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Gethsemane October 7, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 26:36-46.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus – who is in deep anguish, knowing that He is away from home – and His disciples come to a garden called Gethsemane. He tells them to wait at the entrance while He pours out His heart to God. After bringing Peter, James and John with Him into the garden, He tells them that He is surrounded by sorrow – enough to kill Him.

He then:

  • tells them to keep watch over Him and pray for Him – and for themselves
  • goes a stone’s throw from them and prostrates Himself
  • calls on His Father, praying that if there is another way for His divine plan of salvation to be fulfilled, then He should let it happen
  • resigns Himself to the will of His Father
  • returns to His disciples and finds them sleeping
  • rebukes them, noting that although they have a renewed spirit, it is often defeated by their humanness.

This sequence of events is actually repeated two times. He then tells them to arise, as those who have come to arrest Him have arrived. In particular, they should go and meet Judas, who has come to deliver Him up.

Thoughts: Here, Jesus wrestles with His impending suffering and death. Ryle offers some insights on this point:

Why is the almighty Son of God, who had worked so many miracles, so heavy and disquieted? Why is Jesus, who came into the world to die, so ready to faint at the approach of death…There is but one reasonable answer to these questions…the real weight that bowed down the heart of Jesus was the weight of the sin of the world, which seems to have now pressed down upon him with unique force…

When I strolled through this passage, I focused on Jesus’ impending physical suffering – influenced by my vivid memories of The Passion of the Christ. Yet Ryle’s thoughts compelled me to ponder Jesus’ impending spiritual suffering. In particular, we cannot begin to comprehend the intimacy of the union that He enjoyed with His Father and the Holy Spirit. When He assumed the burden of the sins of the world, that intimate union was marred (albeit temporarily). Imagine the depth of the anguish and pain that must have engulfed Him at the mere thought of being separated from the Father and the Spirit! How could He emerge victorious over those torturous feelings? Indeed, this passage sheds valuable light on the intimacy of the Trinity.

Jesus also rebukes His disciples for failing to keep watch and pray for Him – and for themselves – “for one hour.” This caused me to ponder the fact that I have never prayed continuously for even one hour (to the best of my knowledge). While I attended several prayer meetings as a graduate student, the prayers during those meetings never lasted an hour. While I do pray before I sleep, those prayers never exceed twenty minutes. Perhaps this is related to the fact that I rarely wrestle with God in my prayers (though I will wrestle with Him after hearing about a tragic event, as that causes me to ponder the inevitability of evil and suffering in this world). At this point, I fail to appreciate the value of wrestling with God in prayer, as I believe that His will is paramount and that He will accomplish it regardless of my struggles. This raises the following questions:

  • is God pleased when believers wrestle with Him in their prayers?
  • will wrestling with Him actually enrich my prayer life?
  • how can I refrain from sinning when wrestling with Him?

The Temptation of Jesus October 27, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 4:1-11.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus fasts for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. Satan then attempts to tempt Him by:

  • encouraging Him to turn stones into bread – since He is the omnipotent Son of God
  • encouraging Him to leap from the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem – since Psalm 91:11-12 states that He can rely on God to protect Him
  • offering Him the entirety of worldly wealth – if He will worship him.

Yet Jesus rejects these temptations by citing the following passages from Scripture:

  • Deuteronomy 8:3 – where God asserts that man obtains true life from His words
  • Deuteronomy 6:16 – where God warns the Jews in the desert against testing Him
  • Deuteronomy 6:13 – where God warns the Jews in the desert against idolatry.

At this point, Satan withdraws to plan further assaults on Jesus, while angels arrive to refresh Him.

Thoughts: This is a challenging passage, as it forces us to assess the truth of the following statements:

  • since Christ is fully human, it is possible for Him to sin
  • since Christ is fully divine, it is not possible for Him to sin.

After contemplating this passage, I think that as believers, we readily accept at least certain aspects of the humanity of Christ. For example, we have little difficulty assuming that His earthly sojourn was marked by:

  • hunger
  • thirst
  • physical pain
  • mental anguish.

Yet this passage – and His struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane – raises the following question: was it possible for Christ to commit a sin during His earthly sojourn? If not, then does this passage depict a legitimate struggle between Christ and Satan? Perhaps this passage inspired numerous heresies that attempted to explain it. If so, then we need wisdom and strength from the Holy Spirit to determine what God is saying to us in this passage and how we should respond to Him in light of it.

Here, we see that Christ responds to the temptations of Satan by quoting from the Old Testament. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

It will do us no good if it only lies still in our houses. We must be actually familiar with its contents, and have its texts stored in our memories and minds.
Knowledge of the Bible never comes by intuition; it can only be got by hard, regular, daily, attentive, wakeful reading. Do we grudge the time and trouble this will cost us? If we do we are not yet fit for the kingdom of God.

This passage spurred me to consider my responses to temptations. In those instances, I find that I recite statements that align with specific Biblical passages – i.e. while I do not quote from Scripture, my thought reflects the spirit of specific passages. Now I do wonder if I should quote from Scripture in those instances. Perhaps such quotations would constitute a stronger response to Satan when he tempts me, as that would demonstrate the firmness of my devotion to God and His words.