Today's message is the prayer at Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives or Olivet. Easter is coming and I thought it would be important to preach today's message. This was Jesus' prayer right before being arrested, put on trial, carrying the cross. Through today's message, I hope we can understand this prayer a little more. Because through this, we can understand path of the cross of Jesus more.
Interesting that Jesus chose this place to go right before being arrested - must have had great meaning. The Garden of Gethsemane was located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus preached and taught his disciples daily on Mount of Olives, would go Gethsemane to rest and pray. Gethsemane was like a "quiet" place for Jesus - do you have a place like this? Some of my most peaceful moments have been when the chapel is empty, by yourself praying.
But what we want to know is that Prayer at Gethsemane was not some pious, quiet, holy prayer. If you have that image in your mind like a painting of Jesus giving some solemn prayer, it's not that. Andrew Peterson, a Christian musician performed at conference I attended, talked about a depiction of this prayer at a retreat center he attended. As he walked up the path, he saw statues of the three disciples sleeping there on the side of the path. As he walked further, there was Jesus praying, but it wasn't some pious prayer. The Lord's face was in anguish, pain, and tears as he was giving this prayer.
V36-39 - Why was the Lord sorrowful and troubled, in anguish to the point of death? What we need to know is that Jesus knew what was coming. He knew he was about to be arrested, put on a false spectacle of trial, and then to suffer the most gruesome death that was ever thought up by mankind. He would have to carry his own cross, while being mocked and ridiculed down. He would be nailed on that cross and left to bleed to death at Golgotha. Jesus knew what was coming and this was the last bit of Lord had any human freedom he had. So Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray at this moment.
As believers, sometimes we have this view of Jesus as the great savior. Perhaps even the disciples had that, that's why they were so easy to fall asleep here. They had seen Jesus heal crippled and blind, they saw him raise people from the dead even. Even today, people pray to the Lord to perform great miracles in our lives to save us. So we have this image of the Lord as some great superman-like savior in our lives.
Theologically, we say that Jesus is fully man, fully God - there are two times to think about this. The first is Christmas, I preached about this for the Christmas service a few months ago. The second time to really think about this is now, before Easter, suffering Jesus carrying cross.We can think that Jesus is fully God, so he can take this suffering on the cross no problem. But we forget that Jesus is also fully human at the same time. Jesus had a human body and his flesh recoiled from the cross - v41. What we can start to see is the spiritual battle he's facing before the cross. This prayer reveals Jesus mindset before the crucifixion and His total submission to God's will.
Matthew 26:39, 42, 44 - He prayed the same prayer three time. A common question people have is why did Jesus as God to let the cup be taken? Of course "the cup" was the suffering that Jesus was about to endure. So people wonder, was Jesus trying to avoid the path of the cross? Here's the thing, we live in a world where Hollywood shows us amazing heroes who face adversity in order to come to some great dramatic conclusion. Through that, we imagine the heroism of faith to completely follow God's will and control. But then we contrast that with this Prayer at Gethsemane and see something completely different.
Jesus didn't face suffering with stoic, nerveless compliance in the face of God's control. He begged God to take this cup from him. Jesus, the human Son of God wrestling with the Father in prayer. And so when we see this, compare it to heroic faith, we might misunderstand, question Jesus.
But today, what I want us to see is that the Prayer of Gethsemane is so much more than that. We view this anguish of Jesus so limited, in fact the problem is we view cross so limited. We look at this prayer and look at the cross, thinking Jesus is recoiling from physical suffering. But this prayer and the cross that Jesus carried is so much more than that. Frankly speaking, everything about Jesus is so much more than we can comprehend. We think we know Jesus and can analyze Jesus from our humanistic viewpoint. But Jesus was so much more self-aware of himself than we can really know.
We so often view Jesus for the 33 years lived in world, 3 years ministry, 3 days cross and resurrection. The Lord's self-awareness goes beyond that - John 8:58. Ravi Zacharias, famed apologist explains that in this verse, Jesus positing his eternal existence. Jesus is very self-aware of his divinity, much more than we know. This is throughout the Bible, when Peter confesses Jesus is Messiah, Jesus says revealed by God. Or in front of Pontius Pilate when asked about being King, Jesus says Kingdom is not of this world. Contrast with Islam, Mohamed started receiving revelation, he didn't even know what was happening.
He received revelation, went told his wife, she said angel is telling him something, so go and listen. There was no self-awareness of what was going on here. Jesus knew exactly who he was, before Abraham was, I am. The Lord is pre-existent before any human being and that awareness itself is an attribute of divine. And so going back, what exactly was this prayer "let this cup be taken"?
We need to see two important qualifications to this prayer from the Son to the Father. First, Jesus says "If it is possible..." and second, "Yet not as I will, but as you will"
When you look at these two qualifiers and the self-awareness of Jesus, it's clear that Jesus was praying for more than just his own physical pain on the cross. It's that the cross is more than just some simple martyrdom. In fact, the cross and resurrection is more than just some simple raising of the dead. There had been other martyrdoms before Jesus, Jesus himself raised 3 people from the dead. The weight of the cross was more than just physical, the weight of the cross was sin of mankind. The weight of the cross is all of mankind and all of history.
What is the cross? It is salvation for all people. Since the time of Adam, sin and death reigned throughout this world. Last week I spoke about this, Christian worldview of death is broken relationship with God. People were in suffering of their broken relationship with God. The cross was the turning point in the battle against Satan and against the darkness of death. The cross is the point of salvation, not just for people around Jesus, but for many to come, us. The cross was the sinless one, undeserved, killed by world and Satan. Yet, by the power of God, this sinless was resurrected, overcame even death itself. So we who are sinful, accept him into our hearts, receive this salvation, eternal life. Jesus knew who he was and knew the cross was redemption for all of mankind.
"If it is possible" is more than just taking away some physical pain of the cross. If there was any other way to redeem mankind, Jesus asks to take that other way. The world is not the way it should be and this prayer is Jesus' lament for the world. If there was any other way to redeem this world, for man restore relationship with God.
This prayer and the events following the prayer showed there was no other way. Jesus Christ is the only possible sacrifice to redeem the world. Jesus carrying the cross is the only possible salvation for this world. This Prayer of Gethsemane shows the eternal struggle coming to this conclusion. It shows God's eternal struggle to come to a conclusion in history.
When people have a big life decision to make, they often ask, "How do we know will of God"? People often have this thinking that Will of God is some clear picture written out in manual. But I think faith is much more complex than that - faith and God's will is a struggle. The Prayer of Gethsemane shows us exactly how Jesus faced this question of will of God. He faced this question completely self-aware, knowing what was coming, and he struggled in prayer. In fact he wanted his disciples to struggle in prayer with him, but they fell asleep.
How do we know the will of God? We struggle in prayer, ourselves and with our loved ones. The Bible doesn't teach us that faith is laid out like some clear path in front of us. Make no mistake, God has will/plan/providence for us, but key part of faith is this struggle. Jesus said it's a narrow path, struggling path - the Christian faith is cross before resurrection. While many other faiths will emphasize the resurrection/glory part of it, Christian faith is very clear that there is the cross we have to carry and there is a struggle in faith.
In our lives, we also face trials, difficulties, we too pray for God's intercession in our lives. Do you face struggles in your family, your work, with your emotions, with your life? Pastor Rick Warren, famous pastor who faced extreme tragedy when he lost his son. As a parent, complete devastation - I'm sure Pastor Warren had his own Gethsemane-type prayers. I'm sure he had his own struggle in faith over this, asking God why? He said when asked God about this devastation, what has power to overcome? The answer is Easter. Truly, that is what Easter is about, the power to overcome the worst in life. Easter is what turns the tragedy of the cross into the victory of resurrection.
If you feel pain, anguish, trouble in your life, look towards the prayer of Jesus at Gethsemane. The path of the cross was a difficult one physically for Jesus, spiritually even more so. Until this point, there was no path to salvation, it was death under the law. Jesus faced pain, humiliation, and horrors, while carrying the weight of history upon him. He knows he is walking this path that changed the course of history for mankind for ever. This prayer was a struggle for meaning, understanding of God's will, path of cross.
In the final verse 46, Jesus says "Rise, let us go!" It was that time of prayer that gave Jesus the power to face the cross. Just like Jesus' Prayer at Gethsemane, I hope prayer has that kind of power in our lives
- Just like Jesus' Prayer at Gethsemane, I hope prayer gives us understanding of God's will.
Truly, the cross was more than just pain/suffering, but the cross means resurrection. The cross and resurrection go hand and hand and that is what the power of Easter is. Today, wish that we can look at the prayer of Gethsemane, how it strengthened the Lord to carry the cross, and how that led to the resurrection and Easter. Wish that you can overcome through prayer, by God's amazing love, and the power of Easter.