Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“We are assured and know that God being a partner in (our) labor, all things work together and are fitting into a plan for good to and for those who love God and are called according to His design and purpose.”
Romans 8: 28
Today’s Study Text:
“And going a little farther, He threw Himself upon the ground on His face and prayed saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from Me.’”
Matthew 26: 39
“The Unanswered Prayer That Saved the World”
“God our Savior…desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
I Timothy 2: 3-4
Have I contemplated Christ’s words in the Garden, “Let this cup pass from Me,” and thought what would have been the result in my own life if Christ had not chosen to drink of the cup of bitter pain and sacrifice?
“Jesus was in a garden, not of delight as the first Adam in which he (Adam) destroyed himself and the whole human race, but in one of agony, in which he saved Himself and the whole human race.”
“Let the fact of what our Lord suffered for you grip you, and you will never again be the same.”
Oliver B. Greene
There are many times when I’ve read Matthew 26, especially the story of Jesus going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before He was crucified. However, during these few weeks when we have devoted our study to the topic of delayed and unanswered prayers, the particular verse found in Matthew 26: 39, struck me in a way like never before.
There are five specific phrases in this text which I want to look at today, as we reflect on words which contain the record of Jesus’ prayer to His Father.
1. “And He went a little further”: As Jesus entered the Garden, he plunged into a darkness, not just brought on by the setting of the sun. No, this darkness contained the poisonous miasma of a sin-polluted world, where evil came face-to-face with the sinless Son of God. We find that rather than shrinking back from the crisis He faced, Christ, we are told, went “further in” to confront all that would seek to forever destroy the opportunity for any of us to find personal redemption or as the Greek translation tells us – deliverance, a freedom completely unknown to every person on earth since the toxin of sin enveloped Eden’s perfect home. I love how The Message Bible paraphrases Christ’s confrontation with evil. This text is found in Hebrews 9: 14, “Christ offered Himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God.”
2. “(He) fell on his face, and prayed”: Not only did Jesus press forward into the darkness to confront the battle, but He did so until His own strength could not hold him. We are told that Jesus “fell to the ground and prayed.” As I read these words I asked myself, “How many times have I pressed forward, thinking that in my own strength I could handle all that life threw at me, only to find that my human strength wasn’t up for the challenge?” In the Garden of Gethsemane, we find the human Jesus needing the heavenly strength of His Father – the very same Father who promises His strength is given to those who ask for it today. As one person so beautifully penned:
“The way is long, my child, but it shall be
Not one step longer than is best for thee;
And thou shalt know at last, when thou shalt stand
Close to the gate, how I did take thy hand
And quick and straight led thee
to heaven’s gate, My child!”
3. “O My Father”: How touching to find that in Christ’s moment of deepest agony, when permanent separation from His Father was the wicked thought the evil one waved in front of God’s Son, that the unbreakable bond between the Father and Son was found to be welded in such a permanent relationship that it is from the very beginning throughout eternity. Edith Lillian Young poetically wrote about how the Father’s love for His Son is the same is love which penetrates into each one of our lives when she penned these words:
"A Father to the fatherless-
That's what He says He'll be;
A Father tender, strong and true -
That's what He is to me!
A Father who knows all my heart,
Yet loves me just the same;
Oh, do you wonder that I love
To call Him this dear name?"
As my dear friend Myrt always writes, “Abba, Father.”
4. “If it be possible”: In the Greek, the word “possible” is translated to mean “strong power.” I find this so insightful as we reflect on the fact that the Creator of heaven and earth was asking His Father, “if it be possible…is the power strong enough?” Oh, yes, the power was strong enough to release God’s Son from the darkness of earth’s sinful pit and sweep Him into the grandeur of heaven’s glory. Yet we find that this sinless Son, instead, chose to cast His lot with you and me. Edward Taylor so touchingly captures the choice Jesus made on our behalf when he wrote, “God’s only Son doth hug humanity into His very person.” This is the love exemplified in Christ Jesus. And as Athanasius wrote many years ago, Jesus became, “What we are, that He might make us what He is.”
5. “Let this cup pass”: How many times have you or I thought in our own lives, “If only this time could pass by. If only this would go away!” And yet, our own times of distress or affliction not only continue, but may seem to worsen. This was the life of humanity, the feelings of humanity felt by Jesus. For every time in each of our own lives, when sorrow and heartache seem like a storm whose howling winds not only continue to blow but leave behind devastating havoc in their wake, the cry that we send heavenward, “Oh please let this pass,” is the very same cry God’s Son called out to His Father in His moment of deepest misery. As the disciple Matthew recorded in Matthew 8: 17, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, ‘Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.’” A Saviour who, like you and me, understands what it is to suffer, to cry and yes, to ask that our trials pass away.
In the words of Ibsen Brand:
"What was the answer of God's love
Of old when in the olive-grove
In anguish - sweat His own Son lay,
And prayed 'O God, take this cup away?'
Did God take from Him then the cup?
No, child, His Son (did) drink it up."
How thankful you and I can be that there’s not one drop of evil’s wrath in the cup you and I may be asked to drink for it was Jesus, our precious Saviour, who took all the bitter out of our cup and left behind in its place His cup of love!
"O child of God! Are you lying crushed
'Neath trial, pain or woe?
No eye to pity, no ear to hear,
No voice to whisper low?
Alone in your Gethsemane,
Christ watches with you there;
He will not suffer one ounce of weight
More than your strength can bear."
Annie Johnson Flint
“Perhaps sorrows have overwhelmed you…Still you can have happiness. Your sorrow is meant to be a strength-giver to you, and to equip you for giving strength to others. You are called by your Gethsemane to render the highest service…Christ called His three favorite disciples to watch outside while He wrestled in agony within the garden. He calls you to share with Him in that wrestling; could He give you greater honor? Could He bring you into closer fellowship?”
Mrs. Charles Cowman
"I think that God is proud of those who bear
A sorrow bravely.
Proud indeed of them who walk straight
through the dark to find him there,
and kneel in faith to touch His garment's hem.
Oh, proud of them who lift their heads and shake
the tear away from eyes that have grown dim;
Who tighten quivering lips, and turn to take
The only road that leads to Him.
How proud He must be of them.
He who knows all sorrow, and how hard
grief is to bear.
I think He sees them coming,
and He goes with outstretched arms
and hands to meet them there,
And with a look - a touch, on hand or heart -
Each finds (her) hurt heart comforted."
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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