Our Lords Agony
February 04, 2024 | Peter Rowan
Passage: Luke 22:39-46
Leaving the Upper Room, Jesus takes his customary evening trip to the Mount of Olives and his disciples accompany him. Jesus goes to pray to his Father. In Jesus' prayer we see both his agony as well as his desire and commitment to follow the will of his Father even if it means his own death. This prayer is put in stark contrast to the sleepy disciples, to whom he twice commands to pray that they may not enter into temptation. The truth is that not entering into temptation is the very key to why Jesus alone can drink the cup of God’s wrath for the redemption of the world. The cup of the agony of our Lord is the cup that also brings the blessing of his people.
Today is 2/4/24, which is cool. Friday was 2/2/24. Which means that friday was an important day. It was my son James’ birthday. He’s 8, You all should wish him happy birthday. It was also a rather well-known Pennsylvania holiday. It was Groundhogs Day. It was also Christian holiday called Candlemas. Candlemas is actually called Candlemas because early on it was observed with candles (Likely because it takes place in mid-winter, but it is also know as “Presentation”. Back in Luke 2, we were told that after the proscribed time of purification found in the law of Moses, Jesus was presented at the Temple where his family and he would have participated in the rights of purification which were required to be done 40 days after his birth. Feb 2nd is 40 days after Christmas and so the church celebrated the day when Jesus was presented in the Temple on Feb 2.
What does that have to do with Groundhogs? Well, this day of Presentation has been celebrated in the Western church since it’s early days and in Northern Europe, where the winters are long, there began to be some folklore attached to it that if the skies were clear on Candlemas it would be a longer winter. Interestingly, this somewhat is true because high pressure system can bring a freezing spell. Not always, but can. So, in the German lands, badgers (Dachs) were seen a weather-predicting animals, so the badger because associated with that day. So, when Germans migrated to Canada Feb 2nd became Daks Day and when the Germans immigrated here to PA where we have an obscene amount of Groundhogs (that kind of resemble badgers), well, it became Groundhogs Day. The Groundhog is presented to the people and if he sees his shadow, which he did not this year (praise the Lord!), we will have more winter.
But this was originally about the presentation of our Lord! That day when Simeon long ago, after years and years of waiting, could say “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples.” And when Anna the prophetess who was old and advanced in years and a widow who spent her days around the Temple gave thanks to God and spoke to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. The Day of Presentation.
And what do we learn on the Day of Presentation?
We learn of the humanity of our Lord and we learn of the long waiting for redemption and the faith of those who wait.
And that is what we learn here in this passage in Luke 22.
Let’s start with the disciples and the long wait for redemption:
Verse. 39 tells us the scene. “And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.” And this wasn’t uncommon. Jesus often retreated. He would often go to a quiet place a of solitude (Think of Luke 4 after preaching in the Synagogue) and already in Luke he has invited his disciples to these places with him (9 - after feeding the five thousand).
Jesus speaks to the disciples twice in this passage and basically he tells them the same thing.
Look at verse 40:
40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
And now down at verse 46:
46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Ok, some of you are likely thinking, they are sleeping because it is the middle of the night. They had just had a long meal with likely quite a few glasses of wine and now they are praying in a quiet place. That’s somewhat of a recipe for sleep.
BUT, a few things to note: (1) they would have always stayed up late on Passover. That would have been a very long night all of their lives. It would be like our New Years (you stay up late). (2). They had just heard Jesus tells them over dinner that one of them was going to betray him and now Judas isn’t with them! Wouldn’t that keep them awake?
But sleeping is not the main thing here, temptation is.
This word here is the word that also can mean “testing” or “trials.” The question is will you give in? When the hard times come and he has just told them in the exact previous passage that they will, will they give in? When the trial of their faith comes to them, will they stay with Jesus?
I want you to think back with me now too Simeon and Anna. We don’t know a lot about them.
We learn that Simeon was righteous and devout, but also that he was “waiting for the consolation of Israel and that the Holy Spirit was with him.” What we learn was that he longed for consolation. He longed for peace.
We learn of Anna of course that she was a prophetess, but it says more about her marital state. She had only been married 7 years and then her husband died and she was now 84 years old. She was likely married, as Mary was, when she was a teenager, so she probably lived 60 years of her life as a widow. And if she lived as a widow she likely lived in the care of others.
Simeon and Anna had all of their reasons to give in to the trials and tests of their faith. And so will the disciples. And some of those trails and tests are going to come upon them that very night. Will they remain with Jesus when he is betrayed and arrested? Will they remain with Jesus when he is put on trial? Will they remain with Jesus when they are warming themselves around a fire in a courtyard that very night and a servant girls sayas “This man was with him.”
Or, will you remain with him in prayer and will you remain waiting for him with Simeon and Anna when your spouse dies, when your infertility persists, when your doubts arise, when you faith is mocked as as antiquated farce? Will you enter into temptation as our first parents did long ago in the garden when the things of this world are desires by your eyes? When the flashy and glittery lusts of this world seems so so appealing? Will you remain with him in prayer? Will you remain with Anna at the place of worship? Will you stay with Simeon waiting on God?
The truth is that many many people give in and give up. it’s true. How many people do you know that went through the first three stages of faith and then hit the wall and gave up? Do you know the stages of faith?
Stage 1 - Coming to God - giving your life to him, conversion, new meaning in him.
Stage 2 - Life of Discipleship - learning and belonging and community and connection in the Faith.
Stage 3 - Productive Life - Service, learning where you are to serve and give of yourself. Having responsibilities.
Then you hit the wall. The big questions arise. A crisis happened. Tragedy. The death of a friend. The long struggle with evil and existence of God. Maybe the question of politics and faith. All kinds of things. You hit a wall, the wall of testing, the wall of temptation. And the truth is that lots of people never make it past that wall into a deeper faith. They either give up or their remain very very shallow.
Pray that you may not enter into temptation.
So many of us hit that wall and either give up on it or remain shallow, because the wall is hard. Coming to the place where you may not be able to fix everything or have an answer to every question is a hard place to be. Or coming to the place where you have really fought and really withstood the temptation of this world takes a lot of work. Taking the apple and just biting seems a good deal easier than learning the long hard road of dependence on our heavenly father.
Jesus and the prayer of Faith
So we come to Jesus.
41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
If you have ever read your Bible and come across Hebrews 4:15 and read that Jesus was tempted in every way as we are yet did not sin and brushed it off, I want you to remember this passage next time.
There is a biological phenomenon known as Hematidrosis. It means blood sweat. Blood oozes from your forehead and from your fingernails and, oddly enough, from your bellybutton. Often is very little so the fact that Jesus has drops is profound. It is very uncommon phenomenon but it is always because of extra stress and overwhelming anxiety.
Why did Jesus parents bring him to be circumcised after 8 days and to be presented in the Temple after 40 days? Because he was a real human boy! God, yes, but man, yes. And Jesus knows that his very death is before him. He knows that the time has come when the conflict that he has just warned his disciples about will be upon him. He knows that one of his very own closest friends is not only going to call him a bad nickname or say mean things behind his back, but his own friend is going to be the one that hands him over to be killed. He knows that his hour has come. He knows that this is the time when he must commit himself to the Father’s will.
And he knows that in doing this, he will be drinking the cup. And the cup in the writing of Holy Scripture is most often a depiction of the wrath of God. Jesus knows that he is about to bear the weight of the sin of the world. He knows that he is about to drink the cup of God’s wrath that we who fall into temptation and faith the tests might receive the blessing of God! Jesus who knew no sin might become sin for us that we would become the righteousness of God! Jesus, though he was tempted just as we are, never gave into temptation which is THE reason he can be the second Adam bring life where there is death!!!
You see, in this little right here on the Mount of Olives, right here in Gethsemane, is a picture of the heart of the good news or God for you. Jesus does what you cannot do and though it draws the blood from his brow to do it he still does it for you!
I am telling you, that is the way though the Wall!! It is. I’ve told you all in sermons past of some of the walls that I have come across in my life. Some of them I have sought to ignore, others I’ve sought to tear down. Some, sometimes you can get some real answers to. Most all of them demand good friends or good pastors or good counselors. Some I don’t know what to do with. But I have come back to this idea again and again, I know of no other religious like Christianity. Nothing. No greater love than a God who truly becomes one of us, lives a perfect life and dies betrayed by all for the sake of this world that has rejected him time and time again. The extent of God’s love and the commitment of this God to go to this extent for us is beyond anything else! Nothing else compares to the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing.
Some of you know that one of the greatest movies ever made is Groundhogs Day. Phil, the weatherman, not the groundhog is full of himself, he’s rude to others, he’s demanding. He lives life for himself, he is only concerned with himself. In fact, once his days start over on repeat, he quickly is just concerned with himself, what he can get and what he can take and what he can do. And it is only once he finally comes to the end of himself and truly loves another for their sake on not his own does his life really change. That is, of course, an invitation to us all and it is a good one that we should head. But is just a small small picture of what God does in Christ.
The Gospel of Luke is best described by its author in the first four verses of the book: "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."