Father, if you are willing remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.
This might be the most audacious prayer ever prayed: the prayer of Jesus in the Garden.
It had always been the case in the unseen plans of God that He intended to redeem fallen humanity. When Eve ate, and Adam passively watched, the plan accelerated: pain and death followed the disobedience.
God creates life.
Man destroys life.
Jesus would re-create life.
Jesus would destroy death.
This was the plan.
Jesus re-creates what man destroys by reversing the trajectory of life to death and giving life from death.
At the right time Jesus came and the plan reached its apex. Jesus would live perfectly, die painfully and then rise from the dead to deal the ultimate deathblow to Satan. And kill him. Kill him. Not the dramatically efficient slaying of evil all wrapped up in two hours, like our cinematic visions; but more like a rabid dog on a chain who is let loose for a while, then destroyed. Then all God’s children are called safely home. God glorified. Eternal bliss.
But the entire plan wrested on this death. And so while we understand Jesus’s reservations in the garden, we can’t ignore the audacity of what Jesus prayed when he said, “I want out! I don’t want it. If you can will it Father, then please find another way.” Was this the boldest prayer ever prayed? Perhaps. The only thing more audacious than this prayer was the response.
The Father and Son are closer than we have words to describe. They share the same thoughts. The Son always does the Father’s will. And yet, in the most excruciating time in the Son’s life, when He needed the Father’s clear audible voice the most, it is, as far as we can tell from the Gospel writers, quiet. It was deathly quiet in so much as the Son was left to interpret the quiet as His pending death. No audible pardon; He was sentenced by silence. God was there, and He was silent.
What do we do when heaven is silent?
When we, as we are commanded, ask God for deliverance, there are two possible outcomes. He can answer affirmatively and deliver us. Or, He will not deliver us, but give us grace to sustain us through that which we are not delivered. You’re either getting out of trouble or staying in. And when we are going into trouble, we rarely hear His voice clearly. Perhaps the silence of God is the calm before the storm.
Yet God is always operative even by our own deafness or his muteness, we can not hear Him. He is always working. So perhaps the best way to interpret the silence of God is like a non-verbal message that He is creating a storehouse of grace from which we will live during the ensuring storm. He is here, even though He is silent. Silently, God is preparing us for what is next. So the storm comes, and we can weather it. We know we can because the silence told us so. Maybe God did not pick up when you called because He was, at that moment, piling grace upon grace from which we would later draw. If our knowledge of His operations made us more fit to do them, He would bring us in on them. When He does not, we can trust Him then as well.
Remember, silence is communication. The Father did not audibly respond to Jesus, but He did respond. He responded in the form of strength. The next verse (43) tells us that,
And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him.
God did not use words, but He did communicate. He spoke through provision. This was His response.
God commands us to pray. He cannot ignore His children. So if He is silent we stay the course and receive the comfort.
Someone said there are no unanswered prayers, we just did not pick up on how God is trying to communicate with us. In the end we thank God for “unanswered” prayer. The greatest of which is the unanswered prayer in the garden. God did not hear Jesus so He would hear me. God did not deliver Jesus from the cross, He delivered us through the cross.
God was there, He was silent, and yet He was communicating. And He is with us as well.
The deathly quiet was, for Jesus, the calm before the storm. And from the view of eternity, the deathly quiet signaled that death would be killed. Jesus killed death by death on the wings of an unanswered prayer.