Tomorrow evening we will be looking at Matthew 26:36-46 and the experience of Jesus in Gethsemane. It is a remarkable event in which we get a glimpse of the great cost of our salvation. Gethsemane means "oil press" and that is what it was for Jesus in a very real sense. There he felt the weight of the awesome thing he was about to do on the cross. Salvation is freely offered to the fallen children of Adam and Eve but at great cost to the Messiah who came to save his people from their sins. After leaving eight of his disciples with instructions to pray; he took Peter, James and John further into the garden and told them that his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death and then he asked them to stay with him and keep watch. We will never know the weight he bore and the spiritual opposition he faced as he made his way to the cross. Every time we read the Gospel story, or celebrate the Lord's Supper, or think of Jesus and all he has done for us we should be filled with thankfulness and love for him.
The account is also remarkable because it indicates that there was no other way to secure our salvation but for him to die. This death was not one option among many. God did not have to provide salvation for us but when he determined to do so there was only one way that would meet the demands of his justice and overcome the liability of our sin. And that was for the Son to become flesh and to take our place on the cross. However, the decision to send the Son, and his willingness to go, did not eliminate the struggle that he felt in Gethsemane. "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." What a prayer! Just hours away from crucifixion he asks if there might be another way. What lies before him is so dreadful that his soul instinctively recoils. But when it becomes clear that this is the only way he embraces the will of his Father. He is the obedience Servant of the Lord who knows that by pouring out his life unto death he will redeem the new Israel from their sins. Not only is his obedience exemplary, but we see the sheer madness of thinking that anyone can come to God apart from the high priestly mediation of the Son.
Gethsemane also reveals that Jesus went about his work prayerfully and with great intensity. Even though his disciples could not stay awake, he prayed on into the night. Again and again he cried out to his Father. And in the process he was strengthened for the task ahead of him. In fact, when the disciples have had their sleep and the betrayer arrives with the men who would arrest Jesus, he steps to the fore and goes the rest of the way alone. There is something solemnly majestic about this. He does what only he can do. Although Peter and the others had the best of intentions, they are weak and cannot do what needs to be done. But Jesus is in a completely different category. He is the great Shepherd of the sheep. He will stand when all others fall. He will not disappoint. He will do the work the Father has given him to do and in the process save those who have been entrusted to him by his Father before the creation of the world.
In Caledonia, not far from where I live, there is a very sad situation going on between two groups of Canadians both of whom can trace their Canadian ancestry back many generations. It is yet another squabble between native Canadians and non-native Canadians over land and resources that ultimately belong to neither group but to God. The government seems unable or unwilling to act. Some of the native protestors have resorted to lawlessness and violence which they feel is justified because no one will listen to their demands. Some of the non-native residents are angry and frustrated by the double standard that seems to apply to native people who take the law into their own hands. Unless cooler heads prevail more violence is inevitable. I only mention this tragic situation because it reveals how much native and non-native Canadians and people everywhere need the Lord. We all need one who transforms our hearts by his love and grace. We need one who shows us a better way then the cursing, swearing, dishonesty, destruction, defiance, intoxication, violence, greed, envy and prejudice that exists on all sides. As long as human beings say to God "not your will but mine be done," we will continue to know nothing but heartache. It is only when we are filled with the Spirit of Jesus so that we can say "yet not as I will, but as you will," that we will make progress toward that glorious new world which is to come.