonizing fear which had prompted the prayer—"Let this cup pass from me." But some of the best scholars are of opinion that the word rendered fear never means the fear of terror, but of reverence, and that the meaning of the clause cannot be from but on account of this reverence. Dean Alford renders "He was heard on account of His pious resignation;" and the R.V. "He was heard for His godly fear."

Although no child of God would claim merit for resignation, yet this is a condition of mind which may render it suitable for God to grant our requests. It may be good for us to obtain what we ask when willing to forego it, and not before. We are more likely to be heard when we yield to His will than when we press our own. Our Lord was our perfect Example. We often begin by making our own wishes paramount, and gradually let them recede behind the will of God. But our Lord, throughout this agony of prayer, desired supremely that the will of His Father might be done.

But why is it said that the prayer was addressed to "Him who was able to save Him from death?" As already explained, His humanity shrank from the sufferings of both body and mind awaiting Him. Had the cup not been to Him bitter, had the cross not been torture, had such a death not been agony, He would not have been really human—the "Son of Man;" and so He shuddered in view of it. But had He relented in purpose, and willed for a moment that His human feelings might prevail over His Father's will, He would not have been our perfect Redeemer and Example. "If he had not felt the cross to be a dread, it had been no sacrifice. If he had allowed the dread to penetrate to His will, He had been no Savior." (Alexander Maclaren). He carried His human fear to One, able, if He chose, to deliver Him from all that He apprehended. It was the prayer of the faith that "God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." But while appealing to Him who was able to save Him from a death so terrible, from drinking a cup so bitter, the burden of the prayer from beginning to end was this—"Not my will, but Yours be done."

Thus the prayer in Gethsemane was that of "piety," of "godly fear," of "pious resignation." It was an earnest, importunate pleading for His Father's will, and therefore for help to accomplish it. His humanity was shrinking, the flesh was weak, the devil was tempting, there was an agony of conflict, the "hour of darkness" was striving against the Light; and from the gloom of the deadly combat came forth from the first, reiterated, prevailing over every suggestion of Satan, every desire of the weak though sinless flesh, every prompting of the perfect though sensitive humanity, this conquering cry—"Father! Your will be done!"

This prayer was answered. He was "heard for His godly fear," heard in the one prevailing request which His godliness, His reverence, His filial love dictated. He had come to the world for the very purpose of carrying out the Father's purpose of love—"I delight to do Your will!" And He was heard by being enabled to do it, by the strengthening of His frail body, by the allaying of His human fears, by victory over the foe in this fierce final struggle. His prayer was answered, not by escape from the death in view, but by victory over it, and from all fear of it; so that although He was still to be betrayed, condemned, mocked, scourged, crucified, yet He was heard by deliverance from the agony then crushing both body and spirit, and by invigoration to perform that will of God, the accomplishment of which was the prayer of Gethsemane.

This had been His prayer when He predicted His death, saying, "The hour has come, that the Son of Man should be glorified. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour—but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Your Name." He prayed that His Father might be glorified by strengthening Him to endure the hour, to suffer the death, to realize the glory. Save me out of this hour, not that I may escape it, but that I may endure it, and be delivered out of it by accomplishing the purpose of it—Your Will. (John 12:23-28).

Throughout the whole of His ministry on earth our Lord spoke and acted as the obedient agent of His Father. He "took on Him the form of a servant," and as a servant He regarded the will of God as supreme. "I came not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me." It was impossible for Him to have any aim or wish that might interfere with His dominant purpose. The will of the Father was the will of the Son, and the prayer which was heard was for the strength needed for the execution of that will.

The first evidence of this was the angel sent from the Father as the minister of such invigoration. "There appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him." Here was a direct, immediate, visible answer—the angel of invigoration, giving strength for the doing of the will.

The reality of the invigoration was evident in the behavior of the Sufferer in all that followed. The agony had not at once become less, but power to endure it had increased. The prayer was not feebler by weariness, but stronger in importunity. "Being in agony he prayed the more earnestly." This was itself an answer, in the evidence of strength bestowed; not rendering the Father more willing to hear, but solacing the Sufferer in such utterance of His deepest desires, and in the increased assurance that the Father who helped His infirmities so to pray, would assuredly "hear Him for His godly fear."

The infirmity of the humanity was now exchanged for the strength communicated in answer to the prayer. The form was no longer prostrate but erect. The cries were hushed. No more tears were shed. Calm had succeeded conflict. The spirit ever willing was now directing the flesh no longer weak. Jesus rose from prayer, woke the sleepers, warned them of the danger, and advanced to meet the foe. "Rise up, let us be going; behold he is at hand who betrays me." There was no idea of escape. "Let us be going," not away from, but towards the traitor. The hand which had shrunk from the cup when not actually presented was now stretched out to receive it.

Capture might have been avoided. Amid the shadow of the great trees, behind the rocks, or in the caves and tombs, hiding-places might have been found, until at dawn of day Christ and His disciples might have reappeared amid the admiring crowds at Jerusalem, whom a few miracles might have aroused to an enthusiasm which their rulers would not dare to provoke. Apart from Divine knowledge, His human faculties, all awake as He was, must have detected the moving lights and increasing murmur of the crowd. But there was no attempt at flight or concealment. He Himself advanced to meet His captors, and was the first to speak.

Judas was now approaching, "and with him a great multitude, with swords and knives, from the chief priests and the scribes, and the elders." There were also present some of the Roman Guard from the Tower of Antonia, whose special duty was to keep order in the Temple, and so were sent to secure the one charged with gathering disorderly crowds there, and promoting sedition. A small rabble of men leagued against twelve legions of angels! Soldiers of the decaying Empire to bind the Lord of Heaven and earth! Priests of the perishing temple to drag to death the everlasting High Priest!

"Jesus, knowing all things that should come on Him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom do you seek? They said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said unto them, I am He." He was ready for their wicked will, made ready in answer to prayer. So sublime was His fortitude, such dignity combined with such sorrow in His demeanor, that they, surprised, confounded, self-condemned, in a moment of terror, shrank backward on the rocky, sloping ground—stumbling in confusion against each other and lying prostrate, so that escape even then would have been easy. "They went backward and fell to the ground." Without the need of any miracle to effect this, they were overawed by the majestic dignity and courage which proved that His prayer had been heard.

Rallying after brief discomfiture, the motley crowd again advanced. For a moment they were irresolute, Judas also "stood with them." They seemed uncertain whom to seize. The calmness of Jesus was again evident in His repeated inquiry, "Whom do you seek?" "They said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am He—If therefore you seek Me, let these go their way." His composure was seen in thoughtful care for others. "You have said you seek only Jesus of Nazareth. I have repeatedly told you I am He. My name alone is in your warrant, and you cannot detain my friends. Let them go where they will."

The officers still hesitated. Could it be that the 'dangerous criminal', the formidable conspirator and leader of sedition, was thus, without an attempt at resistance or concealment, offering Himself to bonds, and probably to death? Might not one of His confederates be pretending to be the Chief, so that the object of pursuit might meanwhile escape? The doubt was removed by Judas, who now gave the sign, preconcerted to avoid mistake. "And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master; and kissed Him."

The answer to the prayer was revealed also in the Lord's address to Judas. The quiet, sad, pathetic, but searching question—"Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"—proved how calm and strong He had become.

Still more was the fact that our Lord "was heard" evident from those precious words, "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?" He had first prayed that the cup might pass from Him, if possible. This was not possible. Then—"If this cup may not pass from me unless I drink it, Your Will be done." The unconditional prayer was this—"Your Will be done"—Whatever the cost, however painful the process. So His prayer was really heard by the being strengthened to do that Will for which He prayed. He no longer says, "Let the cup pass from me," but "Shall I not drink it?"

Thus it was that Christ was "heard for His godly fear." His repeated, paramount, agonizing prayer was for the accomplishment of His Father's Will. His "godly fear" was this godly longing for the will of God. He "was heard" in the invigoration He needed. The angel from Heaven strengthened Him. The "other Comforter" possessed His soul. His Heavenly Father was consciously near. The frail body was upheld by the willing human spirit, both now made invincibly strong by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Thus he was enabled to drive away the tempter, to meet the betrayer, to advance towards the cross, to drink the cup; and thus His prayer was answered, "Your will be done." "He was heard." Thus let us desire an answer to the prayer of our grief and our best consolation, in grace sufficient to bear the burden, to drink the cup, to carry the cross, to suffer and to do the will of our Father.

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