To DOWNLOAD an MP3 of this message, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as". Older audio is removed to conserve server space, but is available by request.
As part of my own personal meditations for Lent this year, I’ve been trying to think of things that I appreciate in life, that Jesus gave up.
One of the things that I really appreciate in life, is a good night’s rest. Maybe you’ve had a baby to care for in your home, or a stretch of late nights at work. Maybe you have to get up early every morning to get to work on time, or maybe you suffer from insomnia. Even if you don’t have any of these things to rob you of your rest, we’re all still human. We know from experience that when you push that bad time off to far, you’re going to pay for it in the morning. Without proper rest our bodies become weak and fatigued, more susceptible to sickness and disease.
One of the things that Jesus often went without during the years of His ministry, was rest.
One of the reasons why Jesus went without rest was because people were constantly seeking Him out. One time Jesus noticed His disciples were tired, and needed some down time. So, He had them all pack into some boats to get away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But when Jesus and the disciples arrived at the other side of the lake, they found that the crowds had anticipated where Jesus was going, and had gotten there first. In the book of Mark its says,
“34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34 ESV).
Jesus’ love for people took priority over His need for rest.
Sometimes we think of Jesus as only being the Son of God, not remembering that He was also the Son of Mary. A human being, with human limitations during His earthly life. He got hungry. He got tired. Just how tired is shown in that story about Jesus stilling the storm.
You remember the story, after Jesus had finished teaching and healing one day, He decided to go across the lake by boat. As the disciples rowed, Jesus fell asleep in the back of the boat, on a cushion. That’s pretty tired. Then a storm front swept down into the valley and stirred up the lake. It was so rugged out there on the water that the waves were breaking over the sides of the boat and threatening to sink it. But Jesus was still asleep. Even amid the panic of the disciples, Jesus was conked out. Only when they shook Jesus awake did He open His eyes. That’s a tired guy.
And when Jesus wasn’t preaching and teaching, He was often forsaking sleep in order to spend hours in prayer, talking to His heavenly Father. Early in His ministry we hear about Jesus getting up way before dawn, and before the disciples awoke, in order to sneak of to pray (Mark 1:35). Throughout His ministry Jesus made it a habit to go off into desolate places to pray (Luke 5:16), or to pray with His disciples nearby (Luke 11:1). The night before Jesus selected the twelve Apostles, we are told that He went up on a mountain and prayed all night to God (Luke 6:12). You remember the transfiguration account right? When Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus, and Jesus’ appearance became as bright as light? Well, Jesus had gone up on that mountain to pray. And He prayed beyond the disciples ability to stay awake (Luke 9:28, 32). And of course, who could forget how the disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus wrestled in prayer so earnestly that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood (Matthew 26:36, 40).
Jesus gave up many an hour of rest, in order to pray.
And what was Jesus praying about during all these hours? Can we really have any question? I can guarantee He wasn’t praying about His health and finances. No doubt He was praying about His ministry. Praying for the people He was trying to save. Praying that they would come to trust in Him as their Savior. No doubt He was also praying about all the suffering He was going to have to endure. Suffering He would have to endure to erase the punishment for sin we have earned by our lives.
Jesus abandoned rest, to pray about the cross, to pray about saving you and me.
Up to this point we’ve only been talking about the physical rest that Jesus often went without. I say often, because Jesus did actually get some sleep from time to time. But there is one kind of rest the Jesus NEVER had. Jesus never had rest from temptations.
Every once in a while we read the account of how Jesus was tempted by the Devil for forty days out in the wilderness. But this wasn’t the only time Jesus faced temptation to sin. Jesus was tempted to sin His entire life long. Every year, every day, every hour and every minute the world around Him enticed Him to sin.
Now, you and I might say that we face that too. That just like Jesus we are tempted to sin constantly. And it’s true. Whether it’s by saying something hurtful or mean, or by doing something that breaks one of the commandments, or by thinking something that is ugly. But here’s the difference – when we find that we have given in to temptation, we can rest in the knowledge that Jesus suffered hell, and died in our place to take away our punishment for sin. We can rest in the knowledge that through faith in Christ we stand forgiven before our Father in Heaven. Jesus never had this luxury. If Jesus sinned, there would be no forgiveness for Him. He was the Savior. He had to be perfect, or the sacrifice wouldn’t be acceptable and sinners would be lost forever.
Can you imagine the pressure that weighed on the human Jesus? One wrong step and it’s all over. Every temptation to look at a woman with lust, every temptation to hate someone for their sins against Him, every temptation to greed, every temptation to pride, every temptation to cut some corner, each of these Jesus had to deflect to the ground by thinking, saying, or doing what was absolutely right.
They say that if you look at pictures of Abraham Lincoln before his presidency and at the end the difference is remarkable. The pressures of diligently governing of our nation through the Civil War hung years on his face. I can only imagine how the years of temptation effected Jesus’ appearance.
Where you and I have failed, over and over, Jesus endured. He didn’t sin. His soul remained pure. And it was that sinless soul that He gave on Calvary’s cross to earn us salvation. In the book of Hebrews it says,
“14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV).
Because Jesus forsook rest, and had no forgiveness to catch Him, we do. Because He had no peace, we do. It is His gift to us. So be glad when God gives you a night of peaceful sleep for your body. And receive with gladness the rest of soul that comes through faith in Christ’s perfect sacrifice in your place. And don’t for a second allow anyone to put the burden of bearing your own sins back on you. Don’t for a second believe that you have to somehow atone for your own sins. Jesus already did that for you on the cross. Instead, enjoy the rest that God has given us in Christ Jesus. Like it says in Philippians 4,
“4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV).
And may the rest of soul that is God’s gift, fill your days with peace and healing, through our great Savior Jesus Christ.