The Faithless Jesus

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”—Luke 22:42, (ESV)

I don’t know about you, but I was lied to as I was growing up. I was told countless times by people who came before me, and I also later told others who came after me that there were three steps to having your prayer answered. And that everyone would do it, if they had ‘enough faith’. These three steps were:

1.       Name it, 

2.      Claim it, and then 

3.      Receive it.

When things didn’t go according to plan, it was because I lacked faith: I wasn’t bold enough, and assertive enough, and maybe I wasn’t loud enough. Faith by definition was what, in pop psychology, is called optimism. Faith was having a good attitude, especially when I prayed. In other words, faith was born, grew and worked inside my heart by me.

Then it dawned on me. This one caught me off-guard, otherwise I would have prepared for it. Jesus’ prayer at the Mount of Olives on the night he was betrayed. He is already distressed and at this moment his entire body is shaking in his cloak. If you ask me, this is the time he needs to name and claim something.

Instead he prays: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Before he makes his request he says: “Father, if you are willing…” and after the request he says: “not my will, but yours, be done.”

There you have it: a request sandwiched between the will of the Father. In my church background, this stuff would automatically qualify as faithlessness. What we have here is a faithless Jesus who can’t be bold enough and assertive enough make a request to God. I imagine some hippy dude telling Jesus, “Maintain the right attitude, man!”

You may not have had such a youth ministry experience like mine and you may not be as sinful as to render Jesus faithless but deep down you know this is not the prayer you would pray in you time of need.

Need reveals what is in our hearts. Need doesn’t just stretch our sinfulness to the limit, it also reveals our idols. It exposes our natural inclination towards ourselves. What the Reformers called “turning in” on ourselves.

At a time of need, it is rare to remember that something called “God’s will” even exists because at that moment we are preoccupied with ourselves. We want our need to go and we want it to go now.

Now tell me if that is really having faith. Tell me if “name it, claim it, and receive it” really is having faith.

The preacher in Hebrews 11:1 writes: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The things “hoped for” are the “things not seen.” It is what the Nicene Creed says that “I look forward to the resurrection / of the dead / and the life of the world to come.” That can never be inside your heart, or even mine.

Martin Luther defines faith as “living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it.” That is what Jesus is doing here. And it’s not what we were doing when we “named and claimed” stuff.

Faith by definition necessarily draws us outside of ourselves to God and what He is doing in us. To love Him and trust His will for us. That even in our weak and wavering faith He able hold onto us until the promise fulfilled (Heb. 6:9).

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