On December 4, 2020, I read a Fox News story about a two year old named Noah. He had created a hidden oasis in his family’s basement cabinet, complete with snacks, a blanket and even an iPad streaming his cartoons. Blair Monique Walker told Fox News she first learned of her son Noah’s secret hiding place after her daughter caught Noah climbing into a basement cabinet. She did an Instagram video of her catching her son in his secret place. “OK, so we’re in the basement. He thinks nobody knows about his hiding spot,” said Walker in the video. She then opens up the cabinet door to reveal Noah, silent and content, chewing a mouthful of crackers while watching cartoons on an iPad. “What are you doing in here, bud?” she asks. “Wha- what? You have the iPad? What are you doing?!” Noah, still silent, simply stares back at his mother, who still can’t seem to comprehend how this happened. He then reaches out his little hand and points to the door. As his mother shuts it back, Noah waves goodbye and returns to watching his cartoons.
In a recent sermon, I quoted Luke 22:39, “And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.” Friends, I believe that the Mount of Olives was our Lord’s secret place. Do you remember what He said in Matthew 6:6, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Gethsemane was our Lord’s secret place. This was a place that He liked to go in order to pray. “And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray” (Mk. 14:32).
On this occasion, the Lord also asked his disciples to pray as well. Luke 22:40 records, “And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.” When Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane, He was seeking two blessings: the fellowship of His Father and the fellowship of His friends. It is so strange that the very men who had been affirming their loyalty to the point of death were so weak that
they could not stay awake for one hour while Jesus prayed.
At the entrance to the Garden, He left eight of the disciples while He went further on with the “inner three.” “And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy” (Mk. 14:33). When about to experience great suffering, people often want to have someone with them to help share the burden. Being perfectly human, Jesus wanted companionship as He faced the cross, and He selected Peter, James and John, the same men who had accompanied Him to the home of Jarius and to the Mount of Transfiguration. One commentator has suggested that these three experiences parallel Philippians 3:10, “That I may know Him [Mount of Transfiguration] and the power of His resurrection [home of Jairus], and the fellowship of His sufferings [Garden of Gethsamane].”
We read in Luke 22:41-42, “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” He went forward a little from the inner three. He fell on the ground, prostate in reverence. What was the substance of His prayer? “That the hour might pass from him.” Of what hour is He speaking? He is speaking of the hour of His death. The hour had now come. Here we see the humanity of Christ. If God could have chosen another way, I am sure that He would have. However, it was necessary for Jesus with His innocent blood to die for the sins of man.
The actual words of His prayer are given: “Remove this cup from me.” To “drink a cup” meant to fully undergo an experience – either favorable (Ps. 23:5) or unfavorable as here. It is so important for us to notice that Jesus did not consider it out of order to plead with God. He was willing to accept the decision of God for Him to die, but He sincerely and eagerly wanted that decision to be otherwise. Thus he prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me.” However, when He prayed, “nevertheless not my will, but thine be done,” He expressed His voluntary and perfect submission to God. I feel that this language is robbed of all of its meaning if we try to remove the conflict from these words. There were two wills: “My will” and “your will.” They were in conflict with one another. Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but thine be done.” The conflict was real. He did not wish to die the death of the cross and boldly asked for a way out. It is important to note that Jesus was in excruciating anguish as He prayed this prayer in His secret place. Hebrews 12:2 gives us some insight into the heart of Jesus by telling us that our Lord despised the shame of the cross.
William B. Tappan wrote: “tis midnight and on Olive’s brow, the star is dimmed that lately shone. Tis midnight; in the garden now, the suffering Savior prays alone.” Sometimes, praying is emotional and difficult. Sometimes we need a secret place, a place of comfort such as Noah found in a basement cabinet, a place of beauty such as Jesus found in the Garden of Gethsemane where we can pour out our heart’s desires unto God.