Even unto the Death
“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Gethsemane! The inmost sanctuary of the life of our Lord and of His great redemption. In some respects more mysterious than even Calvary. Of the visible suffering and sacrifice on the Cross, the garden opens up the inner meaning and power. And of all the suffering of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but thine, be done” was the key. It shows us what the sin was that made the great sacrifice a necessity, our self-will; what the disposition was that gave the sacrifice its worth, the surrender of the will to receive God’s will; what the redemption was that it effected, the conquest and atonement of our self-will; and what the salvation it actually brings, the impartation of a will given up to God. Come, my soul, be still, and worship in holy fear, as thou seest what it cost thy Lord to speak the words thou so easily sayest. Learn from Him what fullness of meaning and blessing there is to be found in them.
The Sin Christ Dies For
Why is the Son of God here on His way to the death of the Cross? What is it that costs Him all this agony and suffering? It is sin that needs this sacrifice; it is to take away sin that He is here. And the first part of His work in taking it away is that He Himself resist and conquer it. It is this death-struggle with sin that cost Him the agony. All through His life He had been “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) In this last hour of the powers of darkness they make one great assault on the very citadel of His being, and seek to tempt Him with the sorest of all temptations—following His own will as His nature shrank back from the awful curse-bearing that was set before Him. The scene reveals to us what is the deepest root of all sin—the assertion of our self-will. It was this was the sin and the fall of Adam. It is this that is the source of all evil on earth. It is this that is, in the believer, the hidden cause of all failure and disappointment. God’s will is the living power through which His love communicates itself and its blessings to the creature. Man’s will was meant to be the power by which he was intelligently to yield himself and co-operate with God in receiving and appropriating all the Divine nature had to impart. Self-will, a will not yielded to God, is, in the whole universe of things, the only thing that hinders God in revealing and communicating His blessedness to the creature. The cross is the proof of man’s self-will in the refusal to bow to God’s Son. Christ’s agony in Gethsemane is the proof that it is this same sin that He came to conquer and cast out.
The Victory Christ Won
We often look upon the suffering of Christ, with the endurance of the curse and death of the Cross, as the cause of our salvation. Scripture teaches us to look to what gave that suffering and death its inner value—Christ’s obedience. It was not merely in what He did or suffered, but in the spirit in which He acted, that its infinite worth, its atoning merit, is to be found. During His whole life He had spoken of not doing His own will (John 5:30; 6:38). Here He proves that He will do the will of the Father, even though it cost Him His life. Even unto death He says, “Not my will!” And so through death, in dying to His own will, He teaches us what God claims as His right, and what alone can bring us to our true place of blessing—the entire losing and giving up of our will and life to God’s will as the way into the life and glory of God.
The Atonement Christ Accomplished
And now, the victory of Christ over man’s self-will, how does it profit and save us? In two ways, as we regard Him in His substitution as the Christ for us, or in His fellowship as the Christ in us. In the former of these aspects, His victory over sin as self-will, His obedience unto death, and His infinite acceptableness in the Father’s sight, become ours the moment we believe in Him. As those who are united to Him by faith, His righteousness and merit, with all the Father’s delight in Him on account of them, are made our very own: “We [are] made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) The sin of our self-will is blotted out. We are dealt with by God as if we never had sinned, counted righteous, and allowed to look up to God in His Beloved Son as altogether well-pleasing to Him. Were there but any due sense of the awfulness of the sin of self-will, especially in God’s redeemed children, with what joy would the assurance of its being blotted out be welcomed. And how fervent would be the longing to know to the full the fruit of the victory Christ has achieved for us in freeing us from its power as well as its guilt.
The Salvation Christ Bestows
This is the second aspect of Christ’s victory—He has freed us from the dominion of self-will. The very nature and essence of the salvation He imparts is what was the very nature and essence of His own life: a delight and power to do God’s will alone. Gethsemane teaches us the way to receive the full experience of the deliverance. Just as there was in Christ, in His holy sinless nature, a learning of obedience through what He suffered, until it culminated in the surrender of His will unto the death (Hebrews 5:8; Philippians 2:8), so there may be such a growth in the believer, as he seeks to follow his Lord in full conformity. There will be a growing insight into the absolute necessity of a giving up of all self-will, even in the least things, and also a growing assurance of God’s working in us what Christ has won for us, that he is led to know experientially what it is that he is crucified with Christ, and dead to self and its will. But there can be no thought of our understanding or attaining this, until the desire has come to give up all, even unto death, to live in the will of God alone.
Believer! Is this the very Christ you delight in and seek to be conformed to, and long to know more fully in His indwelling power? In Gethsemane He entered into the very deepest and nearest fellowship with you in surrendering His will to the death: enter you there into the deepest and nearest fellowship with Him in surrendering your will as He did. Pray for the Holy Spirit to show you how self-will is the root of all sin and temptation and darkness; how the will of God can come in and cast it out and live in you; how faith in Christ who died to conquer our self-will, and now waits to dwell in us, can make you partaker of His death and victory. Learn the lesson that death to self-will just means a quiet bowing before God in utter poverty and helplessness, and a simple trusting in the Blessed Lamb of God, who passed through death as the only way to the perfect surrender of His will to God’s will, to breathe His own Spirit, and with it the very will of God, into us.
To a soul longing to live only and wholly in the will of God, death to all self-will is the one inevitable demand, but also, in the faith of Christ Jesus, the one sure and most blessed deliverance.