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March 17, 2017: Gethsemane

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Today’s Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 6-8Psalm 64Matthew 26:36-56Romans 11:1-24

Matthew 26:36-56:

What a prayer is this—take this cup from me, but not my will, but your will be done (26:39). Jesus is expressing his desire, if it be possible, that the cup of suffering would not be his. At the same time, through this torturous moment, he is both modeling obedience to God as our example, and also by his obedience to God winning for us a crown of righteousness.

The disciples cannot stay awake (26:40). In his hour of need, they are unable to watch with him. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (26:41). So often we find that to be the case; in our true self, we desire to do what is right, but there is another part of us—the finite, the fallen, the sinful and the weak—that is unable to follow where Christ leads. How merciful he is with our weakness as he works atonement for us.

Judas arrives with a great crowd of soldiers (26:47). He betrays Jesus with a kiss (26:48-49). Can you imagine the total betrayal that kiss symbolized? He could have pointed him out, but wanting, perhaps, to hide behind loyalty to Jesus and the disciples, he greets him as usual so that the soldiers know which is the one. Jesus is not fooled: “Friend, do what you came to do” (26:50). As Jesus is arrested, one of those there with him drew his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest (26:51). But Jesus is not here to fight a battle. If he wanted, he could easily win that battle—the Father could send angels to rescue him. But he who lives by the sword dies by the sword (26:52), a truth that is here used to prevent revenge from being enacted on the soldiers. Jesus asks them the pertinent question: why come out with force to capture him when all along day after day he had been in the temple teaching (26:55)? They were afraid of the crowds. But all this took place to fulfill the Scriptures (26:56). Jesus the Master is ensuring that all takes place according to the prophets. And the disciples fled (26:56).

Perhaps you have had times when you have felt like, or actually prayed, “Lord, take this cup from me.” Perhaps you have had a facsimile version of a Garden of Gethsemane in your own life. Here though is the ultimate test: to die, to suffer for another, to bear the sins of the world, the wrath of God, the crucifixion by human hands, and the divine wrath against all human sin. That he bore, and in so bearing it for us, he is able to sympathize with our weaknesses and trials, to come alongside and minister to us out of his great love. When we cannot watch and pray, the Spirit prays for us interceding with wordless groans. This Savior suffered so that our sins might be forgiven, and as a suffering Savior he is able to help us in our weaknesses too. Go to him now, ask him for his strength and power, that though your flesh is weak, his Spirit might strengthen you to continue to follow him in faithfulness.

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