Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“I cry to the Lord with my voice; with my voice to the Lord do I make supplication. I pour out my complaint before Him; I tell before Him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed and fainted, throwing all its weight upon me, then You knew my path.”
Psalm 142: 1-3
“I cannot dread the darkness where
Thou wilt watch over me.
Nor smile to greet the sunrise unless
Thy smile I see;
Creator, Saviour, Comforter!
On Thee my soul is cast.
At morn, at night, in earth, in heaven,
Be thou my first and last!”
Today’s Study Text:
“And being in an agony of mind, He (Jesus) prayed all the more earnestly and intently, and His sweat became like great clots of blood dropping down upon the ground.”
Luke 22: 44
“Lest I Forget” – Part 3
“Lest I Forget Thy Agony”
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.”
C. S. Lewis
Has there been a time in my life when the agony I suffered each day and the anguish during trying circumstances left me crying out to God as never before?
“For those of us who know God, pain is a process with a certain purpose. We don’t make it through tough times. We are made through tough times – made into the beauty of Christ Jesus. And in that perspective, the pain is worth the gain.”
Through the Fire
“Come, the Great Prince of Sufferers view,
As underneath its olives grey,
With the pale moonbeams struggling through
He wrestled in Gethsemane!
His anguished soul, in horror bound,
Sent up to heaven its burdened cry;
Trembling He clasped the quaking ground,
And blood-drops told His agony.”
“Lest I Forget Thy Agony”
Deep into Gethsemane our steps have taken us. And there, our eyes, getting used to the palpable darkness, focus on a figure lying prostate on the ground – clinging as it were to the very earth underneath His marred form. As one Christian writer pictures the scene, “the Son of God was seized with superhuman agony, fainting and exhausted He staggered…as the agony of soul came upon Him, ‘His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’ The cypress and palm trees were the silent witnesses of His anguish. From their leafy branches dropped heavy dew upon His stricken form, as if nature wept over its Author wrestling alone with the powers of darkness.”
So often in my life, when reading about Christ’s suffering, I’ve focused on the beatings and the physical trauma caused by crucifixion, but just for today, I want to look at our Saviour’s pain filled anguish in the garden where He battled with a ferocity unknown and unseen in the history of the world.
Put yourself in Jesus’ place for a few moments. At this point in time, when the fate of every sinner hung in the balance, all our precious Saviour longed for was the companionship and support of three of His dearest friends, Peter, James and John. Before entering into the very depths of Gethsemane’s hollow, Jesus shared His thoughts with these men, who were closest to His heart, “My soul is very sad and deeply grieved, so that I am almost dying of sorrow. Stay here and keep awake and keep watch with Me.” (Matthew 26: 38, Amplified Bible).
As I’ve read this simple request by Jesus, I turned this plea around toward myself as I wonder, “Would I have been there for my precious Saviour had He cried out to me, “Dorothy, I need your comfort. I need your voice of encouragement. I need to know that you are right here praying with Me.”
Interestingly enough, we miss out on the real need Jesus was conveying if we come to the conclusion that all Jesus wanted was a shoulder to lean on. As Professor Stanley Hauerwas so eloquently notes in his insightful commentary on the Gospel of Matthew: “The terror that Jesus encounters in Gethsemane is an aloneness no one has ever faced…He says (specifically) to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with Me one hour?’ He tells Peter to stay awake and pray, as Peter was taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, to ‘not come into the time of trial.’ Jesus, who shares Peter’s humanity, observes that Peter’s spirit is willing but his flesh is weak. Peter’s failure is not, however, that he cannot stay awake, but that he and the other disciples with Jesus do not pray…In the garden, when the chaos of the world threatens the kingdom, the disciples sleep…the disciples failed to understand the necessity of being prepared. By sleeping they retreat into the dreams and fantasies that always tempt us as modes of escape from the reality of Jesus’ agony.”
During this crucial hour, it was the intercession – the praying through the struggle which Jesus longed for most. As author J.R. Macduff wonders regarding the three times Jesus went to His disciples only to find them asleep, “Could you not watch one hour?...For whole nights have you toiled at your nets on Gennesaret, and surrendered your hours of needed repose. On this one night of temptation and anguish can you not spare your Lord one hour? Simon (Peter), where is your boasting, ‘are you sleeping?’ John, where is your love? Where is he who so lately leaned on my breast at supper? I have come looking for pity and I find none, and for comforters and I find none!’” In the prophetic words of the prophet Isaiah, “I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people’s there was no one with me” (Isaiah 63: 3, Amplified Bible).
Before my pen writes another line or before I arrogantly think that I would have stayed awake for a heroic hour of support for my Saviour, I must stop and ask this question, “Has there been a time in my own life when one of God’s precious children was struggling and they needed my prayers but in the frantic pace of my life I was just too busy or too occupied to stop and pray?” I fear that more often than I would like to admit, I have passed over the opportunity to pray and yet, instead of berating His disciples or us for that matter, Jesus willingly chose not only to pray alone but also to take upon Himself the sins of the world. As the Psalmist David described this scene: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, it is softened with anguish and melted down within me. My strength is dried up like a fragment of clay pottery” (Psalm 22: 14, 15, Amplified Bible).
All alone, our Saviour’s sorrow and agony were on display for the heavenly hosts to witness. And these moments forged a divine record of the Father’s love for sinful beings. It was for you and me that the Son of God willingly left the perfection of heaven to be our substitute and surety.
As we prepare to leave the darkness of Gethsemane, may the words penned by J.R. Macduff touch your heart and mine today:
“O You, who in the garden’s shade,
Did wake Your weary ones again,
Who slumbered at that fearful hour
Forgetful of Your pain;
Bend over us now, as over them,
And set our sleep bound spirits free;
Nor leave us slumbering in the watch
Our souls should keep with Thee.”
“When is He nearest to all of us,
Our Brother and God’s Son?
Why is He dearest, how is He most
Inalienable our own?
Is it as little wondering Babe,
Innocent, impotent, wise,
Turning from angels and shepherds and kings
To laugh in His mother’s eyes?
Or during the hidden, mysterious years
When the light of the world went veiled and dim,
When He walked with the village women and men
That their hearts might be open to Him?
Very close is the Christ who wept
For His friend struck quiet by Death:
Who to ruler’s daughter and widow’s son
Gave back the incredible breath.
Who pitied our humblest hunger and thirst,
The tried flesh spent in the race
And from water and wine and bread and love
Made sacraments of His grace.
Our lips are pressed to His feet on the Cross,
And the heart of the world is pierced with His own,
And out of the Tomb, since He has led
We follow Easter sun.
To the Dream come true, to the Word fulfilled,
To the Life stretching endlessly, everywhere
But I would not forget what the olive-trees heard
His one unanswered prayer!”
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from Me.”
Matthew 26: 39
“They bound the hands of Jesus in the garden where He prayed
They led Him through the streets in shame
They spat upon the Saviour, so pure and free from sin
They said let’s crucify Him, He’s to blame.
He could have called ten thousand angels.
To destroy the world and set Him free,
He could have called ten thousand angels
But He died alone for you and me.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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