Wednesday, August 31, 2016

31 August 2016
“They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” Mark 14:32-36 (NRSV)
“So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him.” John 8:28-30 (NRSV)
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.” John 15:26-27 (NRSV)

            Good morning, welcome. Thank you for joining me. Today we are setting aside the Sermon on the Mount to consider another important event in Jesus’ life-Gethsemane. We will be focusing on why Jesus asks the Father to take the cup away; why His upcoming death produced such intense anxiety that Luke would say his sweat fell like blood. Now, you’re probably thinking-well, that’s a no-brainer. Jesus is about to be thoroughly humiliated, tortured to a point just short of death, then crucified, an act of unimaginably brutal torture in and of itself. And you are right, all those things are true. But there is something more here, something going on behind the scenes that brings this whole event into sharper focus, which speaks to our need for total transformation that shows us how far off base we really are.
            We begin to understand Gethsemane when we begin to understand the nature of the relationship between Father, son, and Holy Spirit. Now, I realize we are attempting to understand what can never, this side of eternity, be properly understood, to know the unknowable. But God has given us a glimpse; He has hidden clues here and there. We are talking about three distinct persons here; three individuals so perfectly united by love for one another and unity of purpose that they function as one. One does this, one does the other-separately yet united, apart yet together. No need to ask for permission or hold a committee meeting-each one in perfect love holding the other up, putting the other’s interests first. Father, Son, and Spirit acting separately in perfect unison.  Just like marriage, as Paul describes it. I realize this is a most imperfect description and it falls far short of what I am trying to say, but there it is. Perfect unity born from perfect love forming a perfect bond-a perfect relationship for eternity. One would never dream of existing apart from the Others.
            Then comes Gethsemane, and the cross. For the first time One comes face to face with the fact that, for a time, the relationship will be not just broken, torn apart. Violently torn apart. Jesus is about to do two unthinkable things-take on sin and experience divine separation. I am not sure it is possible for us to fully appreciate the seriousness of the first without contemplating the second. To put it another way, Jesus is about to find out firsthand what it means to relate to the Father the way we relate to the Father. Perfection is coming face to face with imperfection. Let’s be clear here-Jesus has a choice. He knows full well what this means and He does it anyway-not my will but yours be done.   
            This helps us put the obedience of Jesus into proper perspective. The writer of Hebrews says “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…” (Italics mine). Listen closely to what the wrier says. He learned obedience through what he suffered. He becomes the source of eternal salvation. We are helpless and clueless to the point that this was required; loved and esteemed worthy enough by our creator that it was done for us.
            I am trying to be as brief as possible here and still get the point across. We are in deep and potentially controversial theological waters, trying to know the unknowable. This is indented to be a starting point, not a defense; food for thought and meditation. We have been looking at Kingdom behavior that demands a regenerated heart. We need to understand the twin importance of how we relate to God and what the basis for our obedience really is. When viewed in this way, the only proper response to God is ‘not my will but yours be done’. Or to fall on our face as though dead. Or both. Not ‘your will as I would like it to be’ or my will which I require you to bless’. The Father’s will. Period.
            This is why we look at the Sermon on the Mount-to learn what the Father’s will is. It is not about laws or rules or regulations but about relating to God, about learning what pleases Him and doing it. Viewed from the cross, none of us has any claim to pride or hubris arrogance or anything else that pits us one against the other. The Creator loves us beyond anything we can ever imagine. He sent His son to bring us home. He continually sends His Spirit to show us the way. It is time to put aside our differences and unite around our God in thanksgiving, praise and worship. It is time to be salt and light. It is time to discover the One True God-three persons, none of whom are us. Amen.

May the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all this day. And every day. JRG

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