Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Witness Of Luke

I've always loved that we have four Gospels, four witnesses who tell of the life of our Lord from their perspectives. I love that the Holy Spirit in guiding them did not take away their personalities or points of view. The witness whom I most appreciate is Luke. The details which he shares seem so tender and compassionate, like Mary's Magnificat, the angels and the shepherds, twelve year old Jesus sitting among the teachers at the temple, Mary choosing the better, Zacchaeus's repentance, and many more. During Holy week, one detail stands out particularly to me. It is in Luke 22, specifically vs. 43.
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 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 an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

As Jesus prayed in agony, an angel was sent to strengthen him. We don't hear about this very often in sermons, books, etc.   It is such a compassionate scene and is good to know. When Jesus was praying for the cup to be removed, when his friends had failed him, the Father did not abandon him, he gave him the strength to follow through.

There is so much of Christ's death that is a mystery, that theologians will argue about until Christ returns. (Let's hope they end the arguing there!), but there seem to be some things that are clear. That the Father and the Son are one and before the world was created, they knew this day would come. (It's very hard to talk about the actions of God, knowing he is the creator of time and not bound by it!) Mankind did not shock God when it sinned; God did not have to go to plan B with the law of Moses or plan C when the law could not be kept. God worked his plan in time leading to the perfect time when he would reconcile to world to himself.  This self sacrificial love is God's nature. As he transforms us into his likeness, it is also becoming ours.

I am so thankful to Luke, for reminding us that the Father loves the Son and did not abandon him in his weakness and grief.

There is a hymn which first clued me in to this part of the story. In fact, until I determined at some point in my childhood to see if the fourth stanza was even scriptural, I had thought it may have simply been made up. I'm very glad I was wrong. Here are the lyrics.
'Tis midnight, and on Olive's brow
The star is dimmed that lately shone;
'Tis midnight in the garden now,
The suff'ring Savior prays alone.

'Tis midnight, and from all removed,
The Savior wrestles lone with fears-
E'en that disciple whom He loved
Heeds not his Master's grief and tears.

'Tis midnight, and for other's guilt
The Man of Sorrows weeps in blood;
Yet He that hath in anguish knelt
Is not forsaken by His God.

'Tis midnight, and from ether-plains
Is borne the song that angels know
Unheard by mortals are the strains
That sweetly soothe the Savior's woe.

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