February 10, 2008

The Pressure of Gethsemane Yields the Oil of Truth - Feb 10, 2008

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If we could stand on the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem and look to the east we would see a mountain across the Kidron Valley. The mountain is called the Mount of olives. As the name suggests, there was once an olive grove on this mountain. And there among the olive trees was a garden called Gethsemane.

In Hebrew, Gethsemane means “olive press”. It made sense to process the olives that were grown on the mount right on the mount itself. In Gethsemane, pressure was applied to a harvest of olives to produce olive oil.

In our reading from God’s Word we will hear how the Son of God was placed under unthinkable pressure in the garden of Gethsemane. And just as pressure on an olive produces oil and reveals the quality of that olive, so also the pressure that Jesus felt shows us the quality of our Savior.

In our meditation for today we see how…

“The Pressure of Gethsemane Yields the Oil of Truth”

In Gethsemane we see that Jesus was human like us. We see that Jesus trusted His Father above all. And we see that Jesus alone could save sinners.

May the Holy Spirit teach our minds, strengthen our faith and comfort our souls by our meditation on His Word. We read…

Matthew 26:36-46 (NIV)

36Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39Going a little farther, 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.”

40Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

42He 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.”

43When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Jesus was human like you and me. He had ten fingers and ten toes. He had legs that took Him from place to place. He had a mind with which He thought. He had a mouth with which He spoke. And He also had the full set of emotions that we are equipped with.

We remember the anger that Jesus expressed when He drove the money-changers out of the Temple. They were disturbing the worship of His Father in order to make a dollar, and that made Jesus angry.

We remember the great sadness that Jesus felt outside the tomb of Lazarus. Inside that cold, damp tomb lay Jesus’ friend. Dead. It brought Jesus to tears.

And here in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus felt sorrow and fearful anticipation of the terrible suffering that was soon to come.

Now we must remember that though Jesus had emotions like us, His emotions were never sinful. So often when we are troubled, our concern is laced with a sinful lack of trust in God. This was not the case when Jesus was troubled.

We might think of a mother about to give birth who does not doubt that God will take care of her, come life or death, but she is still troubled by the pain which she knows is near. This is what Jesus felt.

Before coming to Jerusalem for the last time Jesus had taken His disciples aside, more than once, to tell them clearly that He would soon be put to death. Jesus knew what was coming, and He felt the weight of that knowledge heavily.

In fact, Jesus told the three disciples with Him in Gethsemane that His soul was so overwhelmed with sorrow that it was killing Him. He was at the point of death just thinking about all that was yet to come.

Jesus was so troubled that He turned to His closest friends for support. He asked Peter, James and John to remain with Him and to stay alert with Him. This was unusual for Jesus to do. He was usually the one supporting them! He had the answers. He knew God’s Word. He worked miracles of healing and cast out demons. But now, in this hour of need Jesus reached out for the companionship of His friends.

And as Jesus had always done, He also sought the help and support of His Father in heaven. Stepping away from the three, Jesus fell down to pray.

And His prayer is startling to us. He asks God the Father if He might somehow avoid the horrible suffering that looms so near.

Though He was sinless, Jesus was human in every way. His nakedly honest prayer to His Father shows this to be true. His life was not one long play in which He pretended to be human. Don’t think that for a moment. He experienced growing pains. He knew what disappointment felt like. He grew tired. He grew frustrated. He experienced pain and troubles like we have, and more. Much more.

And because Jesus suffered beyond the suffering of any other human being, He is qualified to speak to you and to me concerning anything we might face in our lives. He is overly qualified to counsel us in our sorrows. He wants to be the shoulder we go to cry on.

In the books of Hebrews it is written,

15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV).

Jesus went to the Father’s throne in prayer because He trusted His Father above all.

This isn’t the case with sinners. So often sinners run away from the duty that God places on them. Remember how Jonah tried to sail away from God to escape the task that God had given him to do.

When sinners face the pressures of life and responsibility they flee to the bottle or to drugs to escape. Instead of facing the issues at hand sinners seek something that will distract them from their problems, instead of someone who will help them face their problems. But not Jesus. He went to the Father in prayer.

Lest we think that Jesus was wrong to ask so bold a thing, lets keep in mind how He ended each prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He always closed by saying, “Your will be done, Father.” Even if the way is painful, your will be done. Even if the way is scary, your will be done. Even if the way ends in death, your will be done.

In having His prayers recorded for us, Jesus is teaching us to react to pressure in the same way. Jesus once said that everyone who hears His words and puts them into practice builds on a solid foundation (Matthew 7:24). In our times of trouble the first and best thing that we can do is to go to the Father in prayer like Jesus did. We will receive help from the God who never sleeps.

By bringing all our sorrows and troubles to God in prayer, we are exercising our trust in Him and we are also bringing Him honor. By calling on God we are really making the statement, “God, I trust that You can help. I am confiding in You because I believe You will help me.”

As God declares in Psalm 50,

“…call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15 NIV).

As we wait for God’s answer to our prayer, we should return to His throne often. He is not bothered by our repeated prayer. He sees our continual knocking on His door as an expression of our trust that only He can provide the answers we need.

The Bible repeatedly tells us that Jesus is the only Savior. Only through Him were our sins taken away, and only through faith in Him will we reach the shores of Heaven.

Each time Jesus returned to the three disciples He saw a reminder of how much sinners really need Him. Here in their friend’s greatest time of need, these men were incapable of even staying awake.

Their failure to stay alert with Jesus reminds us that we also are incapable of doing what Gods asks.

We could wake up each day and tell ourselves, “Today I’m not going to sin. I’ll keep my words and thoughts pure and do all that God asks.” But even if we lived a million years, we’d end each day by saying, “Maybe tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get it right.”

And just as sinners are incapable of living even a day without breaking God’s law, we are also incapable to doing anything to erase the record of our past sins.

That’s why the most soothing oil of truth that comes from these events in the Garden of Gethsemane is the truth that Jesus alone could save sinners.

Jesus asked if there was some other way. The Father’s response was, “No, Son, You’re the only Way. Only You can do what is necessary.”

Jesus prayed the same basic prayer to the Father three times, but altered His words slightly. In the alteration of His prayer we can see the Savior hearing the Father’s answer.

In His first prayer Jesus asks, “…My Father , if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me…” (Matthew 26:39 NIV). But in His second prayer Jesus asks, “…My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42 NIV).

By the time Jesus returned to the three after His third prayer it was clear to Him that the cross was the only way for sinful mankind to be saved from hell. If He didn’t experience hell in their place, sinners would be damned forever.

Once Jesus was sure of this, His behavior changed dramatically.

Upon returning to the three Jesus could see Judas coming with a crowd. Jesus tells the disciples to get up for it is time to meet His betrayer. There is no more asking for another way. Jesus knows the Father’s will and it is His will also.

And just moments later, when Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus from arrest, Jesus rebuked him with the words,

“Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11 NKJV).

May the Father grant us the same strength of faith, so that when we know His will, we will refuse to do otherwise even if it means our own suffering.

The oil pressed from olives is useful for more than cooking. It also soothes sore and damaged skin. So also the truths produced in the press of Gethsemane soothe our sore hearts.

Jesus has been through much more than us, and is therefore able to guide and comfort us in all our troubles. He does so by His Word.

Jesus leads us to trust the Father in the midst of all troubles and to go to Him for help. We do this by prayer.

But the most soothing oil that comes from the press of Gethsemane is the fact that Jesus is our one and only Savior. He alone could do what was required. And because He did, we need not feel the sharp press of our own sins, nor fear the eternal suffering that our sins have earned. For Jesus has already felt that punishment for us. Through Him we are soothed and comforted. Through Him our sins are forgiven.

May the oil of this truth heal your sore hearts and bring joy into each day that you live under the Father’s love, in the Kingdom of the Son.


-Pastor Caleb Schaller

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