Tuesday, November 24, 2009

11/24/09- Temptation and Prayer in the Garden

(Gethsemane Warner Sallman)
Devotional using the Gospels, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Mark 14:32-42

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch." 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." 37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." 39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. 41 Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"

Calvin abridged: Gethsemane- Luke and John add that Jesus came there according to his custom. So he was not trying to hide himself, but was letting his enemies knew where he was, presenting himself to death. “Sit here”- Jesus places his disciples away from danger (except for the three) as a soldier might protect their family before battle. 33 “He began to be deeply distressed and troubled”- Jesus fights face to face with temptation. The true test of virtue occurs when the contest with temptation begins. Ambrose justly said, “There is no instance in which I admire more his kindness and his majesty; for he would not have done so much for me, if he had not taken upon him my feelings. He grieved for me, who had no cause of grief for himself; He took upon himself not the appearance, but the reality of incarnation. He experienced grief so that he might overcome sorrow, and not shut it out.” Cyril has properly said that “the suffering of Christ on the cross was not voluntary in every respect, but on account of the will of the Father and our salvation.” So we may learn from the prayer, “Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Human nature, even in Christ, has the sufferings and fears that belong to it. The difference between us and Christ is that our weakness is not accompanied by sin. When Christ was distressed by grief and fear, he did not rise against God. Luke says that he was “seized with anguish. Mark says he “trembled.” Death for Christ is not just the separation of the soul from the body, but also facing the load and burden of having our sins placed upon him- pressed down with this enormous weight. 34- “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow”- he says that to make them sympathetic that they would be more ashamed of their carelessness. The phrase literally means he is half-dead with sorrow. Jonah makes a similar statement when he says “I am angry even to death” (4:9). Death would not have tormented the mind of the Son of God if he did not also deal with the judgment of God. 35 “Going a little farther”- It is not necessary- nor is it always proper- that we should retire to distant corners whenever we pray. But sometimes when the need is great, and the intensity of prayer is greater when we are alone, it is useful to pray apart. His falling on his face showed his deep earnestness in prayer. “If it be possible”- This is a prayer, not a complaint. It is not inconsistent to ask for a thing that is impossible. The prayers of believers do not always flow in an uninterrupted progress to the end, are not always uniform, are not always in a distinct order, but are involved and confused—like a vessel tossed by storms, which though it advances toward the harbor does not always keep a straight course. So Christ, after He prays to be freed from death, also restrains himself submitting to the Father’s will. Believers in pouring out their prayers, do not always ascend to the contemplation of the secrets of God, or ask only what is possible. So Moses prays that he would be blotted out of the Book of life (Ex. 32:33), and Paul wishes to be made anathema (Rom. 9:3). There is nothing wrong with not knowing everything in prayer. As there appeared to be no hope, Christ throws himself on the power of God (“everything is possible for you”). The “cup” is the providence of God, which assigns to each person their measure of the cross and affliction, just as the employer gives an employee a wage, or a father distributes portions to the children. “Yet not as I will, but as you will”- Christ restrains himself, making himself obedient to the Father. Some may ask, “How was his will free of all vice if it was not in line with the will of God?” There are times when an indirect disagreement with God’s will is not faulty. For example, we may desire to see the Church in a calm and flourishing condition, that the godly were delivered from afflictions, that all superstitions were removed, and that the rage of the wicked was restrained. These things are right in themselves, and properly may be desired by believers, though God is pleased to order a different state of matters: for he chooses that his Son should reign among enemies; that his people should be trained under the cross; that the triumph of faith and of the Gospel should be shown more glorious by being opposed by the schemes of Satan. God does not desire us to be always exact or scrupulous in inquiring what he has appointed, but allows us to ask what we feel. Yet Christ moderates his feelings submitting them to the will of God. We ought to repress the violence of our feelings which are always inconsiderate and rash and full of rebellion. The modesty of faith consists in permitting God to appoint differently than what we desire. What did Christ gain by praying, then? Hebrews (5:7) that he was heard. Christ intended by his example, that we must not be discouraged or grow weary in praying- even if we do not immediately obtain our wishes. So it is not a superfluous repetition of words if we ask a third or fourth time what God appears to have denied.

Thought: On the Mount of Olives there is preserved by oral tradition and later markers the grove where Jesus prayed. It is a dark place. There is an olive press there that turns the olives into beneficial and healing oil. Jesus expresses that he is pressed and the disciples see that he is being pressed like olives into oil, or grapes into juice/wine. What Calvin says above about prayer is so important for us. Too many today are afraid to pray- as if they will pray inadequately or pray for the impossible. How often I have heard people afraid of trivializing prayer- afraid of praying about a parking space, but also afraid that they are insignificant to God- or God is to busy to hear the prayer when their heart is breaking. This passage (and Calvin’s commentary) reminds us that prayer is not meant to be exact. Sometimes we pray wrongly or trivially. Today, I would much rather that people pray at all than to leave God out of their lives when they need Him so much! Our constant prayer- after we have poured out our feelings to God- is to say, “Lord, not my will but yours be done!”

Prayer: Lord, nothing is impossible with you. Take my doubts, my worries, my pressures, my problems away. Yet, Lord, not my will but yours be done through me today.

No comments:

Post a Comment