Because life is a series of edits

God’s Friday, part 2

In Church on April 6, 2007 at 2:00 am

But then we come to Jesus in Luke 22:39:

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

They had just had the Last Supper and had gone for a walk on the Mount of Olives, into the Garden of Gethsemane. Probably because of their disturbing discussions earlier, Jesus warned the disciples about falling into temptation – not resisting sleep, but resisting humility; not failing to stay awake, but failing to stay surrendered to God.

Sound familiar? It should: these were the things Jesus prayed for himself in the Garden.
Now I know what you’re thinking: Why would Jesus need to pray for these things (or even at all) if he was the Son of God? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Jesus was on the verge of skipping town, but I would suggest there’s a whole lot more within Luke’s recording of Jesus’ prayer of “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” than we might consider.

What’s my clue? There are a couple: 1) The Scripture says that an angel appears to strengthen him, which is similar language to when Jesus was physically exhausted after resisting Satan’s three temptations in the desert earlier in the gospels. And 2) Luke says that Jesus was “in anguish,” and that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” as a result. Blood or like blood, that’s not the point; the point is Jesus’s prayer was more than a calm, cool, and collected “Thy will be done.”

Jesus – in his humanity – was looking forward to being crucified about as much as you or I would be. More than that, Jesus knew he would be separated from the love and fellowship of the Father he had always known in his deity from before time began. Neither of these options seemed pleasant ones, which is why he asked the Father if there was another. There wasn’t.

Luke tells us that when he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep. What did Jesus say to them? The same thing he had said before: “Pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Again, I think this makes the point that Jesus was not so much concerned with the fact that they were sleeping – if Jesus was warning them about falling asleep, why would he tell them again when they already had?

I think these words were as much for him as they were for them. Could it be that, because of his humanity, Jesus knew that he could resist humility; that he would need to pray to stay surrendered to God? Does this sound too doctrinally dangerous, as if Jesus could have skipped town and ruined God’s plan of redemption? Am I making Jesus too human? Listen to chapter 5 of the New Testament book of Hebrews:

7 During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Loud cries and tears? Learning obedience from what he suffered? You mean Jesus didn’t just happily let himself be killed because it was the right thing to do? No! The agony Jesus suffered in the garden was real agony because he knew that the sin he was about to bear was real. The pain he knew he would experience wasn’t just the crown of thorns in his head or the nails in his hands or feet; it would be being forsaken by the greatest love anyone could ever know, only to be the object of the fiercest wrath anyone would never know (thankfully) because of his sacrifice.

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