“Even if all fall away on account of You, I never will,” exclaimed the disciple who denied knowing Christ not once, not twice, but three times later that night. And all the other disciples vowed the same. How many times over the years have I said or thought I’d NEVER (fill in the blank). Sometimes what looks like devotion is actually Pride in clever disguise. The clue lies at the root of the claim.
Right after claiming they would never disown Him, Peter, James, and John went to the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus. Gethsemane means “pressed out.” I love how even the geographical setting of the Bible account bears symbolic meaning. Gethsemane is on the Mt. of Olives, and the ‘pressing out’ refers to the process of extracting oil from the olives. Jesus, ‘overwhelmed with sorrow,’ went there to pray for strength for the ordeal of His impending crucifixion. He’d asked his closest friends to pray with Him. His prayers were so intense–He was so ‘pressed out’–that the other gospel accounts mention his sweat was like great drops of blood. Yet, returning to his disciples three times, He found them sleeping rather than praying.
(Painting by Andrea Mantegna c. 1460)
Christ, the Divine One, prayed to the Father for strength to do what He came to earth to do…strength to do the Father’s will regardless of the horror of the cross. Yet, his sleeping disciples were dozing on, oblivious to their need for divine grace and beyond-human strength. Even after Jesus’ gentle chiding, to pray that they wouldn’t fall into temptation, they slept on. They claimed they’d avoid the sin – but didn’t ask for divine strength to do so. In essence, they were relying on Self rather than God.
Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. ~Mt.26:41
How ironic that the Son of God himself would recognize His human weakness, but the humans in His midst would not–even after being warned of their need to pray. Jesus acknowledged His strength came from the Father; the disciples seem to count on winging it on the strength of their own bravado. But, we were created and wired to be perpetually God-sufficient, not self-sufficient. That is because our God is a Father God of tender relationship, who desires to not only continually communicate with us but also to father us with His goodness. Today’s Psalm touches on the blessings of a humble faith:
How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men….The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. ~Ps. 31: 19, 20, 24
“All you who hope in the Lord”… So hard to learn to do that when you’re even oblivious to the fact that you are depending on your own self-sufficiency as a disciple of Christ. Been there, done that. It’s called desert-dwelling, and the Israelites did it for 40 years. I fight the tendency constantly. Lord, we love You…lead us across that Jordan River of death to Self, and on into your promised land of great goodness and faithful shelter, where we humbly rely on You alone for our refuge and strength.
FEB 9 ~ Exodus 29:1-30:10 ~ Matthew 26:14-46 ~ Psalm 31:19-24 ~ Proverbs 8:14-26