Monday, April 04, 2011

April 4, 2011 … Jesus’ Struggle in Gethsemane

Passage of the Day: Matthew 26: 37- 38 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with Him, and He began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then He said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me."

My Journal for Today: Today’s passage takes us to Christ’s time at Gethsemane, where I believe, as depicted in Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of The Christ, Jesus had one final spiritual battle with His arch enemy, Satan. However, unlike the encounter reported in the wilderness in Matthew 4 or Luke 4, Jesus did not have his full ministry and life ahead of Him. No, this time, His walk on this earth and His ministry were almost completely behind Him, … except what lay before Him on the cross at Golgotha. This time in the garden, battling His flesh and Satan, was to be one of His fiercest battles yet; and the way He dealt with this spiritual encounter is a model for all of us.

In Matt. 4 and Luke 4, we read of how our Lord used God’s word, the Sword of the Spirit, to slash away at the ploys and temptations of Satan. But here, in the Gethsemane encounter, we read how Christ took what I call “the high ground” in battle; and that is prayer. And Christ’s attitude in taking the high ground was one of total submission to His Father. The high ground is always the best place to be in battle; because there we can see the enemy more easily and we can hold the advantage of Godly perspective, rather than relying on the internal, lower, perspective of our own selves. But when we come to that high place on the spiritual battlefields of life, totally surrendered to God, He will lead us in the battles.

I just love the scriptural picture of taking the high ground of prayer in battle in Exodus 17, verses 8 – 13, where Moses had to lead God’s people in battle the Amalekites. Read this and take note of the submissive posture of Moses as he took the high ground for the battle …

SCRIPTURE: Exod. 17: 8 - 13 ... 8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands." 10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Somewhat like Moses, needing the support of other believers Aaron and Hur, Jesus, in today’s passage, also asked His friends, Peter, James, and John to wait and pray with Him there in the Garden. And it’s always a good strategy in spiritual battle to have a cohort of warriors to stand with you as you head to the high ground of prayer. However, we know from this passage in Matt. 26 that Jesus’ friends were not up to the task; and they failed our Lord by falling asleep on their watch. The surrendered will of these warriors was just not where it needed to be to help Jesus in this time of trial. With Moses, however, in the passage from Exod. 17, Aaron and Hur were up to the task; and they provided the vigilance and support needed for Moses to be in submission to God’s will; and the victory was God’s. But, interestingly enough, though it looked bad for Peter, James, and John in their faithlessness and lack of vigilance, God’s will also prevailed in the end with Jesus, Who was in total surrender to the will of God, the Father, establishing God’s eternal victory on the cross, and our Lord’s prayer in the garden, from the highest ground possible, was fully adequate to defeat Satan as the Christ marched to the cross.

I believe Jesus, in His relationship with believers is constantly asking us to stand watch in prayer with Him. That was the essence of Paul’s exhortation (from God’s Spirit) in 1Thes. 5: 17 … to live in an attitude of prayer continually. Yes, our prayer vigilance is continually needed as we wear God’s full armor and we wield His Spirit Sword in battle. We read in Eph. 6: 13 – 18 of wearing God’s full armor and carrying His Spirit Sword into battle, first and foremost in prayer (see v. 18). This requires us to be surrendered to God’s will and humble to receive His grace so that we can have the strength of will required to take the high ground and be vigilant to hold it with our prayer. Jesus has warned us, as He did His three close friends and relatives, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." [reading ahead to Matt. 26: 41] And I don’t know about you; but I don’t want to fail my Savior, let alone myself, my family, and my brothers/sisters in Christ. So, I strive to be on watch and vigilant as I follow Jesus in battle.

And I pray that I can (that we all can) stand in prayer on the high ground and be vigilant enough to watch for the enemy as we battle him daily. The irony for me is that today I have been an absolute failure (see my confession below); and my first prayer, upon awaking this morning, was to claim God’s promise of 1st John 1: 9 [I’m sure you know that one by now], confessing my slothful sin and asking for cleansing and restoration as I know our Lord can/will do when we pray humbly for restoration. Jesus did it for Peter when he failed; and I know He’ll do it for me.

A Hypocrite’s Note: What an irony of stinging conviction! I’m posting this self-convicting message today as a complete hypocrite. This very morning I had made a commitment to join a number of my church brothers/sisters in a prayer vigil which began on April first, called ”21 Days of Prayer.” This prayer emphasis was to bring a cohort of prayer warriors to gather early in the mornings at our church for the 21 Days prior to Easter to pray for our God to bring His power to bear on a lot of the challenges we face in spiritual warfare in our church, our community, and our culture. But this morning I woke up, not setting my alarm to be at our designated church prayer vigil, and like Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, I was a no-show, falling asleep on His charge to watch and pray. And right now I’m feeling a bit like James, John, and Peter must’ve felt, getting the stinging rebuke of their Messiah. If I were Aaron or Hur, I would have failed my brother, Moses, and the battle Joshua was to fight would have been lost. So let me register my prayer of contrition today.

My Prayer Today: Lord, forgive me for my failure to stand on the high ground of prayer with my brothers and sisters in Christ this morning. But Lord, take me that high-ground right now; and help me to hold it – for You – the rest of today and the remaining length of this prayer vigil at our Church. Help me, Lord, to be in continual prayer to be ever vigilant. Amen

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