April 2 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 22)

Submitted by Sarah K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

  • Prayer, temptation

Jesus went out “as usual” to the Mount of Olives with his disciples.  The disciples probably had no idea that this time was so different from all the times in the past.  This time, Jesus warned them to pray that they would not fall into temptation.  He gave them the key to fighting temptation, the very thing that he was doing as he was about to face the greatest trial in history, the same key that enabled him to not fall into the temptation to avoid the cross.  These are the same words of warning that have been issued to me time and again, but as I go about my life “as usual,” time and again I refuse to heed to these words.

It’s not that the disciples were totally clueless and feeling nothing.  They fell asleep, exhausted from sorrow.  They knew Jesus was going through something.  They knew something was about to happen.  And they were filled with grief.  I have been a Christian long enough to know that there is a spiritual battle raging, and that there will be casualties, tragedies along the way.  There are those who will refuse the words of life, there are those who will grow weary and exhausted and decide that it’s all too much.  There is my own incessant battle with my sin, with my selfish nature, with my desire for comfort, my desire to throw in the towel because struggling seems so overwhelming.  I’m not clueless to these things.  I even grow exhausted from them.  Where I refuse to embrace the gravity of the situation is my response of falling asleep rather than heeding Jesus’ words and coming to God in prayer.  When I grow tired and wearied from the troubles of life, my anxieties about myself, my family, ministry, when I feel the weight of my sin and the many shades of rebellion in my heart, so often my first response is not to go to God.  Rather, I sleep, literally seeking rest, or seeking distraction, escape, busying myself with mundane tasks, thinking this or that needs to get done, running more errands than I really have to, trying to keep my heart from being quiet where I need to deal with those bothersome and tiring thoughts.  In the end, rather than overcoming temptation, I find myself more exhausted than ever.

Even as Jesus’ heart is burdened with the weight of the cross, he must have been frustrated, saddened, even angry as he saw his disciples sleeping.  How tragic and frustrating it is that I’ve been given these words of salvation from the barrage of temptation in my life, yet I do not heed.  As I have opportunity day after day, during daily devotions, morning prayer times, weekly prayer meetings, Bible studies, Sunday services, as I do the things I do “as usual,” I need to resist the temptation to just sleep, and instead take all of the things that leave me exhausted to Jesus in prayer.

  • Not my will, but yours be done

Jesus’ will was that the cup be taken from him, he was able to express this honestly to God, and he ended with “yet not my will but yours be done.”  This is the starting and ending point of prayer.  God doesn’t expect me to come to Him with all the right desires already in place.  He is not threatened or afraid of honest confessions about where I am:  that even after almost 2 decades of being Christian, I still struggle with my flesh, I still resist denying my own desires and embracing God’s calling to love and serve others, and sometimes my desire is, take this cup from me, why me?!  I do not have to shrink back from acknowledging these things to God.  He knows what to do with them.  We do not have a God who is “unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but […] one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin,” so that we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive  mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:15-16)  Time and again, the mercy and grace that I find when I approach the throne of grace through prayer is that my heart changes to “yet not my will but yours be done.”

I have experienced this grace and mercy to help me in my time of need when I come to God in prayer honestly with all my sin and weakness again and again, even when my confession is, take this cup from me.  Somehow, through His great mercy, He knows how to take these prayers, even when they seem hopeless to me at the time, and turn them into a sincere desire for not my will, but His to be done in my life.  Especially after coming to San Diego, there were so many times I felt incredibly inadequate for the task of ministering to people here, and felt especially helpless away from my leaders and peers who I’ve come to rely on so much for strength.  Again and again, God has proven Himself faithful to provide the strength I need to get through a day if I only come to Him.  Sometimes it’s through a renewed sense of awe and gratitude that a sinner like me can be a recipient of God’s forgiveness.  Very often it’s through His words of truth.  Recently, when I felt emotionally wearied, I read through Psalm 73 and when I came to the words “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory,” the words hit with such force and I felt the truth and weight of them, and they provided the surge of strength and comfort that I needed.  Time and again, I have journaled and prayed before doing daily devotion about some issue I was going through, not expecting that the devotional passage I was about to read could possibly address this very specific issue, but I was proven wrong as God’s word addressed me in such exact ways.  Indeed, God knows how to turn my prayers of “take this cup from me” into “yet not my will, but Yours be done!”  Just as the angels came and attended to Jesus after his exhausting prayer, God knows how to strengthen and encourage me and never leaves me alone in my struggle.

How often Jesus must have prayed this prayer, and come to the point where he was able to say again and again, “Not my will, but yours be done,” such that he was able to live a life of surrender and self-denial to the point of going to the cross.  His prayers led to a life of total obedience to the Father’s will, and this meant the salvation of mankind, including me.  Ultimately this must be the result of my times spent with God and reflection on Jesus’ love demonstrated through his death.  Not just personal encouragement or hope, but a life of surrendering my will to God’s, of self-denial, obedience and letting go of personal preferences.  As I reflect on the cross this week, I pray for a renewed personal vow and conviction of “not my will but yours be done.”

Submitted by James C. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Luke 22:41-44

  • What is the content of Jesus’ prayer?

In Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane, he asks that the “cup” of suffering be taken from him, yet only if his Heavenly Father was willing. There is that overall tone of submission to the will of his Heavenly Father, even as he was expressing the desire not to face the impending suffering at the cross. Jesus affirms that in the end, his commitment and desire is that his Father’s will should be done, not his own.

It’s so remarkable to see that even Jesus struggled to embrace the pain involved in obeying his Heavenly Father. Jesus wasn’t approaching the cross as an all-powerful being who experiences no pain, but it was difficult and painful for him. Jesus’ prayer here had such honesty regarding the difficulty of embracing this pain. There wasn’t any pretense or hiding of how he really felt, but he comes to his Heavenly Father with such trust and authenticity, and he was like a child who did not hide anything from his Father but who came so vulnerably and openly. At the same time, even while he was asking for deliverance for his trials, Jesus was surrendering himself wholly to the will of his Father, asking for his will to be done, and there was that clarity about his commitment to honor and love his Father through his obedience. Even with this overwhelming challenge ahead, Jesus was fully prepared to die to his own preferences and any desire to save himself.

  • According to Jesus’ prayer, what should be the outcome of every prayer?

According to the pattern of Jesus’ prayer here, my prayers should also end with this asking for God’s will to be done. Jesus’ prayer here really echoed the Lord’s Prayer, in which he taught the significance of asking for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, and that this should be what we desire. This is so contrary to our natural instincts, which often focus only on our needs and wants. God invites us to be honest and real in coming to him, and prayer is that place where I can even be honest about doubts and even complaints. This is the pattern in the psalms as well, where the author would pray with such anguish and even complain about God, and yet these psalms would end with praise and thanksgiving as the psalmist reflected on the goodness of God and his character. It is the same here as well. Jesus did honestly express his desire for his suffering to be avoided, and this prayer time at Gethsemane was full of anguish and struggle, as Jesus’ sweat was even like drops of blood. And yet, the final note of his prayer was one of willing surrender of himself to his Father’s will. This is what God wants my prayers to look like as well. He invites me to be fully honest about what’s going on in my heart and to come to prayer as that place where I can wrestle with my feelings, my reluctance to obey or even anger and bitterness. And yet, through prayer, I should end up at a place where I can genuinely surrender myself to God’s will again. It may not always come quickly or easily, but this happens as I consider who it is that I am placing these things before and as I reflect upon his character and his faithfulness and graciousness in my life. As I do this, I can see the goodness and rightness in surrendering myself to God, and I find the strength to do so as I think about how God leads me and about his promise to be with me. This is the kind of genuine wrestling process that he wants me to engage in my prayers, not just saying the “right words” or just shallowly praying about what I’m going through, but to be honest and vulnerable and experience him lifting me and ending up a place where I can surrender to his will for me.

  • Reflect on the prayer of Jesus, and the words, “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly …” 

From the anguish of Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane, it is really touching to see how painful it was for Jesus to embrace the cross, and yet he was so willing to do it out of love for his Father and out of love for us. The Son of God really did become man and took on all of the weakness and frailty of human flesh, and it was very difficult for him to face death. I can thoughtlessly underappreciate what a struggle it was for Jesus to embrace the cross, but Jesus’ anguish in Gethsemane here underscores what a precious thing he did in lovingly sacrificing for me. It was not a casual choice that Jesus made, but a weighty decision that he took on fully, along with all of the pain involved, in order to obey his Father and redeem humanity.

I’m also thankful for the vulnerability and realism of his humanity that Jesus showed here. This combination of his personal desire to avoid death and the deeper commitment to obey his Father is, in a way, something we wouldn’t expect the all-mighty Son of God to experience. Yet this rings so true to me as a frail human being. Even as I have the desire to obey God, there is, at the same time, such an innate desire to save myself. Through Jesus’ anguishing prayer here, I get a picture about how I can deal with these two things in tension, that I can acknowledge my honest desires and where I am at, and yet ultimately affirm a deeper commitment for God’s will to be done. I’m thankful that through Jesus’ humanity, he gives us a picture of how to struggle in prayer.

“Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly.” Here, it says that as Jesus was feeling so much anguish, he prayed even more fervently and more earnestly. This contrasts with how I respond when I face difficulties or burdens, and I tell myself that right now, I feel too overwhelmed or too discouraged, and I end up not bringing my troubles to God but just seek to deal with them on my own or through other ways. What might be behind Jesus’ response? Perhaps it is because Jesus had this commitment to do God’s will and embrace fully the pain that may come with obedience. He was committed to obey his Father, and so, he was ready to do whatever it takes for him to be fully ready to do that. As he felt the anguish of what was coming, he turned to prayer for strength and to further solidify his resolve, and so his response was to pray even more earnestly. For me, it can be so different because so often my basic posture is to avoid pain and preserve myself, and I am often more committed to that than to just embrace whatever it is that God is calling me to do. And because that is my posture, when I am faced with trouble or challenges, I run away and seek escapism rather than to be honest with my anxieties or anguish in earnest prayer. As a result, I miss out on opportunities to experience the strength and comfort that can come from prayer.

Luke 22:47-53

  • What is disturbing about Judas’ kiss? 

Judas’ kiss was so disturbing because he was using this gesture of affection as in his act of betrayal. The fact that he was driven by greed and agreed to betray Jesus was terrible enough, but that fact that he chose this as the sign of identifying Jesus for arrest was like adding insult to injury. It was so hypocritical and deceitful that he feigned affection in greeting someone he called his teacher, with the real goal of handing Jesus over to those who wanted to kill him. Furthermore, the fact that Judas was able to use this gesture of love and affection really showed how little he cared about his relationship with Jesus. It’s bad enough that Judas was so driven by greed. But the fact that he used such an intimate gesture in his betrayal shows that he really didn’t care about the relationship, that this relational gesture (and perhaps the entire relationship), was just something that he’d exploit to get what he wanted. To someone like Jesus who had shared his life openly with Judas during the past three years and who loved him, this was deeply offensive and troubling.

  • Why might Judas have chosen this particular way of identifying Jesus to those who came to arrest him? 

Perhaps Judas did this for practical reasons, as it was the custom of the day to greet one another with a kiss, and it would’ve seemed perfectly natural for him to get close to Jesus this way. As the arrest was happening at night, he needed a reliable way to identify Jesus to the chief priests and soldiers. Perhaps he thought that Jesus’ guard would be down if he approached him like this, and that it would be the easiest way to clearly identify Jesus in the dark.

Or perhaps, even in this final act of betrayal, Judas was still too cowardly to own up to his greed and his sin. Judas very well could have identified Jesus in some other way, even pointing him out to the soldiers outright. But even to the end, he chose to do it in a deceitful and sneaky way, and perhaps this was one way that he avoided confronting the truth of what he was doing, that he was betraying his Lord who loved him during the past years. Perhaps this was just another way that he’s trying to deny his guilt in all of this and believe in even the partial fiction that what he was doing wasn’t so bad.

  • Judas was with Jesus for three years, along with the rest of the disciples, who all found their hearts full of love and loyalty toward Jesus.   What might be some reasons Judas turned out to be so different?  What warnings are applicable to me from this?

It is really disturbing that Judas had been with Jesus three years along with all of the other disciples who went on to give their lives for their Lord. Through all that Judas experienced up close in witnessing Jesus’ love and his actions, he still chose to betray Jesus. What was it about Judas that made him turn out so differently from the others? One reason might be that he never really owned up to his motivations honestly. Perhaps Judas was driven by selfish reasons for following Jesus, but he was never honest about this and just went along with everything as though he was onboard with what Jesus was saying and doing. Maybe he thought that following Jesus would one day lead him to personal prominence or power, or even some bigger reason like the deliverance of the Jews from Roman occupation. Whatever his expectations were, perhaps he didn’t consider his real motivations behind all that he did, or perhaps he knew but just didn’t want to own up to them. Because he didn’t face his inner motivations honestly, he didn’t allow these to be challenged by all that he experienced of Jesus. Perhaps all of the times when Jesus did teach them about what it meant to be a disciples, Judas never bothered to consider how these differed from his own views, and either dismissed them because he didn’t understand or just never tried to wrestle with these differences honestly. Things were on a collision course until he finally realized that following Jesus wasn’t going to lead to any of that.

This really is a warning for me that I need to honestly examine my motivations for following Jesus and my own understanding of what that means. Especially as I get older, in a way there is growing temptation to think that I’ve fully dealt with my motivations or my idols. Yet through Judas, I see that it is very possible for motivations to remain hidden even through many powerful experiences with Jesus. It would be very foolish for me to feel confident about my commitment or state of my heart just because I’ve been Christian for some amount of time or because I have gone through powerful experiences. Going through these things doesn’t mean that I’ve necessarily genuinely dealt with wrong motivations in my heart or that dangerous desires and sins have been fully dealt with. And even if I have dealt with them in the past, new situations or going through new phases in my life can be opportunities for these sins to surface as new temptations. This means that I need to regularly have times of checking my heart and examining the real motivations behind the things I do, and not taking in false comfort just because of the past.

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