Luke 22:24-46
Midweek Lent 1

✠ In the name of Jesus ✠

    Perhaps it seems strange to you that Jesus would pray.  I remember as a child wondering who it was that Jesus prayed to, since He’s God.  Is He talking to Himself?  What’s going on?  Of course, we know that even from before creation, there has been an eternal conversation going on among the persons of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  So it’s perfectly natural that the Son of God would speak to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is part of their everlasting union and communion with one another.

    But with the incarnation of Jesus, there is an additional and very important element added.  He is now praying not only as true God, the Son of the Father, but also true man, our fully human brother.  Behold the Man, Jesus, who prays as one of us, who leads a life of faith and trust in the Father as a perfect human being.  When we say that we are saved by faith, one of the things we mean is that we are saved by Jesus’ faith, by Jesus’ trust in the Father and His faithful following of the Father’s Word and will.  If you ever find yourself struggling in your faith, if your faith feels weak and fading, don’t try to work up more faith in yourself somehow.  Rely on Jesus’ faith; cling to His perfect trust and faithfulness; take refuge in Him who took refuge in the goodness and love of His Father.  That’s what Christian faith is.  That’s how we come to know the Father as good and loving toward us.null

    To have faith in God is to pray to God.  Prayer is the exercise of faith.  So that’s what Jesus does, throughout His ministry, and particularly here in His Passion.  And we see that Jesus is praying as a true human being, because He expresses a will that is different from the Father’s.  Think about that!  For our sakes, Jesus has emptied Himself of His divine powers, and He faces His suffering on our behalf as a man, without any of His divinity to diminish it or mitigate it.  And His truly human will quite obviously wants to avoid the hellish afflictions He’s about to undergo if at all possible, if there’s some other way.  “Father, if it is possible, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me.”  

    The cup that Jesus is referring to there is the cup of judgment, like a cup of poison that will cause Him to die a slow, agonizing death.  By drinking this cup for us, He will take away the judgment of sin that stood against us.  Only in this way can we be saved.  Only by Jesus submitting to the Father’s will are we rescued.  And Jesus does submit; He obeys.  “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”  That is our salvation.  Behold the Man, who submits His fully human will to the Father’s will in perfect obedience.  Where we had asserted our human will against the Father, wanting to do things our own way and make ourselves the greatest and avoid the narrow way, Jesus says, “Thy will be done.”  He restores our humanity by bringing the divine and the human will back together, back in line with each other.  He restores us to communion with the Father by His obedience and His willingness to serve and to suffer.

    And we see that suffering already beginning here in the Garden.  It was in the Garden of Eden that man first fell under the curse.  And so it is fittingly here in this garden that Jesus begins to bear the full weight and pressure of the curse.  The name Gethsemane literally means “oil press.”  It was part of an olive grove where the oil was pressed out of the olives.  Here, Jesus is pressed down in a similar way, under the crushing burden of the world’s sin and the judgment we deserved.  Imagine the anxiety and the stress you would feel if you knew what was coming on you like Jesus did, if you knew that tomorrow you would be dying a slow, agonizing, and torturous death.  Here in Gethsemane, Jesus is pressed in such a way that His blood is forced from His pores.  It is written, “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.”  

    Medical experts describe this condition where a person is under such duress and stress that the capillaries in their skin actually begin to burst, and the blood mixes together with the nervous sweat.  This is what Jesus is experiencing here.  Even before anyone can arrest Him and do Him harm, already He is shedding His blood for us.  Remember this when you are undergoing stress, when anxiety seems to dominate your mind and your life, when there seems to be no way out from underneath your burdens and whatever it is you’re dealing with.  Remember Jesus, who has been there, who knows just what you’re going though–and more–and who provided the way out through His suffering and into the resurrection.

    It is written in 1 Corinthians 10, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  Here in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see the way of escape.  It is Christ who, when put to the test, was faithful.  After Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, the Gospel of Luke records that the devil left Him “until an opportune time.”  This is that time, where Jesus is tempted to turn away from the Father’s will.  But He doesn’t.  He follows through on your behalf.  

    And now He says to the disciples and to you, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  Pray in the name of Jesus, who conquered sin and Satan for you.  Take refuge in Him when you are put to the test and lured away from God’s Word and God’s will.  Cling to Christ for mercy and forgiveness and for strength to endure in the faith until the end.  He is your Mediator, your Intercessor, your Advocate before the Father, speaking in your defense, appealing on your behalf by the virtue of His shed blood.  In the time of trial He has promised that He will never leave you or forsake you.  Learn to pray with Christ, “Not my will, but Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

✠ In the name of Jesus ✠