Sermon Follow Up - Week 35, 2021
All of what we’re going to consider in this message is going to be happening on this Mount of Olives. Other gospels mention the specific name of the portion of the Mount he goes to…namely, the Garden of Gethsamane. So with two swords in hand, ready to take on whatever comes their way, the disciples follow Jesus into the garden and what we come to is more teaching of Jesus. Teaching not as much by words as teaching by action. Christian discipleship is both, isn’t it? It’s not just growing in knowing more information about some important things as important as that is..., it is, at the very core, becoming a learner of Christ. Slowly, ever so slowly, yet surely, the disciples are learning Christ. And in the garden on this very, very difficult and sorrowful night, they will learn Christ some more. And by the Spirit’s power, may each of us who also feel the slow, plodding nature of learning Christ come to know what Jesus is teaching and be not only encouraged, but better equipped to live a life of increasing faith amid even severe difficulty.
“And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”” (Luke 22:39–53 ESV)
Fervent and believing prayer provides the people of God with precisely what is needed in the face of even the severest of difficulties.
SUBPOINTS AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1. Fervent Prayer Prepares God’s People for Difficulty
Consider the context here just for a moment. You might imagine Jesus and his disciples walking into the garden area together having just been together for this meal where he had taught so many things to them, having had Judas depart from the room to get on his way to do what he was going to do, and having the very real human emotion of anxiety and apprehension and fear of what was going to face him that very night. Further betrayal. Further denial. Loneliness. Significant pain – emotional pain, relational pain, physical pain – along with a humiliating death. But that’s not all that faces him. The significant agony that verse 44 speaks of isn’t only about all of that – if that’s not enough – it speaks of something infinitely more. And it has to do with “the cup” that Jesus speaks of in verse 42. The cup he speaks of is what induced the greatest agony.
“His horror was not, then, at death [simply], as a passage out of the world, but because he had before his eyes the dreadful tribunal of God, and the Judge Himself armed with inconceivable vengeance; it was our sins, the burden of which he had assumed, that pressed him down with their enormous mass . . . [and] tormented him grievously with fear and anguish (John Calvin).
NOTE: Consider watching/listening to the Good Friday Narrative from 2 years ago to understand this more keenly.
With this kind of weight and sorrow and anguish, Jesus enters the garden with his disciples. And there is time for one thing and one thing alone. Prayer. This is why he’s headed to this place…to pray.
- Prayer would prepare their hearts and their minds and keep them from giving way to the temptation amid severe testing to handle things on their own and to fall into despair and doubt.
- Prayer would prepare their hearts and their minds and keep them from failing the test when the time came. And the test, or the tests, will certainly come. Tempations, trials, tribulations are all part of this world. Sorrows, struggles, difficult events, grief, and so much more will be our experience in this life from time to time.
The temptation that we face begins with the temptation to question the heart and purposes of God – the one to whom and for whom you belong. And that leads to resisting him. Which leads to rejecting him. Which leads to opposing him. Which results in falling away from him. I’ve called that the trajectory of rejection in week’s past. But one thing we can learn in this text is that prayer…real dependent and fervent believing prayer nips that in the bud and prepares God’s people for difficulty.
- How does Jesus experiencing real and truly infinite agony inform how you think about how he can sympathize with your current difficulty? Does that encourage you? If so, how? How might it inform how you pray to him?
- Do you believe that fervent prayer truly will KEEP you from entering into temptation?
- How is your prayer life? Would your current prayer life serve to be something that prepares you for difficulty?
2. Fervent Prayer Positions God’s People to Entrust Ourselves to the Will of God.
“…“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”” (Luke 22:42 ESV)
Jesus was in utter distress over what was going to be taking place in just a few short hours. The eternal Son of God longed to be delivered from the will of God in this sovereign and severe difficulty that was approaching. He pled to be delivered. He knew the will of God, didn’t he? But still…he longed for it not to have to be this way. The eternal Son of God, God Himself, the second person of the Trinity, in this difficult and dark moment, desired for the will of God the Father to be accomplished some other way. Jesus isn’t itching to go through the dreadful suffering that is coming.
But there was something he desired more than his own desire to have this cup of suffering removed. It was to see God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And in prayer he postured himself under the will of God.
And friends, this is just a hint of good news for us, you know? Amid our proud ramblings and actions stands our faithful Savior having served us perfectly in his life and death, now resurrected and ascended, teaching us, guiding us, patiently working with us and being our Good Shepherd and telling us things like:
Jesus empowers us to follow his example in surrendering our own will to the will of God. It is not wrong to tell God what we truly desire, but even the good things we want must always be surrendered to the superior wisdom of his fatherly will. “Thy will be done” is one of the main petitions in the daily prayer that Jesus taught us to pray. Thus our Lord calls us to pray this way through all the hard situations in life. It is what we pray about our losses and sorrows. It is what we pray for our ministry, in all its sufferings. It is what we pray about our situation in life right now, with all its difficulties and discouragements. It is what we pray about the things in the future we wish that we could control and about everything beyond our power that we would give anything to change. We say, “Father, not my will, but yours, be done” (Philip G. Ryken).
You have been praying, certainly, and I’ve been assured of that by many people. A relevant question, I guess, when you pray is, Pray for what? Should you pray for a miracle? Above all, I would say pray for the glory of God. If you think of God glorifying Himself in history and you say, where in all of history has God most glorified Himself? He did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t by delivering Jesus from the cross, though He could have. Jesus said, “Don’t you think I could call down from my Father twelve legions of angels for my defense?” But he didn’t do that. And yet that’s where God is most glorified. If I were to reflect on what goes on theologically here (at Tenth Presbyterian Church), there are two things I would stress. One is the sovereignty of God. That’s not novel. We have talked about the sovereignty of God here forever. God is in charge. When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental. It’s not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something slipped by. God does everything according to His will. We’ve always said that. But what I’ve been impressed with mostly is something in addition to that. It’s possible, isn’t it, to conceive of God as sovereign and yet indifferent—God’s in charge, but He doesn’t care. But it’s not that. God is not only the one who is in charge; God is also good. Everything he does is good. . . . If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you’d change it, you’d make it worse. It wouldn’t be as good. So that’s the way we want to accept it and move forward, and who knows what God will do? (Dr. James Boice, quoted in the Reformed Expository Commentary)
What was it that was on the mind of Jesus in the Garden? Was it not the glory of God? When we pray we don’t bring our will and demand God to do something. When we pray we bring our every request and desire and longing of our hearts and lay them before our loving, infinitely wise and good Father. And yet, we pray that the deepest desire and the deepest longing of our hearts would be, like the heart of Jesus, no matter how difficult the path, to see the glory of God shining brightly and the salvation of his people accomplished.
- Are you in sorrow, or experiencing struggle, right now? Do you regularly pray, "Lord, is there any other way? Is it at all possible that you would remove the difficulty from our lives?" How does knowing that Jesus did the same encourage you in that?
- What does submitting, or surrendering, to the will of God look like in your life? And how does it make its way into your prayers for yourself, and for others?
3. Fervent Prayer Provides the Strength We Require
Luke reports that Jesus “rose from prayer,” which means more than he stopped praying and stood up. It implies that he was buoyed from prayer in contrast to the disciples who were sleeping from “grief.” He becomes a model of how to pray to resist temptation and now is able to give himself over to his enemies. (David Garland).
Fervent and believing prayer strengthened Jesus for the severe testing to come. He rose, ready for this next, exceedingly difficult task he was to complete. Ready for Judas to come with the crowd in verse 47 and betray him with a kiss. Ready to call out the chief priests, officers of the temple and elders for their continued hypocrisy. And ready to entrust himself entirely to God in the face of even the power of darkness.
The disciples, though, were not like that. They faced the oncoming grief and struggle not by fervent prayer, but fell prey to, as our text says, sleeping from sorrow. sleep and in the end were entirely unprepared, left without strength to sustain them in the face of the testing. And what we see later in our text and in next week’s text is the result. When the trial comes, the self-sufficient swords come out. When the trial comes, a disciple denies the one to whom he just promised he’d never leave. And the other gospels tell us that when the trial comes, all his disciples ran away and left him. In other words, they fell into temptation on account of their prayerlessness.
The devil is aware that one hour of close fellowship, of hearty converse with God in prayer, is able to pull down what he hath been contriving and building many a year. (John Flavel)
The result of prayerlessness left unchecked, unrepented of, will result in our entering into the strong temptation to self-suffiency, trusting in ourselves and in our own solutions apart from God which will fail us in the end, or will result in a denial of the Son of God or at the very least keeping our heads down looking to save our own skin amid the opposition that the Lord Jesus has stated emphatically would come to his own.
There is strength to be received in prayer. Spiritual strength. Emotional strength. Psychological strength. Physical strength. Strength to endure. Strength to face hardship. Strength to face severe testing. Apart from prayer, strength is minimal and temporal and fleeting. Apart from prayer we’re left to the ultimately useless swords of our own strength we bring to the battle.
Prayer establishes roots in divine soil that not only absorbs its nutrients but also holds one securely when the winds of testing batter one's faith (David Garland).
Do you see? What a weapon against the enemies devices prayer is. When we pray we aren’t just working on a spiritual discipline as though just something that we should be doing as a Christian. We pray to tap into the power of God and the sufficiency of God. To know his will, to entrust ourselves to his will, to surrender to his will. We pray to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to him. We pray to gain the mind of Christ. We pray to receive grace and power and joy and rest and contentment. Far from any religious obligation, prayer is a gift to enjoy and be strengthened by.
- What are the self-sufficient swords you bring to the difficulties that the Lord has brought to your life? Anger? Unbelief? Distrust? Fear? Uncertainty
- What is it that’s battering your faith today? Do you believe that fervent prayer will buoy your faith?
If I understand Gethsemane at all, it means that Jesus loves me even more than I can imagine. It is not just that he died for me, but that he died this horrible, damnable, God-forsaken death that no one would ever want to die. He died this death because there was no other way for sinners to be saved, no easier road to redemption, no alternative to the cross. Jesus thus volunteered to do what the Father willed, choosing to do the one thing that would bring the most suffering to his body and soul (Philip G. Ryken).
- Pray to prepare.
If you're in a good place, pray. Pray... to prepare for the day of trouble that when that day of trouble comes you don't lose heart and stray from the faith. If you're currently in a difficult place, pray. Pray...that you would not enter into the temptation to question the goodness of God and begin to travel the road/trajectory of rejection.
- Pray with an awareness of the good and perfect will of God.
Amid your requests that are laced with sorrow and varied, good desires, tell the Lord "nevertheless, your will be done." Submit to him in dependent prayer as you make your requests known to him.
- Pray to gain strength.
No magic here. Just promises that when we pray He listens, and cares for us, and strengthens us. Don't lose heart in the difficulty. Pray through the tempations to cave. Pray through the difficulties with even more fervency. Strength is the guaranteed provision.
- John 13:1-17:26
- Ephesians 6:10-18
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
- Romans 12:12
- Acts 4:23-31
Songs to Encourage