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April 3 – A Garden of Grief

“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”” – Matthew 26:39

Scripture reading: Matthew 26:36-46

As we begin what is sometimes termed “holy week,” commemorating the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, we travel to Gethsemane, just outside Jerusalem. Because the city was overcrowded for Passover celebrations, most pilgrims had to sleep outside, not least the disciples who chose as their campsite for the week, this now infamous olive orchard.

The garden is the site of deep and dark grief for Jesus. By His own admission, His soul is very sorrowful, even to death (v.38). What is killing Jesus is an ominous cup He must drink. Throughout Scripture this cup represents the judgment and wrath of God against sin, including your and my sin (see, e.g., Isaiah 51 and Jeremiah 25).

The terrifying cup Jesus must drink is more than a preview of the cross; it’s a foretaste. With bloody sweat on His brow, Jesus plaintively asks the Father if there’s any other way for His wrath to be satisfied. At the same time, however, He commits Himself to do the Lord’s will. It’s an extreme instance of what we all at times experience—namely, a summons to obey the mysterious will of God in the face of the pain we know it will bring.

As the sin-bearer, Jesus experiences the judgment we deserve so that we might be declared innocent. He drinks the cup of God’s wrath so that we might drink the cup of God’s blessing. He faces the fierce anger of God so that we might enjoy His warm smile.

Suggestions for prayer

Ask the Lord to provide you the grace to obey His will when it runs counter to your ambitions and dreams.

Dr. Bill DeJong is the lead pastor of Blessings Christian church in Hamilton, ON and adjunct professor of Religion and Theology at Redeemer University in Ancaster, ON. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at  

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