Tuesday, April 3, 2018

the agony of Christ

Have you ever prayed for rescue? I don't mean a nice, neat, "Dear God, please help me get through..." prayer wrapped up with a pretty "Amen." I'm talking about a gut-wrenching, tears streaming, no real words forming type of prayer, one without any real sentences and that's poured out in between sobs.

I've cried and begged, full of the knowledge of God's power. I know that He is the One who has the ability to control everything that happens around me. If He can speak this universe with all its intricacies into existence, it would be simple for Him to put a stop to whatever it is I'm needing to be rescued from--whether it is physical, emotional, financial, or psychological. I know that He can reach down and pull me out of any bad situation, so I pour out my heart to Him through one of those ugly cries, begging for Him to take away the pain.

And if God hears me, if He is truly listening and if He's truly good, He'll swoop in and rescue me. If I don't see things work out the way I want and expect, my human nature tells me that God didn't hear my pleas.

It's easy to forget that we aren't alone in our tears. When Jesus was in the garden, His own tears fell as He begged God to spare Him from the agony of the cross. His anxiety was so intense that His sweat was mixed with blood, a condition known as
hematidrosis which occurs when the tiny capillaries that feed blood to the sweat glands rupture, letting blood seep into the sweat. This condition is said to leave the skin feeling tender. Growing up under Roman rule, Jesus would have seen crucifixions. He would have known all about Roman punishment and all that it entailed. He knew what lay ahead.

He lived His entire life with the knowledge of the cross looming before Him, knowing that the prophet Isaiah was talking about Him when we wrote,

"Indeed, who would ever believe it?
Who would possibly accept what we've been told?
Who has witnessed the awesome power and plan of the Eternal in action?
Out of emptiness He came,
like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground.
He didn't look like anything or anyone of consequence--
He had no physical beauty to attract our attention.
So He was despised and forsaken by men,
this man of suffering,
grief's patient friend.
As if He was a person to avoid, we looked the other way;
He was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of Him.
Yet it was our suffering He carried,
our pain and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness.
We just figured that God had rejected Him,
that God was the reason He hurt so badly.
But He was hurt because of us.
Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed Him.
He endured the breaking that made us whole.
The injuries He suffered became our healing.
We all have wandered off, like shepherdless sheep,
scattered by our aimless striving and endless pursuits;
The Eternal One laid on Him the sins of us all."
Isaiah 53:1-6

In that night in the garden, Jesus was in agony. He knew He was about to be beaten, bloodied, and broken by the very people He came to save. So He spent the night in prayer, begging His Father to rescue Him, to put a stop to the pain.
"When Jesus was on the earth,
a man of flesh and blood,
He offered up prayers and pleas,
groans and tears to the One who could save Him from death.
He was heard because He approached God with reverence.
Although He was a Son,
Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered."
Hebrews 5:7 & 8

"He was heard..." Jesus was not spared the pain of the cross. His tears in the garden didn't end there--they once again mixed with sweat and blood as He hung on the cross, the blood pouring from just about every inch of His body. It coated the wood of the cross, probably mingling with the others who had hung on that cross before Him. His blood mixed with the blood of thieves and murderers, the worst of criminals in Roman eyes, and He died the death of a criminal. He was ridiculed and spit on, beaten and mocked.
"He was heard..." Despite all He suffered, Jesus was heard. God didn't rescue Him from the bad situation. In fact, He put Jesus right into the middle of the worst punishment the Romans could think up. Jesus watched His friends abandon Him. He looked into the agonized eyes of His mother as He hung on the cross.

"Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through the things He suffered." When I've gone through hard times--the times that have left me crying those ugly cries that make your stomach hurt--there have always been lessons. I haven't seen the lesson in everything yet, but I'm slowly learning. That's not to say that I accept the suffering like Paul, saying that I rejoice in it. I still wallow in self-pity, asking "why me?" and begging for rescue. I'm still working on that lesson, I guess.

What I'm trying to do is learn from Jesus. I don't think it is wrong to pray for rescue. After all, Jesus begged for that very thing. What's important, though, is what He added to His prayer--
"Yet not My will, but Your will, be done."
Luke 22:42

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