I’m thinking of starting a series called, “Stuff Jesus Did that We Label Sin but Shouldn’t Because Jesus Did that Stuff”.
(It’s a working title.)
As I read through the gospels, I see a lot of things that fall into this category. I am often scratching my head (not literally though; my dandruff is under control. But if yours isn’t, no judgment here. Scratch away).
Many of the things Jesus says seem harsh and unloving at times. I wrestle with how to reconcile those statements with His sinlessness when if I said the same words today, everyone would think I’m a big fat impatient jerk.
This morning I was reading in Mark about Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and, again, I found myself wondering, “Is He sinning?”
Now, of course, He isn’t sinning anywhere ever in the Bible (or out of the Bible, for that matter), but you get my point: as I read I had to open up my mind a little bit and try to figure out why what appeared to be sin wasn’t actually sin and what that means for us.
At this point, details would be helpful.
Jesus is in the Garden, full of sorrow, presumably regarding His impending arrest, mauling, and crucifixion. So Jesus did the best thing He could think of when He was “full of sorrow to the point of death”: He got alone and prayed (Mark 14:34-36).
(That’s a whole different post, but it’s a pretty short one, so let me sum it up: when we feel that way, we should do what Jesus did, too.)
On we go.
This post wants to focus on the content of the prayer (I asked it; it told me).
“[Jesus] fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’”
What is Jesus really saying here?
Jesus is telling/asking God to change the plan.
To me, that communicates Jesus doesn’t trust or agree with the plan. And not trusting God seems like a sin. Disagreeing with God is unwise, at best. It smells of rebellion.
Maybe I am reading my own life into this situation: when I ask God to change the plan, I know it comes from a place of not trusting Him.
But that can’t be so with Jesus because He is sinless. He is not distrusting or disagreeable with the Father or unwise or rebellious in any cell of His body.
So what’s the difference? How can Jesus tell God to change the plan and not sin, but when I tell God to change the plan, it’s usually rooted in sin?
I think the answer is two-fold.
First, Jesus had the correct understanding of what asking God to do things differently is: not a sin. Asking God to change the plan is simply not a sin in and of itself. We may have been brought up to think it is, but, apparently, it’s not because of the sheer fact that Jesus did it. It is perfectly acceptable to God for us to suggest alternate ways of doing things when His ways scare the crap out of us. But I think most of us wrongly assume it is always a sin to “help” God brainstorm options that are more palatable to us.
(For more on this, go read all the times Moses petitioned God to change His mind/plan. It happened a lot, and God didn’t ever call it sin or dole out a punishment to Moses for objecting to God’s plan. This, logically, does not guarantee God didn’t consider Moses’ objecting sinful, but it makes a pretty good case.)
The second difference is how Jesus couched His request that God do things differently.
Before He told God to change it up, Jesus said, “Everything is possible for you.” Jesus acknowledged God’s omnipotence. Jesus was saying, “I know, Father, that You have the ability to change the way this thing is going to go down. I wouldn’t bother to ask if I didn’t believe that with My whole heart.”
In my estimation, Jesus’ prefacing His request with this admission is an expression of trust. It’s also an acknowledgement that Jesus can’t change things Himself; He is under the Father’s sovereignty and is letting God know He accepts that.
After Jesus told God to take His cup, He ended His prayer with, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” In other words, Jesus was saying, “I realize the fact that whatever You decide to do – go ahead with Your original plan or adapt things at my request – it will be the best choice.”
Again, Jesus is showing complete trust in God and deferral to the Father’s ultimate authority. Jesus is expressing that while His mind might believe a different plan would be better, His heart’s true desire is to do what the Father wants done.
And I think Jesus’ framing His request this way is what determines He is not sinning for desiring a different course of action.
Where the rest of us get tripped up is we either don’t believe God can truly change things or our hearts don’t truly want what He wants. Or, worse, both are true of us.
After a brief consultation with His disciples, Jesus prayed one more time. He determined His job was to get on with things, and if God wanted to answer His prayer and change the plan along the way, that was up to the Father.
So that’s just what Jesus did. “Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mark 14:42). He embraced the path God had set before Him head on and trusted God to make it lead exactly where the Father wanted it to.
All this to say desiring things to go differently than how God appears to be making them go is not the sin. Doing things differently than how you know God wants them to be done is the sin. It’s in the doing things our own way that we express disregard for His omnipotence and sovereignty. It’s in the doing things against His orders that we show Him we really don’t care about His will at all; we want our will to be done no matter what.
As usual, it’s about the heart. If our hearts are right, like Jesus’ heart was – yielded to God’s wisdom, love, and ultimate authority – we can ask Him to change anything without sinning in the process.