Fast - Day Three
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Yesterday I reflected on Genesis 22, and how Abraham was tasked with killing his own son.
Another thing that struck me is that Abraham went to that place, and in the final moment before killing his son, the passage shows no record of hesitation. What anguish he must have gone through in trusting God in that moment, just before the angel’s voice stopped him.
Which made me think of the anguish Christ went through in being the Son of God, approaching his death. How heavy his heart must have been, even though he knew it was purposeful and He had submitted His will to the Father’s. Our God did not take His work lightly, and we can see the agony in how he wept in prayer in the garden at Gethsemane.
Matthew 26:36-46 ESV
36) Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." (37) And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. (38) Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." (39) And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." (40) And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? (41) Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (42) Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." (43) And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. (44) So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. (45) Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (46) Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand."
Verse 37 and 38 present Christ’s condition in facing death: sorrowful and troubled. Verse 39 and 42 show us that he was basically saying "if there’s any other way to do this, to reconcile people to You, let's go with that other option. But I know that your plan is good and your will is the way it will be." He knew He was the only one capable of drinking the cup of the cross of death to pay for our sins. He was the only pure sacrifice, so He submit to the Father, even though it caused Jesus great grief and anguish.
In fact, Luke’s gospel relates that he sweat blood, which can only happen under the most extreme stress and intense spiritual agony.
Luke 22:41-44 ESV
41) And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, (42) saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." (43) And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. (44) And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
I find it fascinating that an angel came down and strengthened Him, but Jesus used that strength to pray "more earnestly," to the point that He sweat blood. I know I’ve never sweat blood, but I ask myself if I’ve ever felt such anguish? Surely, many of us like to think we’ve endured more suffering than others, or that our specific suffering was at least a little more intense an insufferable than that of others. I thought I was so special in my suffering when growing up, because my mother committed suicide, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else having to deal with that. I thought I’d lost more than anyone else ever had, and endured more than anyone else could comprehend. I was an ignorant and prideful young man, using my loss to get pity and attention, expecting a better life because of how bad mine had been.
Ridiculous. Not only have other people around the world endured suffering I can hardly imagine, they have suffered circles around me, suffering WELL in their trials, facing their lot with dignity and integrity and humility.
Jesus endured more than we can imagine, the very shadow of the cross looming in His near future weighing Him down, yet He did not break under its weight...He stood before it with great grief and agonizing anguish, yet also with faith and trust in God the Father: submission to His Will.
Today’s song was written by Horatio Spafford. I offer three versions of it...one a rough mix of live worship by a funky/soulful/bluesy band from my church, the second an acoustic version performed live at the Passion '05 concert, and the third an album cut by a mainstream Christian rock band.
IT IS WELL
By: The Brothers of the Empty Tomb
By: Shane and Shane
By: By The Tree
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well (it is well)
with my soul (with my soul).
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.
Lord God, thank You that because of Your suffering, my suffering is put into the context of looking to a future with You. As Paul says in Romans 8:18..."For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Yet Your suffering allowed a future of us reconciled with You, for by Your suffering on the cross You conquered Satan, sin, and death. Let my hunger, now and always, not only remind me to pray and depend entirely on You, but also to remember Your suffering, so that I never take the cross and the Gospel for granted.