Summary: Why would Jesus pray to have the "cup" taken away, if He knew that wasn’t going to happen? Was His prayer simply an excercise in futility, or was there something more to it? I learned some surprising truths as I prepared this sermon.
OPEN: A minister noticed a young boy kneeling off to the side of the room after youth group and praying very fervently. As the preacher came within earshot of the boy, he was surprised to hear the boy saying: "Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo."
After the boy finished his praying the preacher approached him and said, "Son, I was very pleased to see you praying so devoutly, but I couldn’t help but overhear you saying something like ’Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo.’ What was that all about?"
The boy replied, "Well, I just finished taking my geography test in school, and I have been praying as hard as I can that God would make Tokyo the Capital of France."
APPLY: How many of you think that boy’s prayers will change the Capital of France to Tokyo?
Not going to happen is it?
Now I’m going to say something next that I find very uncomfortable, and so I want to say something before I get into the body of the sermon itself. I want to make it very clear that I’m a strong believer in prayer. I believe that prayer is one of the most powerful tools we have and that prayer can give us the power to change the circumstances of our lives.
I BELIEVE THAT.
I’VE SEEN THAT
And I KNOW THAT IT’S TRUE.
But I also know, there are going to be times when prayer will NOT change what’s going to happen. I mean, God can do whatever He wants to do, and He can change whatever He desires to change. But let’s face it, unless God really has a good reason to do otherwise: Tokyo will always be the capital of Japan… not France.
And so when I was pondering this text for the sermon this week, and I observed this prayer by Jesus that wasn’t going to be answered by the Father, I found myself asking the following three questions
1. What happens when God doesn’t answer my prayers the way I want them answered?
2. What do I do when God says no?
3. What good does it do for me to pray if I’m pretty sure those prayers may not change my circumstances all that much?
I. Here (in Luke 22) we have Jesus praying for God to take a “cup” from Him?
What does that mean? What is this cup?
I always thought I knew the answer to that question. But as I was looking at other sermons on the passage, I encountered a preacher that did a better job researching this topic than I’d ever thought to do. This man had looked back into the Old Testament and found that this image of the cup was not a new idea at all.
Isaiah 51:17 says “Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger.”
Jeremiah 25:15-16 says much the same thing: when it declares
“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it…’"
The “cup” Jesus asked be spared of was the cup… of God’s wrath
The reason Jesus came to earth…
The reason He took on the form of a man…
The reason He had preached and taught and healed the crowds for 3 years…
Was to come to this very point of His existence.
Jesus came to die for us.
He came to be our substitute.
He came to pay the price for our sins.
Jesus came to drink the cup of God’s wrath so we would not have to taste it for ourselves
That’s why He was born
That’s why He came
And That’s why He died on the cross
And now, just hours before the deed is about to be done, Jesus prays "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me..." Luke 22:42a
The Gospel of Matthew also tells us about this Garden prayer, but Matthew goes into greater detail, telling us that Jesus didn’t just pray this prayer once… He prayed 3 separate times saying pretty much the same thing every time: “Father, take this cup from me.”
Did Jesus think His prayer would change His destiny?
Did Jesus believe that there was some other way to get the job done?
I don’t think so…
So why pray the prayer?
If Jesus knew the Father was going to deny His request
If Jesus knew the Father was going to tell Him NO
If Jesus knew His prayer wasn’t going change His destiny on the cross
Why pray the prayer???
Because prayer isn’t ALWAYS about changing our circumstances and fixing our problems. Sometimes prayer is about laying hold of God…