Wednesday 27th March – Mark 14:32-42  ‘Not what I will’

Mark 14:32-42

The will – it’s a strange and slightly mysterious thing, isn’t it?  We first start to see it when a child is just a few months old, newly weaned – turning their nose up at one mouthful of food only to embrace another. 

Wills famously start to assert themselves strongly as toddlers.  The battles all of us parents will remember!  Usually over little things, but nonetheless important, as ultimately it’s about who’s in charge.  And this sense of the will lives on in those who are described as ‘strong-willed’, which is often a euphemism for people who like to get their own way!

The will is a statement not just of authority but of intent.  When couples get married they don’t say ‘I do’ (sorry to disappoint you), but ‘I will’.  Even our last wishes are declared by – you guessed it – a will.

Wills matter.  The great spiritual writer Watchman Nee defined the soul as the combination of the mind, the emotions and the will.  It differs from the other two precisely because it defines where (and to whom) our gaze is directed.  If the mind gives us the what and why, and the emotions the how, the will focuses us on the where and to whom.  In matters of life and faith, whose will prevails?

All of which leads perfectly onto the heart of this passage today.  Here we see two battles of the will, both within a person or people.  For the disciples, the tussle is relatively straightforward: their spiritual desire to support their friend Jesus versus their physical desire to sleep on a warm, dark evening after a large meal.

For Jesus, the battle is much more intense, life (and death) defining even.  Jesus’ destiny hangs in the balance: he knows what lies ahead, and he faces the ultimate test of the will: his own, human will to avoid it, clashing with what he knows his Father’s will to be. 

The struggle is immense: he describes himself to his friends as ‘overwhelmed with sorrow’; in Luke’s account, his anguish is so intense it bursts blood vessels near the skin surface, so he literally sweats blood.  Whose will will prevail?

As we observed earlier, it all comes down to authority and intent.  Ultimately Jesus was completely obedient to one authority, and one alone – his Father’s.  And this determined his intention.  After hours of wrestling, he comes to the earth-shattering, earth-changing decision: ‘Yet not what I will, but what you will.’  Nine words which change the universe, the course of history, the future of humanity.

The contrast with the disciples is so stark, it’s almost tragically funny.  Jesus wrestles for his life while they wrestle with their eyelids.  How like us!  How wonderful, then, to know that our future rests in Jesus’ perfect obedience rather than ours.

And may that hope of a secure future, thanks to Jesus’ costly obedience, also give us inspiration and courage to surrender to God’s will in the little – and not-so-little – callings of our lives.

Courageous God, I am in awe of your obedience.  Thank you, thank you that you said ‘Not what I will.’  Help me to will as you will, because I know that you are good.  Amen.