The essence of pleasing God is doing His will. The above words, so well known to us, were spoken in Gethsemane just prior to the Lord’s arrest. They express the sentiment that had governed his life until this moment. Now the Lord was faced with his greatest trial for “it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief” (Isa 53:10 rsv). There had been the cry for release, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”, but it was met with the call for submission, “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt 26:39). It would have been a simple matter for the Lord to have frustrated the purposes of Judas and the elders. He could have retired to a number of places other than Gethsemane and eluded his captors. Judas knew that he often resorted thither and by going there the Lord virtually placed himself in their hands. He did this because it was the Father’s will that he should be taken in the manner he was, as Scripture had laid down.

When we look back at the ministry of our beloved Saviour we can see how complete his subservience to his Father was. He was not only His Son but His Servant, His slave as well. We get a glimpse into the mind of the Lord at the well in Samaria: his disciples, marvelling that his appetite had vanished in the joy of fruitful service, heard the telling words, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34). In Jerusalem he made it plain to his detractors that he had no personal agenda, other than the will of his beloved Father: “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). He was absorbed in this commission. He was the Saviour of the world and there could be no diversions or distractions: single-mindedness was imperative. And why should this be so? For you and for me: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath give me I should lose nothing [cp v12], but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:37–39). So to the Son was committed the charge of bringing to glory all those whom the Father would bring to him. The Father would commence the work in bringing men to the Son, but the Son would perfect the work at the resurrection “at the last day”. These must surely be some of the most wonderful words in the Scriptures, and they should fill us with a profound sense of privilege and joy.

But while this bringing of many sons to glory would consummate his work, the basis for this had first to be laid. Scripture had made it plain exactly what was required of the Servant: “Sacrifice and offering thou [God] wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: in burnt offerings and sacrifice for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come… to do thy will, O God” (Heb 10:5–7; Psa 40:6–8). The obedience unto death of a perfect man was what God would find pleasure in; this would be the condition acceptable to the Father as the basis for human salvation: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10).

Looking beyond Gethsemane, we gain an insight into how Scripture governed his words and deeds. During the Last Supper he had indicated how the Word of God would take hold of future events: “the Son of man goeth as it is written of him” (Matt 26:24). When Peter sought to deliver his Lord by use of the sword, he was reproved, and informed that it was in his power to summon twelve legions of angels, but this could not be contemplated, for this would have been counter to his Father’s will, expressed in the following words, “But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (v54). At the same time Jesus queried why it was that they had sought to take him with swords and stones as one might take a thief, when he had always sat, lamb-like, with them in the Temple? He had never resisted them. But again the rationale of the Scripture, the foreknowledge of God in which His will was expressed, controls events: “But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled” (v55–56).

In all the events that followed that night and the following day, Jesus in large measure became the passive observer of Scripture taking hold of events. It must have provided great encouragement for him as he saw all the Scriptures that foretold his sufferings being fulfilled before his eyes. In this there also lay the promise that God would not leave his soul in the grave: that his obedience unto the death of the cross would lead to glory, honour and dominion forever. These Scriptures foretold that, too.

But as his disciples we cannot consider ourselves outside this equation. We have had the privilege of the Father opening our hearts and drawing us near to Him. Remember, Jesus said that it was the Father’s will that of all which He had given him he should lose nothing. It is the Father’s will that you and I, all of us, should be saved: He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. How can we make our calling and election sure? In one sense it is simple: we, too, must do the Father’s will. Remember how Jesus defined his brethren? “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt 12:50). So our “closeness” to him, the guarantee of our acceptability in his sight, depends upon us also doing the Father’s will. Whilst this embraces all aspects of our lives, and involves many specific requirements, it can succinctly be summarized in the two greatest commandments, to love God with all our hearts, and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, or more poignantly as the Lord said, “as I have loved you” (John 13:34). If we love God, we, like our Lord, will have His will uppermost in our minds at all times. We will not allow the froth and bubble of this life to draw us away. We will see the world and its allurements for what they really are, just plain vanity and a challenge to our fidelity to our heavenly Bridegroom. Let us beware of the subtle attractions of this present evil world that can so easily compromise our single-mindedness. Then for us too, it might be said that our meat and our drink is to do the will of God.

In the Lord’s prayer are found the words: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as in heaven” (Matt 6:10). We frequently pray using these words. We want Christ to come and establish his reign of righteousness. But the challenge for us is in the present. Do we want God’s will to be done, now, in our own lives? Remember that if we, like our Lord, devote ourselves to doing the Father’s will now, we shall live to see the day when His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.