The victory of Gethsemane

“So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’” (Matthew 26 v 44-46)

He was not calling them to run for their lives. This was not a call to escape, ‘let’s get out of here!’ No, this was a call to run to the confrontation. Gethsemane gives such a determined approach. He has sacrificed his fears and has been strengthened in prayer and rises with determination to face the enemy, to be taken, to suffer and to die. The betrayer and the enemy do not spring on him as in an ambush. He knows. He understands the time and the season. He knows the moment.

Gethsemane will crush you. The oil-press determines whose path you follow, yours or His. To survive the experience is not to just come out of it but it is to submit to the destiny on your life.

The challenge of learned obedience

In contrast to the closest friends of Jesus falling asleep three times we see what the writer of Hebrews understood, “he learned obedience from what he suffered”.( 5:8)

“He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’ When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.” (Matthew 26 v 42-43)

There is a cost to discipleship and it is called learned obedience. Here are 5 steps in that journey:-

Learned obedience is to do all you can to align yourself with the Bible. Jesus has Isaiah racing through his mind where the prophet is alarmed at Gods people drinking the cup of terror (51:17). He knows he will drink the cup of wrath and judgment in order to create the new covenant made with his shed blood.

Learned obedience can be the realisation of a slight but important change from “if it is possible” (v39) to “if it is not possible” (v42). From what you want to what He has purposed is a distance of great pain. It is the prayer of adjustment to what He wants.

Learned obedience is to believe God’s plan is greater than yours even if it feels like it isn’t. It is a prayer of faith: let it be. Amen. It is so. I agree. May your will be done.

Learned obedience is not just to accept one’s fate but to embrace the plan God has. It is to say, ‘Bring it on!’ It is a prayer of conception. I am here, my mind understands, my heart receives, my body is ready, use me.

Learned obedience is to have eyes on ‘My Father’. This is the Almighty, the all-powerful One, Him who placed the stars in the sky and created the gardens of Eden and Gethsemane. The Father of all but importantly yours. ‘My Father’, who is in control despite your circumstances and world falling apart.

When someone prays then you are going to stay

When you are walking through your oil-press with a loved one who is praying for you then you know you are going to make it! Everyone needs someone to keep watch for them. Who are you watching out for today? Text them and let them know. It is amazing how strengthening that will be. `qc

They called Australian retired salesman Don Ritchie “the watchman.” Each day, he sat in his favourite chair at his cliff-side home, he would look up and scan the precipice that took the lives of approximately 50 suicide jumpers each year, trying to discern the intentions of visitors.

When somebody seemed to be lingering too long at the cliff, he walked out to talk to him.

“You can’t just sit there and watch them, you gotta try and save them. It’s pretty simple.”

According to official estimates, Ritchie and his wife Moya saved 160 lives during the 45 years they lived near the Gap Park, a famous cliff frequented by sightseers that affords a beautiful view of the Sydney Harbour. However, the unofficial tally is closer to 400, according to newspaper reports.

Although he occasionally used force over the years, his usual approach was friendliness and persuasion, which often ended in an invitation to join himself and his wife at their home for a cup of tea. A former salesman, he saw himself in a different line of sales at the Gap.

“I used to sell kitchen scales and bacon cutters, then I was state manager of a life insurance company,” he told a reporter. “At the Gap I’m trying to sell people life.” Ritchie didn’t pry or preach, but rather smiled and listened, a technique that often worked, though not always. He lost many to the cliff, but saved more than he lost, and didn’t suffer feelings of guilt for his failures. “You can’t do much about it,” he said.

Although it was difficult for him to remember all of the faces he had seen at the cliff during his decades of residency there, he often recalled a woman who had taken off her shoes and had scaled the small fence bordering the ledge, where she sat with a look of confusion on her face. After talking to her and inviting her in for tea, the woman explained that she suffered from depression, and that the medication she had been given was not working. Ritchie and his wife suggested that she ask for a second opinion. Months later, she sent them a bottle of French champagne, and then a Christmas card thanking them for their help.

For his decades of effort to prevent suicides, Ritchie was awarded the Order of Australia, which is the country’s second highest honour, in 2006, and he and his wife were named citizens of the year by the local city council.

Dianne Gaddin, an anti-suicide activist whose daughter killed herself at the cliff in 2005, thought Ritchie may have talked her daughter out of previous attempts and told a reporter, “It takes an enormous amount of courage just to go up to a person who is going to jump. Don has a charisma about him. He makes people feel safe, secure, and calm. I really think he is one special man.”

“Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’” (Matthew 26 v 40-41)

Don carried on being ‘The Watchman’ until his death in May 2012.

You may not be living on a cliff-face, but where you are right now is the appointed place and all around you are people who God loves and is trying to reach.

Pray and don’t give up: Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up… And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? Luke 18: 1-7

Pray with listening: I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Habakkuk 2:1

Pray with an awareness of the battle: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5: 8

Get to your appointed position today. Your friend needs you. They need to stay.

The obedience needed when you are hard-pressed.

One step at a time.

Going a little further, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’(Matthew 26 v 39)

Paul says in Philippians 2:8 “and being found in appearance as a man He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

What took Jesus home to be with His Father was just sheer obedience: pure, unadulterated obedience.  No compromise, no deals, no negotiation.  “going a little further.” Obedience is exactly that; it means going a little further.

Are you willing to go a little further?  

You may have done a lot and come a long way in your walk with God but still the call comes from the Holy Spirit – will you go a little further?  If you will you are going to experience pain – for every time someone decides to go a little further there is a stage of pain that they need to break through.  A stage of discomfort; an area of feeling ‘I’ve never been in this place before in my life.  I feel so uncomfortable right now it is on the point of the pain barrier and I am not sure if I can go any further’.

He has taken His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane and has said to the majority of them ‘Will you stay here because I need to go a little further’.

He takes Peter, James and John and as He goes a little further He tells them ‘my friends, I need to tell you something – we are going a little further and there is something about me that you need to know. I know that you are with me but My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. My soul, that inner being, right now, is being swamped. I am so overwhelmed I can hardly breath – it almost feels as though I am going to collapse and die right now.  I am not sure if I want to go a little further but I want you to be around me and I want you to help Me go a little further right now’.

And He went a little further.

The unbelievable thing at that moment in time was this. He gets an understanding that He still needs to go a little further.  He says to Peter, James and John ‘You stay here, I’ve got to go a little further’.   Doctor Luke is more detailed, ‘being in anguish He prays more earnestly and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.’ (12;44) He went a little further.

You want to be like Jesus?  Will you go a little further?  Not everyone will come with you.

There is a certain obedience that can never be found in groups.  

I know a man who went through an oil-press. He lost everything. It was taken from him. As a friend I watched and prayed. But it was only him who had to walk out the path of obedience. He had to do that alone. I watched he walked.

There is a certain obedience that is only for one.  That is what God is calling you to do so that you get to a place where there is only you and God and there is no one there to soothe your pain but you are being obedient to the point of death and crucifying your flesh and all your earthly desires and all the strong temptations and the pulls of the paths of life and you are dealing with it. It is the oil-press.

There is an obedient place in God that is solely reserved for one.  Loneliness is not a bad thing, sometimes we are afraid to be lonely, but Jesus knew the times of loneliness on the mountain and in the garden of Gethsemane. There is safety in groups and sometimes that’s the problem.

Can you go further? Or do you go a little while and then it has fizzled out and you go back to how things were because it’s just too difficult to keep going further, to walk with God; to walk with God in holiness; to walk with God in such a way is so hard.

Today, go further.

The triumph of the soul in Gethsemane.

“He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26 v 37-38)

The 3 functions of our soul: the will, intellect and our emotions must be directed by our spirit which was created to be in direct contact with God. In the order of God’s kingdom our souls direct our bodies but our spirit (which God constantly moves upon) masters our soul. This is why the Bible is essential to keep the order of God in our lives. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit …” Hebrews 4 v 12

If the primary focus of my life is my soul (my will, intellect and emotions) then not only will that dominate my body but it will negatively impact my spirit (my contact with God). Jesus reversed soulish living so that it is possible to be restored to the original kingdom order. But to do that his spirit, soul and body took a battering for us.

Jesus is anticipating 2 deaths. He knows the pain his body will go through but he is also anticipating being forsaken by God the Father. His spirit will soon lose contact with his beautiful union with God. The result is, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death …” The soul of Jesus was beginning to rule his life through grief, pain and hurt hours before he lost contact with God (his spirit) and his body killed.

He did that for us. Why?

So that our souls are submitted to our spirit and our spirit is in direct contact with God and we live as the nail-printed body of Christ in the world today.

Getting through your Gethsemane.

I am currently attending a conference for ministers. We have been focusing on dealing with issues that are hidden. Issues of the soul that have a negative impact on our spirit. Ministers are so good at covering over. They do it because others are more important. They lay their life down for the Church and often that means they hide their own pain for the service of others. Last night I abandoned the message I had prepared to speak to them about and began to share things in my life as a leader I had hidden. Times of grief, disappointment and hurt which I buried and carried on and how it had impacted my life. It was a vulnerable place to be but earlier a friend had encouraged me to be authentic and let the minsters I serve see a window into my own soul.

I wake this morning to this verse.

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” (Matthew 26 v 36)

Isn’t the Bible such a source of encouragement?!

Our leader, the King of Kings, Jesus, knows what it is to go into a place of crushing, a place of grief and sorrow. He knows what it is to be hard pressed. He had his Gethsemane moment. It means oil press. And we get to look through the window and watch this.

We are like the disciples sitting and watching the scene. Perhaps even like Peter, James and John who Jesus will give a better viewing of the olive press moment we move closer, we understand deeper what it is to see the crushing of Jesus and how he got through it.

So let us all be authentic people who bring people into our lives not only to view our successes but to show them how to be human in the oil press.

What is the ultimate lesson?

Don’t keep your life hidden and secondly, learn to pray. Talk to God.

This is what Jesus’ Gethsemane moment teaches us.

How to live when your friends walk away.

Jesus has just told the disciples that he knows they will all desert him at the time he needs them the most. Peter jumps up and speaks out without even thinking. His reply reveals a man who thought better than the Messiah and needed to correct him, he thought he was way better than any other disciple and he had too much faith in his own abilities.

“Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.” (Matthew 26 v 33-35)

Jesus knew what was going on behind the scenes and he knew where things were heading for he understood the prophecies of Zechariah and Isaiah.

Do you wake today under pressure? Are you battling with your thoughts? Think for a moment on what was going on in Jesus’ mind.

He knew what Judas was up to. He could see the rising hate campaign of the Jewish leaders. He knew the fickleness of his disciples. He saw Peter’s denial before it happened. This wasn’t paranoia, this was real video images in his mind and he knew where this was heading. The kiss of betrayal. The trials. The cross. The pain. The Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled.

Do you know what it feels like when your friends walk away? When people start to double-guess you? When they hear a different story to the truth and you cannot defend yourself?

This is who Matthew reveals. This is Jesus.

Today let us see the calm, serene, confident Jesus. He wasn’t panicking. He was dignified. Despite falsehoods, manipulation and disappointments all around him he remained firmly in the truth. He is a contrast to those weak men around him. He walks with humility, with courage and with grace.

Whatever you are going through today we have a Saviour who walked a path that we can be inspired to follow.

What good is the worst of your days?

Jesus didn’t go into his darkest time unaware of His Father’s will. He had studied the Old Testament. He knew the prophecies of the Messiah, of himself. He had read Zechariah’s prophecy many times and quotes it here as they walk to the garden of Gethsemane.

“Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Matthew 26 v 31-32)

The striking of the shepherd in Zechariah 13 is used by Jesus as he is only hours away from the cross.

How does this encourage us?

Jesus knows the striking sits within the plan of God. “I will strike …” Though handed over to men Jesus is in his Father’s hands. No matter how dark your day is knowing God has still created that day gives it purpose even if it is painful. The fact Jesus remained true throughout the striking meant the purpose of God was fulfilled.

Jesus knows that his disciples will desert him. Not every shepherd on being struck manages to hold on to the purpose of God for their life. Struck by trial, temptation some don’t survive. Whether the shepherd survives or not the sheep always scatter. I read an article yesterday which tried to answer the realisation that ‘they’re not coming back’ speaking of church attenders post-pandemic and the decline of numbers in church buildings on Sundays. You may know of people today who have scattered because of the falling of a shepherd or indeed of the church. We must believe they will return. Zechariah within his prophecy says they will.

Jesus never speaks of being struck without also referring to the resurrection. He tells them he will go ahead and presumably wait for them in Galilee, the place of ministry, the Galilee of the Gentiles. Today some may not have returned, they may have still fled, but Jesus is waiting for them, he has a plan for their lives.

Have you been struck today? Are you running away? He is alive and waiting for you.

Are you the shepherd who has been struck? Look to God. The striking is in His purpose for your life. Good will come from this if only you hold onto Him.

Jesus sang hours before he died

Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? Psalm 113

When Israel came out of Egypt, Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion. Psalm 114

Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. Psalm 115

The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” Psalm 116

For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Psalm 117

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118

Traditionally during the Passover meal the Hallel would be sung, it was the whole of the Psalms 113-118, praise to God for his salvation from Egypt and He being the eternal Saviour.

“When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Matthew 26 v 30

Hours before Jesus’ most dreadful and terrifying moment, the crucifixion and death, he sings!

It is a powerful picture. We need to pause right here and imagine our Saviour singing despite the turmoil of his own heart.

John Huss, 1369-1415, a Czech theologian, was burned at the stake after having the crown of his head shaven with shears because he held to the Bible as the final authority and not the Church. As the fire was burning him he sang in a loud voice, “Jesus Christ! The Son of the Living God! Have mercy upon me!” There are countless stories like this.

“May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them— this is the glory of all his faithful people.” Psalm 149:6-8

We don’t fight flesh and blood but principalities.

Every time we sing to God we are declaring to the spiritual powers that our hands are on the neck of an already defeated enemy. That because of Jesus’ victory on the cross where satan was stripped of power and authority over us then I will praise my God and squeeze some more victory out of you that is rightfully mine.

Sing today. Sing the song that Jesus sang. Sing and watch your enemy flee.

The Wedding Cup

Sat around the table that night there are so many things happening. The Judas story, the exodus, the sacrificial lamb, the bread and now Jesus takes one of the four cups of wine.

It seems that amongst the many things going through the mind of Christ he has been thinking about the Jewish wedding.

“Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26 v 27-29)

Take a quick look at the wedding order and something amazing happens.

  • The dowry is presented at a meal of the 2 families who come together to formalise the plans for the agreed marriage.
  • This agreement is copied onto 2 small pieces of identical pottery, one for each family. This is more than an agreement or a promise. It is a covenant which spiritually forges the blood of the bride and groom together, it could not be broken.
  • The bride and groom do not see each other until the ceremony. Instead they go through a water cleansing ritual to spiritually cleanse them.
  • The family and friends gather with loud music and singing in the town under a shelter erected for what is called the betrothal. This legalises the marriage but does not consummate it. Here the marriage covenant is read out by the groom’s father and the father of the bride holding his piece of pottery reads out the dowry and the dowry is then exchanged.

Then comes this important section. As you read it imagine the scene of the verses we have read today.

The groom hands his bride a gift. He then takes a jug and pours her a cup of wine and offers it to her. This is her opportunity to stop it all. She could reject the cup or drink from it signalling her willingness to marry. Once she drinks from the cup, he also drinks. Then the groom will say these words:

I WILL NOT DRINK THIS CUP AGAIN UNTIL I DRINK IT ANEW WITH YOU IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE.

In the mind of Christ when he picks up the cup of wine there is this thought, “this is all worth it”, for there is coming a day when the wedding will take place and this love story will be fully consummated and God will be with His people and they will know Him.

Beautiful!