August 18 “Gethsemane”

Gethsemane

The strong angel was used to standing in the shadows.
A spiritual being, he was usually unseen by the people who received his ministry. He waited for Jesus in the usual place, the Garden of Gethsemane, a mountainside retreat often used by Jesus and His men for a night’s rest. There would be no rest on this night.

The angel watched as the disciples followed Jesus into the garden. Their bellies were full. It was late. The trek up the mountainside wore them out. They quickly found their usual resting places and started to settle in for the night. Judas was not among them. Jesus spoke a last piece of instruction.

“Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

They were too tired to even think about praying. Jesus withdrew from them so that His prayers would not disturb them. He knelt to pray.

“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me…”

The angel moved closer to Jesus, wondering if the Father would answer this desperate prayer. In the Garden, only the usual night sounds could be heard. In the spirit realm, neither Jesus nor the attending angel detected a reply. In a moment, Jesus broke the silence.

“…nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”

The angel stepped to Jesus and touched His shoulder. Jesus lowered His head to touch the angel’s hand. In the contact, the power of the Holy Spirit flowed from heaven to earth. With new strength, Jesus prayed all the more. Such was His effort in prayer that He began to perspire. As His effort became agony, the tiny blood vessels in his forehead broke and His perspiration flushed with blood and fell to the floor of the Garden, the first drops of so much blood that would spill this night.

The Betrayal
Jesus arose from prayer and returned to the disciples. The angel, weeping, retreated to the shadows. He knew he must not stop the events about to unfold. Jesus, hearing the approaching guards, stirred His men awake.

“Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

While He still spoke, a detachment of Temple guards, led by priests who in turn were led by Judas, emerged from the shadows. Without hesitation, Judas approached Jesus and kissed Him on the cheek. For some reason the guards froze in position as Jesus responded.

“Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Now they were sure. The guards seized Jesus. Peter drew one of the swords asking,

“Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”

Without waiting for an answer he struck off the ear of one of the guards. Before the other guards could retaliate, Jesus rebuked Peter saying,

“Permit even this.”

He reached down to the injured man and healed the ear. In view of such a miracle, the guards were hesitant to touch Him. Jesus spoke to the priests,

When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour,
and the power of darkness.”

As the guards seized Jesus, the powerful angel held his power in check although every angelic fiber of his angelic being wanted to strike the guards and the priests and Judas but he knew this was not the plan.

It was the hour of darkness, indeed, and the long night was just beginning.

Scriptures:
Luke:22:39-53
NKJV
Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Permit even this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, never has such love been seen on earth! Never such passion! Bearing no guilt of Your own, You took the sins of the world on Your shoulders. Faced with the bitter cup of iniquity, You drank it all. Your sleeping friends could not help You. The angel standing by could not rescue You for it was to this moment that all Your footsteps led. Thank You, Lord. Thank You, Lord.

Song:
To See the King of Heaven Fall (Gethsemne)

Words and Music by Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty

1. To see the King of heaven fall
In anguish to His knees,
The Light and Hope of all the world
Now overwhelmed with grief.
What nameless horrors must He see,
To cry out in the garden:
‘Oh, take this cup away from me!
Yet not my will but Yours
Yet not my will but Yours.’

2. To know each friend will fall away,
And heaven’s voice be still,
For hell to have its vengeful day
Upon Golgotha’s hill.
No words describe the Saviour’s plight
To be by God forsaken
Till wrath and love are satisfied,
And every sin is paid,
And every sin is paid.

3. What took Him to this wretched place,
What kept Him on this road?
His love for Adam’s curséd race,
For every broken soul.
No sin too slight to overlook,
No crime too great to carry,
All mingled in this poisoned cup,
And yet He drank it all
The Savior drank it all,
The Savior drank it all.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

May 28 “Gethsemane”

Gethsemane

They had been there before.
There had been other nights when Jesus had led them to this isolated section of the Garden of Gethsemane. Perhaps there was an olive press nearby since that is what the name “Gethsemane” means. The men probably had their own little bed plots chosen for the long nights beneath the ancient trees. The moist air retained the heat of the day in the early evening but chilled in the dead of night and as the early morning approached. Despite their little routines, there would be nothing routine about this night in Gethsemane.

Sorrowful unto Death
Jesus could never get His men to understand what was at hand. Perhaps the one who was missing, his little bed-plot undisturbed by preparation for sleep, knew. Jesus posted the men in one place and took the inner circle deeper into the garden. He wanted them to pray with Him. They had never seen Him like this before, burdened with such heaviness. The could not know that Gethsemane was His time of pressing. He left them and went deeper into the green-shadowed sanctuary. They heard Him praying to the Father about a cup from which He must drink but one that repulsed Him. His protests fell to the ground as they heard the now famous words,

“…nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

Silence.

Then He was back, seeking support, but the men were already asleep. No one would watch with Him. No one would pray with Him.

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Twice more He retreated into the Garden to pray the same prayer only to return and find the Disciples sleeping. The third time, He blessed them as they slept only to hear the noise of an approaching mob, their feet trampling the peace of the Garden and their weapons clanging away the silence of the night. Jesus alerted His men.

“Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

The Arrest
Judas, the missing one, the only one who knew what was happening, approached Jesus, called Him Rabbi and kissed Him on the cheek. It was the prearranged signal to the Temple guards. They seized Jesus to bind His hands and feet. From other sources, we know that Peter drew his sword and struck off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. This earned Him a rebuke from Jesus and gave the world a wise warning that those who live by the sword would be destined to die by it. Jesus touched the wounded man and healed the severed ear. The confused silence that followed was broken by a sharp command to seize Him. Jesus did not struggle; He assured those handling Him that the Father would send a mightier army than they to rescue Him if He wanted. He pointed out that He never ran from them and neither would He on this night. Let the prophecies be fulfilled.

As the soldiers captured Jesus, all the disciples, no longer laden with sleep and totally unable to pray, deserted Him.

Scriptures:
Matthew 26:36-56
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I cannot know the depth of Your sorrow in Gethsemane. It is beyond my ability to imagine. You drank everything that was in that cup: all the sin of all the world. Such an invasion of wickedness into Your sinless soul!—Such a bitter mixture of hate and violence, cruelty and deception, anger and malice. No profane words had ever lodged in Your heart and therefore none had ever escaped Your lips, yet You consumed the lies of hell. You took it all so that I could be relieved of it all. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Amen.

Song:
Man of Sorrows
Words and Music: P. P. Bliss

1. Man of sorrows what a name
for the Son of God, who came
ruined sinners to reclaim:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

2. Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

3. Guilty, helpless, lost were we;
blameless Lamb of God was he,
sacrificed to set us free:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

4. He was lifted up to die;
“It is finished” was his cry;
now in heaven exalted high:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

5. When he comes, our glorious King,
all his ransomed home to bring,
then anew this song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

February 22 “Garden”

Garden

Gethsemane means “oil press,” a place where harvested olives were put under pressure to release their essence.
This garden was situated at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It was a preferred place of prayer for Jesus. The disciples were exhausted. Following Jesus was harder work than fishing or collecting taxes or any of the other occupations they had known since Jesus had looked at each of them and said the words from which there was no return, “Follow me.” Of late, His teaching was most disturbing. They were glad when He told them to wait while He and the inner circle went deeper into the garden to pray. The eight remaining behind were glad for once not to be included with Peter, James, and John.

The three followed Jesus deep into the garden when He suddenly fell to the earth. This was more than exhaustion—this was sorrow, a deeper sorrow than they had ever seen in Jesus.

“My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”

Now it was their turn to stop and wait as Jesus struggled to His feet and continued His lonely vigil. He was not so far away that they could not hear Him praying. He prayed desperately for this hour to pass and leave Him untouched. They heard Him cry out to His Father to take this cup of suffering away. They waited in the deep silence that followed this petition for some answer from heaven. None came. When Jesus spoke again, His voice was stronger. The decision had been made.

“…nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”

Relieved by this, the trio drifted into an unrestful sleep. Jesus returned to them, not all surprised to find them sleeping. He was strong now, Himself again. The press had done its work. He teased them awake announcing the approach of Judas.

While He was still speaking, Judas led the religious leaders and their military escort, armed to the teeth, into the garden. He had prearranged a signal, a kiss. With the greeting, “Rabbi!” he delivered it and the authorities went to work. In the brief violence one of the disciples drew a sword and sliced off the ear of a guard. Jesus noted the irony of the moment. It was all so unnecessary.

“Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”

When the disciples saw there was no fighting to be done they fled the garden, one leaving his clothes behind. They left Jesus to the mercy of His enemies, just as He had predicted they would. Only Judas was left. His face betrayed his growing regret. Whatever he had expected did not happen.

The leaders were gleeful. The guards were cruel. The Disciples were in hiding. Jesus was resolved. The night was young.

Scriptures:
Mark 14:32-52
Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely.” As soon as he had come, immediately he went up to Him and said to Him, “Rabbi, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him. And one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then they all forsook Him and fled. Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, never has anyone on earth known the depth of isolation that You knew in that garden. The soft breezes through the familiar trees could not cool your brow heated by sweat turned to blood. When You called out to Your Father for relief no answer came. There was no turning back, no other course to take. The Father’s will was clear. In the pain and loneliness of the garden, the Father’s will became Yours. Help me to always do the same. Amen.

Song:
What Wondrous Love Is This?
Anonymous

1. What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

2. When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, O my soul!
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

3. To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb who is the great “I AM,”
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
while millions join the theme, I will sing.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

March 28, 2017

Submission

Human nature is strong. 
The will to survive is perhaps the strongest force in the human heart. In the garden called Gethsemane the battle between the will to survive and the demands of absolute love raged in the quietness of the night.

Before the soldiers broke the silence of that night with the sounds of sandals rhythmically pounding the floor of the garden and swords rattling in their belts, drops of blood fell to the ground, the telling residue of the silent battle of will against love.  This blood was not drawn by the blade, but by the bitter anguish of a soul in torment.  Jesus’ sweat became as blood as He faced the cup of iniquity filled to overflowing by all the sins of mankind, past and future.

  • Roman cruelty and religious bigotry were in the cup,
  • as was the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart,
  • the idolatry of the nations, including Israel,
  • the genocide of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot,
  • the hedonism, racism, greed, and infanticide of America, and
  • the institutionalized hatred of radical Islam.
  • Our private little sins were there, too.

This bitter cup was abhorrent to Jesus. 
For more than thirty years He had lived a sinless life although beset by every temptation known to man. Now He must swallow all sin, taking into his human life the poison of the ages from Eden to the end of time.  He was God incarnate, the divine merged with the human.  In a mystery we cannot unravel in this life, Jesus had laid aside His divinity to live by the power of the Spirit in the flesh.  The Spirit of God had never failed Him:

  • Demons fled at the sound of His command.
  • Sickness, impairment, and disease vanished at His touch.
  • Lies and liars melted away at His reasoning.
  • Even the winds and waves obeyed Him.

On this night, in this garden, the will of the Father was not to deliver Him; it was the Father’s will that Jesus deliver us.

He asked His friends to watch and pray with Him.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

They were unable to do as He asked.  Sleep overcame them. His prayer of agony echoed through the stillness of the olive trees:

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Returning to the sleeping disciples, Jesus revealed the nature of the battle within Him:

“The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

His spirit was powerful, calling for Him to lovingly submit to the agreed upon plan from ages past.  But now, having entered willingly into time, in this moment the human will to survive was strong.  It was the last temptation He must resist.  He prayed the prayer of submission a second time, and then a third and final time:

“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

This silent night was broken by the shouts of soldiers and followers, the greeting of one who betrayed and his kiss, the scrape of swords drawn from leather, the cry of a wounded temple guard and the amazement of all who saw the severed ear restored.  As soldiers dragged Jesus away and His friends scattered into the safety of darkness, the stillness beneath the olive trees returned as if nothing had happened there.

But something did happened there—the world was redeemed.

Scriptures:
Matthew 26:36-56
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them… “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  Going 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.”Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed… When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then 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. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people …Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him… With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.  “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You did not submit because of weakness. You said Your spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. This I understand. I have felt the failure of my human soul to follow the will of my human spirit. You had something to do that no one else in the world who ever lived could do. You did it. You drained the bitter cup of the sins of the world, taking all of it into Your sinless self. “Thank you” seems all too beggarly a word to use but I must express my gratitude to You for this. You did this for me as much as You did it for anyone. I submit to You. I know that my salvation is a gift that I could never earn yet something in me wants to serve You the rest of my days—starting today! Amen.

Song:
What Wondrous Love Is This?
Composer Unknown

1. What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?

2. When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down;
when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.

3. To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM –
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
while millions join the theme, I will sing.

4. And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved