For so many reasons, Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane is one of the most pored over scenes in Scripture by the devout. Wedged between the Last Supper and Judas’ betrayal, the scene shows us Jesus at His most emotional. In John 11:35, Jesus weeps over Lazarus. But in Matthew 26: 36-42; Mark 14: 32-35; Luke 22: 39-44, we see and understand His pain. His tears are like blood. His disciples are sleeping. His anguish is so extreme that an angel is sent to comfort Him. Hebrews 5 describes the desperation of Christ’s prayer, but also the surrounding purpose. Christ had something to learn?
The Whole Story
In the Garden, we see Jesus ask His Father to do something. And we see His Father deny Him. This is the Incarnate Word, the One through Whom all things were made. This God-Man was the lynch-pin of all history. The One Whom the prophets foretold, the Lamb to unmake and remake the world. And in His most desperate prayer, His Father denied Him.
I’m sure faithful pastors have been thundering on these verses since they were still freshly written history, and faithful ministers will be thundering on them still until the very end of history. And there will still be new things for us to learn from Christ’s anguish and courage when this world is in its final week. There are new things for us here right now.
God Says No
God is speaking all around us all the time, crafting every whirring atom in every scene in which we exist. Every one of our moments is divinely bespoke, and when we cry out to Him, He hears us. He answers prayers. But He does not always say yes. Because, while we are often focused on physical comforts (comforts which He invented for us), your comfort is not your highest and best use. The Father denied Christ here, because His purpose was Christ’s glory for eternity, for His Son’s highest and best use…
Feelings should be given to God to be confirmed by Him or to be thrown down. By all means, tell Him what you feel. Be raw and completely honest. But our feelings should never be given the steering wheel. Not even Christ’s feelings in that Garden were given control. How much less should yours be? And Christ’s pleading had an ending. In the story that follows, throughout the passion narrative, we do not see Christ still begging to be relieved of the cup. Think of Him standing in front of Pilate and how changed His demeanor is. Christ pleaded with God. And then, having received His answer, Christ acted. He ran the Father’s play to His own extreme hurt.
We live in a moment in time when feelings are treated like more than just sacred cows. They are treated like sacred black holes, bending light itself with their gravity, bending the very truth. In the face of feelings, truth is treated like blasphemy.
It’s Not About Us. It’s Never Been About Us. Let’s Talk About Us.
Jesus died for you, but He didn’t really die for you. The atonement wasn’t one of those terrible claw games at a grocery store where our Savior paid an enormous price only to discover that we were cheap trash made of itchy, recycled polyester suits. Jesus didn’t get ripped off. And if we were all He had been given, the rip off would have been significant. Jesus glorified the Father. He drank the cup and went to the cross and rose again to glorify the Father. If saving us—if saving you–hadn’t glorified the Father, Jesus wouldn’t have done it. It wasn’t about us. We weren’t worth it! But Restoring the imago dei, raising millennia upon millennia of corrupt dry bones, remaking a race of helpless, hopeless trash into beings that could also please and glorify the Father, that was a miracle of miracles. Our rotten corruption, our darkness, our canker sore hearts—what we brought to the table was an impossible level of difficulty and a manifestation of Christ’s humility. And yet, Christ stooped lower than low and made us new. Yes, He died for us. But He did it for our Father’s glory…
Fatherhood is not protectionism. Fatherhood is preparation. Fatherhood is sending.
Freedom vs Predestination
God shows His work when He chooses to. We love the idea of a radical human freedom that even God defers to. It is a concept that rubs our human fur the right way, because it’s a tasteful basket of fruit left at the feet of our favorite idol…ourselves.
Our Cups, Our Crosses, Our Easter Mornings
We should face our trials, our suffering, our feelings in the same way Christ did. Give them to your true Father, the One Christ leads us to. But once you’ve given them to God, submit to what He chooses to do with them. More than that, labor to live through them and with them in whatever way will bring your Father in Heaven the most glory, knowing that route is never painless. Not even for the most perfect man who ever walked this earth. But on the other side, there is Easter, and joy eternal to dwarf mere hours of pain.
As the school year comes in for a landing, and we launch into another summer, it’s worth giving thought to what you might need to be on the lookout for. Summer is worth preparing for.
It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him (Mk. 1:9-13).
Summary of the Text
Here at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was baptized, filled with the Spirit, and received a benediction from His Father. The same Spirit that anointed Him and sealed the Father’s blessing to Him immediately drove Him into the wilderness, where He faced temptations from Satan, as well as, perhaps various challenges with wild beasts. And when He was finished, the angels ministered to Him. The baptism of Jesus was His preparation for the temptation, but this whole period was His preparation for His entire life and ministry, and so we may take a few lessons from it on the theme of preparing.
Preparing for What’s Next
One of the principles of parenting is preparing your children for what they will face next. When your children are very young, you need to practice saying ‘thank you’ and sitting still for church before you face those situations. First you teach, then you require. Knowing your children well means talking to them about what their temptations are likely to be when they arrive at the next thing. So, what are the temptations likely to be this summer, for you and for your children? What temptations will you face on family vacation? What are the temptations of more free-time? What will you face at a family reunion, on a baseball team, at summer camp, at a summer job, at college next Fall, or with the kids home all day long with you? This is one of the ways we love one another: by thinking about and preparing for what is coming next. In Deuteronomy, God prepared His people for the temptations of the Promised Land: “When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments (Deut. 8:10-11, cf. Dt. 6:12). In our text, we also see how God the Father prepares His Son for a great trial: by blessing Him and speaking to Him and about Him with great love and kindness (Mk. 1:11). There’s an important place for the specific warnings and instructions, but here we see that one of the most important preparations is the preparation of love and kindness: “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This word of the Father becomes the central point of the temptation: “If you are really the Son of God…” Clinging to this word of the Father allowed Jesus to cling to the entirety of God’s word. And we should not miss the fact that this initial trial was also itself preparation for the much greater trial to come (Mt. 26:63, 27:40, 43).
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31-32). Bickering, arguing, unkind teasing, biting sarcasm can creep into homes sometimes imperceptibly. And frequently this means that parents are themselves guilty. Many times adults have enough self-awareness to keep their unkindness tethered to a wobbly pole we might call “good manners.” This doesn’t mean you aren’t being unkind, you’ve just gotten good at being unkind in and around and beside “good manners.” But kids are frequently not quite as socially adept, and therefore, their unkindness is more exposed and raw. When your kids bicker regularly, you should think at least two things: first, they probably got it from you, and second, you may be doing it without knowing it. So do some checking: How do you talk about your children to your spouse or friends? How do you talk about them, even when they aren’t right there listening to you? How do you talk to or about your spouse? How does the Father speak to and about His Son? And you might object that the Father had a perfectSon, but the Bible is clear that we are called to imitate our perfectFather anyway: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). There is a time to ask for counsel about a difficulty, but even that request should be made in imitation of the Father, full of kindness and delight. You prepare well for anything when you practice kindness.
A Grab Bag of Other Temptations
Summertime can be an opportunity for the devil to tempt you sexually. This may be related to people thinking that it’s OK not to wear most of their clothes if they’re within 100 yards of a body of water, but if you know it’s coming, prepare yourself now. And this goes for those who may be tempted to undress that way because, well, everyone else is doing it. The Bible is clear that lust begins in the heart, and is adultery in the heart, and this goes for those who are tempted to look and for those who are tempted to try to get the looks (Mt. 5:27-30). But this warning can also apply to courtships, engagements, unwise friendships, Netflix, and cell phones. And remember that Jesus said to cut off the hands and eyes that cause us to sin, which if you think about it, would be painful and awkward, and so it may mean ditching a friendship, finding a different job, or getting a dumb phone. Related to lust is the sin of envy. Prepare your hearts not to envy the summer break of someone else. Some of you will go on vacations to the Bahamas and some of you will work 60 hours a week to barely pay your bills. Some of you will get new houses or cars or girlfriends, and some of you will still be in the beater you inherited from gramps and as single as the pope at the end of summer. Determine now that you will praise God for it all, and that you will rejoice with those who rejoice. Finally, be prepared for temptations to be lazy, either fighting sin or indulging your appetites. Drunkenness is a sin, even if nobody around you can tell that you’re drunk, and so is getting “drunk” on pot or pain killers (Eph. 5:18, 1 Thess. 5:7).
Conclusion: Crush Your Summer
But the point of all of this is not merely to stay out of trouble. The point is actually that you put some thought into how you will use your summer to maximize the glory you can bring to God. As John Piper might put it, don’t waste your summer. You not only want to plan to avoid sin; you also want to plan to succeed, plan to accomplish, plan to draw closer to God, closer to your people, and grow in holiness. When September comes around, you want to look back and see progress in the fruit of the Spirit. And one of the best ways you can ensure that you grow is to make sure you plan to eat. Remember, man doesn’t live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. So plan to binge on the Bible this summer. Don’t go light on Scripture. Be extreme in the Word. Guzzle it. Feast on it. Not because you haveto but because you getto. Because His Word is good. Because when we come hungry His Word is always ultimately kindness and blessing.
- 1. Deut. 6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
- A. The foundation: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
- B. The greatest commandment: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength
- Can you legislate love?
- C. Heart, Soul, and Strength?
- 2. Leviticus 19:17-18, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
- A. The second: Love your neighbour
- 3. The greatest commandments – not in conflict
- A. Mark 12:35-44 – How not to obey the greatest commandments