Saturday, June 25, 2011

Father if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will but Yours, be done

Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation." And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will but Yours, be done." Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. When He rose up from prayer and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, "Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation."

And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, "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 answered and said, "Permit even this." And He touched his ear and healed him.

- Luke 22:39-51

In yesterday's reading, Jesus taught Peter that he would be tested -- that "Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat," that Peter would deny Him. Jesus said that He prayed that Peter's faith would not fail, and that He would return to Him and strengthen his brethren. He reminded His disciples that when He first sent them out, they took nothing for the journey, and wanted nothing. But now persecution has changed that: "But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack, and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: 'And He was numbered with the transgressors.' For the things concerning Me have an end." So they took two swords with them. See "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me."

Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation." Throughout these passages of trial and ordeal, we have a repeated emphasis on the power of prayer and its necessity in our lives. My study bible notes that "one of the fundamental purposes of prayer is to strengthen us against temptation in terms of inner sin and outward trials." Prayer keeps us in that place where we need to be, emphasizing our desires for "Thy will be done" and helping us to find our way through difficult times, and towards discernment. It is our greatest tool for strength.

And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will but Yours, be done." Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Repeatedly in Luke's Gospel, prayer is for Jesus as breathing between exertion of any kind: He prays at every juncture in His ministry, He prays for strength, He prays between every act - especially of spectacular healing or sign. Here there is a repeated emphasis on prayer in this time of terrible agony. He is encountering His greatest challenge. Not only are we taught that He prayed, but also again that He "prayed more earnestly" in His agony. If it was so necessary for Christ Himself, can there be any more powerful reminder of how we need this in our lives? Always, Jesus prays as He has taught us: "Your will be done." In all things, He has manifested the Father to us.

When He rose up from prayer and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, "Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation." Again, there is a repetition of the power of the prayer and what it is for. "Pray, lest you enter into temptation" teaches us all what it is to pray, and why. In yesterday's reading, Jesus taught Peter that Satan wanted to "sift him like wheat." Let us understand that temptation for anything, for the wrong road, the bad choice, comes to all of us in such dark times of fear and agony, and what our greatest weapon is at that time.

And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" And finally the betrayal comes. The words of Jesus are calm and yet say so much: a betrayal with a kiss! My study bible says, "Son of Man is an expression that Jesus used for Himself which could mean (1) simply 'man' -- that is, 'me' -- or (2) the heavenly figure of Daniel 7:13, a title which both revealed and veiled Jesus' messianic identity." It seems to me that this expression, used in this way, indicates the incarnate Christ in all His vulnerability -- and in some way, it is all of us as well. We are all betrayed with that kiss as we are all betrayed by the "prince of this world" that Christ has come to displace with His own kingdom. And this once again strengthens the need for the power of prayer for each of us!

When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, "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 answered and said, "Permit even this." And He touched his ear and healed him. My study bible says that this means "permit the arrest and let events take their course in fulfillment of God's will." This phrase is translated in different ways in other texts, but it seems to make sense this way: that He is addressing His disciples, and telling them to allow what is happening. So we have a picture here of Jesus in fervent, repeated prayer, praying for the Father's will, and with the strength of acceptance. And so He teaches His disciples.

Have you ever gone through a bad experience, one of perhaps tremendous injustice, and wondered why it has been so? Has it seemed to you proper to wonder why you should allow it perhaps without a greater fight? Or maybe in prayer, a kind of surrender to the facts, that this is what one must accept. I have been through many such situations, and I always, in the end, turn in prayer with a feeling that for some reason, this is "permitted." It's an experience of the cross, if you will, to do the best we can as best we can discern what God wants of us -- but ultimately we may find ourselves in some sense suffering and accepting. I feel this is a part of our journey in life, with the cross that we take up daily as He has taught us. It is, I feel, a process of witnessing that we undergo, as He has taught that a trial can be a time for testimony and for faith. But prayer is the great weapon for strength. You just might find, as I have, that what we have in the outcome gives us a new perspective, a new way to look at our lives, a different outlook of a plan for the future. In the long run, I have found the outcome to be something spiritually (and otherwise) good for me. Jesus set us the great example, and we look forward to the unfolding of what is to come -- with prayer! And "Thy will be done."