Jesus in the Garden

I have been reading the book of Matthew for the past couple of weeks, and today I finished. I read from halfway through chapter 26 to the end of the book, and Jesus’ humanness more than anything else stood out to me.

When he enters the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus knew what was about to happen to him. He knew that Judas was only a few hours away from bringing the mob that was going to spit on him, and beat him. He knew, and because of that he became sorrowful even unto death.

I have read this passage several times so I don’t know why I found myself identifying with Jesus so much today. It all seemed more real for me. I identified with that sinking feeling he must have had when he realized everything was about hit the fan. I felt his loneliness as he went to pray in isolation and came back to find those closest to him a sleep, and seemingly unconcerned.

Jesus humanness was evident in his prayer with the Father too. Jesus knew the whole purpose of his life on earth. He had just gotten done telling the disciples what was about to go down, and how they would all flee. He had just had the last supper with them, and spoke of how his body was about to be broken and his blood shed.

He knew all this but he is still sorrowful and asking for there to be another way. Maybe it is just all of the upheaval that has been going on in my own life that I find myself identifying much more with his struggle here.

My identification with him didn’t stop there. I became very emotionally involved in the trial and crucification that followed. In as much as I saw his humanness through his suffering in the garden, I also noticed how unlike sinful man he was, and how brutal we were to him. How much he put his own words into practice.

Those who should have loved him, the teachers of the law, spit on him and punched him. They tore hairs out of his beard, and mocked him. His disciples deserted him, and those who followed at a safe distances denied knowing him.

The Romans were then completely brutal to him. They mocked him, and beat him after they flogged him. And he remained silent as a sheep before the shearers. I can still feel that sinking isolation as I write this.

Then to top all this off he is then crucified. They wouldn’t even let him die in peace. They mocked him there too. Made fun of him. In the end Jesus cried out “My Father, My Father why have your forsaken me?” The total aloneness Jesus must have felt absolutely struck me. Reading the crucifixion passage from Matthew today really made me sad.

And it made me love my Saviour more all at the same time. Because for one of first times in my life I realize that he was like me. He wasn’t just a divine mystery man. He took on all the pain of being human, and then some(Heb. 4:15-16). Jesus the Son of Man. Jesus the Son of God.


The Importance of Knowing Jesus

Matthew 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

This is a passage that has always struck me as a hard passage. A passage that I rather wish Jesus hadn’t uttered. It’s hard because evidently there will be people who come to Jesus on the Judgement day who think that they are believers, but in the end will have fooled themselves.

Jesus makes it clear that simply calling him Lord is not enough. Right doctrine alone will not get you into the Kingdom. What is more startling for me is not that Jesus puts an ethical call on the lives of his followers, but on his response to those who from all outside appearances were doing the will of his father.

They had the heavy “spiritual gifts” of prophecy and casting out demons. Yet in the end Jesus calls them evildoers!

What was it that turned Jesus decision against those who seemed to be doing the will of God. It was because He never knew them. WOW!

For Jesus it’s not the doing alone that is important, but it is the knowing and the doing together that is important. Often I would like to believe that Jesus is concerned with just one or the other. That we can know Jesus, but never do the works of the Father. Or we can do the works and he will be satisfied. But just one out of the two is not good enough for him.

It does makes sense though. The emphasis of this scripture is that the most important thing is to know Jesus. It was this lack of knowledge of Jesus that gets those who appeared to be followers called evildoers. Somehow these works of theirs became evil in their lack of a relationship with Jesus. The message is clear if you don’t know Jesus you can do works until you are blue in the face, but it will not get you anywhere.

From this passage it is also clear that the will of the Father is to know Jesus. When we come face to face with the transformational Son of God and we enter into a relationship with him we are never the same. So our actions must follow the encounter. It is from this knowledge that our actions must spring.

As Jesus says himself in John 14:23 “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Knowing Jesus transforms you, and when you prophesy in his name out of love for him then you are doing the will of the Father. When you are doing it for any other reason you are an evildoer.

Let me say that one last time (mostly to remind myself). When we do good works out of any other reason than love for God we are evildoers.

To know Jesus is to have eternal life(John 17:3), and without this we will turned back just like these “false prophets.”

The Reality of Hell

When I got up this morning, I didn’t think about hell, and I didn’t expect to when I picked up my devotional book. Not usually something covered in devotional books, but I happened to be reading a John Piper devotional book. There is no such thing as usual when it comes to the writings of John Piper.

Towards the end of the chapter he writes about Revelations 14, and how Jesus will be a witness to the torment of those who refuse to bow the knee to him. They will be tormented with burning sulphur, and the smoke will rise for ever and ever.

It also reminds me of the a sermon I wrote while in seminary. It was to be an evangelistic sermon. My main point was all of history is about Christ, and his crushing the head of the serpent on our behalf. But in the end I warned if you do not come and make peace with this King he will crush you too.

It is not a topic that I like to talk about. I rather wish it weren’t there. But I can’t wish it away. God will take out his vengeance on those who will not submit to him. To those who will not accept Christ’s payment on the Cross. To those who oppose him until the end.

You see sin is not a mere violation of a code, and God a ticky tack referee. Sin is a horrible thing because the most beautiful person in the world has created us, and given us life and promises us happiness in him. He has promised to take care of all our needs. He offers paradise. We, the creation, reject it. Not only do we reject it, but we reject him and believe ourselves to be wiser than him.

That is the lie that Adam and Eve bought. It was not about a piece of fruit. It was that they “might become like God.” It is what we do every time we sin, we reject God and set-up ourselves as gods in his place. And so Sin is intensely personal to God. It is not a rejection of code, but of God. Sin is infinitely evil because it is rejection of God, who is the ultimate good. For the world to be set right, evil must be crushed. Those who persist in rejecting God and his son Jesus will be crushed by Jesus. How terrifying a saviour he can be.

But when I run into those who are in danger of meeting such a fate far to often my response is silence. Can I feel right about allowing them to have such a fate with out warning? The knot in my stomach tells me no.

More from Piper

Here is an example of what I meant about John Piper in my previous blog entry. In speaking of suffering of the 20th century from genocides to natural disasters, Piper writes,

“then add the sadness and pain and eventual death of your own family. When I think on these things, it makes me tremble at the prospect of living a trivial, self-serving, comfortable, middle-class, ordinary, untroubled American life. I can’t keep eternity out of my mind. Life is short and eternity is long. It is a long time to regret a wasted life.”

He then goes on to write about whether there would be joyous regret in heaven, and closes with this thought,

“But all of this leaves me trembling that I not throw away the one short life that I will look back on for all eternity. Just think of it. You have one life. One very short life. Then an eternity to remember. Does not the suffering in this world seem inexplicable to you? Is not this great, global (and intensely personal) suffering a call to magnify the mercy of Christ by how we respond? Is not suffering a seamless fabric, stretching into eternity for unbelievers? And therefore, are no Christians the only people who can respond with helpful relief to the totality of misery? Unbelievers may relieve some suffering in this vapor’s breath of life on earth. But beyond that they are no help.”

As Amy and I talked over it tonight we were both hit in the face with how much we have wasted our time up to this point. Piper again has hit me right where I need to be. I just look at what I have done with my time on earth so far, and how much I have wasted. I would have a lot of regretful joy in heaven if it all ended now.

The question that I put to Amy, and I need to answer for myself…How are we going to change that? How are we going to make our lives count.