Hi everyone, Rob here. On Sunday evening a group of us gathered to pray through the Easter story. As I read out the gospel accounts I was struck afresh by the fact that Jesus gave his life up. It wasn’t taken from him; it was offered freely. What’s even more striking though, is that Jesus had to go through enormous struggle to reach the point of freely offering himself. The accounts of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane show him in anguish; knowing what needs to happen but also knowing what it will cost him to make it happen. Check out Mark’s account from 14:33-36
He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to the. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.
Can you feel Jesus’ pain and sorrow as you read those words? Jesus did not go lightly to the cross. Bearing the sin, pain and brokenness of this fallen world in his own body was not an experience he was eagerly looking forward to! He wanted there to be another way but deep down knew the action he needed to take. It was only as he wrestled with his Father in prayer;as he allowed the anguish in his soul to rise up;as he ultimately surrendered to the Father’s will that he was able to embrace the task ahead. As Hebrews 12:2 says; “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
What do you do when pain and anguish comes your way? I remember 20 years ago hearing some news that shook me and made me rethink some big decisions that lay ahead. I stayed up all night going back and forth with God in prayer. By the morning I had peace and made a decision that I’ve never regretted since. Wrestling with God in prayer is what we are invited by him to do when hard times come or when we don’t know which path to take. Jesus wrestled with the Father for as long as it took for him to gain peace, purpose and strength. The problem is that when these moments come we are tempted to follow our first ancestors and hide ourselves from God. We are tempted to ignore him and try and do it on our own. Why do we do that? Is it shame? Do we think that the suffering is our fault somehow and it’s up to us to fix it? Do we think that hard times have come because we’ve been disobedient; that you’re being punished by God? Maybe it’s just how you’ve been brought up; that you don’t share your problems; you fix them or bear them stoically.
So hear this; Jesus, the person who had the most intimate relationship with the Father ever, brought the anguish of his soul before his God and laid it bare before him. As people invited to share that same intimate relationship that Jesus had, we are asked to do the same. The Father doesn’t want us to suffer alone. He doesn’t want us to have a stiff upper lip and to always keep our chins up. We are invited to find a quiet space, take time, get in touch with our hearts and our souls, let it all out and ask for what we want and stay in that space until we are surrendered to the Father’s will and receive his peace. We’re also shown that having a few close friends around is a good thing too even if they are a bit sleepy!
Here’s how the passage ends;
Returning the third time, he said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’
Peace, purpose and strength now radiates from Jesus as he embraces his divine task. His wrestling with God has achieved its purpose. He will embrace the cross. He will die for our sins. He will take the world’s pain upon himself and he will triumph. I wonder what God has for you even as you wrestle with him.
Happy Easter everyone. He is risen!