God does not ask us from a comfortably safe distance to step into the risk and adventure of the Christian life. God will not challenge us to the core of our being in terms of character, faith, trust, and reliance upon God, that in times of persecution may even cost the Christian his or her life, without Himself having also shared this similar experience.
God composed and orchestrated His own life here on earth in such a way that, in regard to all of life’s critical issues, He challenged Himself through the experience of the cross. This sets the example for us to have a foreglimpse of what is involved in a walk of faith with God.
Because Christ lives within the believer’s heart, we have the one and only Person helping us “from the inside” who has successfully been through the cross and resurrection experience ahead of us.
However we interpret the many sides of the agony of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, in trying to understand the limitlessness of the divine love of God, one important lesson stands out. If God is going to ask me to give my all, and He is offering His help in this regard, then I must have confidence that He has actually been there Himself ahead of me.
I must have absolute confidence that my Guide through this adventure of faith…truly knows the best possible route to take.
In some way that we can only begin to discover through our own God-composed biblical walk of faith…both the human and the divine sides of Jesus Christ gave His all in Gethsemane and at Calvary…in exhibiting unselfish love and pure righteousness in the face of enormous opposition…in order to pre-qualify Himself to be the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6).
One of the accounts of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane…is recorded in Luke 22:39-46:
39 And he came out, and went, as he was accustomed, to the Mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
41 And he was withdrawn from them a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven strengthening him.
44 And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow.
46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
Luke 22:44 says that Jesus prayed “more earnestly.”
This is a remarkable statement.
We would naturally think that the initial earnest prayer of Jesus regarding any issue would always be entirely adequate the first time, seeing that He is the eternal, perfect Son of God. The fact that Jesus (God) had to go back a second time and pray more earnestly, tells us just how difficult it was to absorb within Him the huge mass of the sins and transgressions of mankind.
We see in the divine approach that Jesus takes in the Garden of Gethsemane toward this great challenge, a pattern for how we are to confront the difficulties and challenges in our own lives.
Jesus was spiritually battling and overcoming the world’s sin, which is based upon rebellion and self-autonomy in mankind, by using the opposite, counter-balancing weapons of surrender, dependence, and reliance upon God the Father’s way instead of His own way (Lk. 22:34).
It took the direct opposite attitude of living for oneself, of putting one’s own interests first, of side-stepping a difficult situation, of saving one’s own skin, and of running away from a challenge…for Jesus to cancel out the sum total of mankind’s sin…and fulfill His role as the Lamb of God sacrifice for sin.
This is the part of the first-advent, messianic scenario that the self-absorbed Lucifer totally miscalculated.
This is how God used the short-sighted blindness of evil, rooted in self-centeredness, to turn the lowliness of the cross into the exalted glory of the resurrection…for our benefit.
This is precisely why the cross of Christ, for man, is the way back to God (Isa. 53:6).
The way back to God is not through self-autonomy or self-direction, using our God-given natural gifts and abilities independently apart from God. These are the “fallen” tendencies that got us into trouble to begin with in the Garden of Eden, that actually separated us from a relationship with God and that Jesus is redeeming us from on the cross.
In Isaiah 14:13-14, it is the “I will” portions of Lucifer’s statements “I will ascend into heaven” and “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God,” that is the official start of sin in the universe.
Lucifer, like many of us today, thought he knew better than God.
This is where the “I will do this and I will do that,” self-serving, God-less attitude comes from.
By contrast, the example that Jesus sets for us with enormous personal difficulty in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the way that He opened up for us in life through His own painful death on the cross, is based upon the words: “nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.”
Lucifer and unregenerate mankind, by contrast, hate the idea of submitting themselves to the loving and unselfish rulership of God in their lives…to such an extent that they will actually go to the extreme measure of attempting to kill God Himself to get rid of this idea.
When God willingly allowed Himself to be crucified through the Second Person of the Trinity, through Jesus the Son of God, He unmasked the truly evil character of the go-it-on-our-own-without-God approach to life.
Stubborn pride is that strong within self-autonomy. It will refuse God any participation in our lives if this participation infringes even a little upon our own will and way.
This is why the world pushes Jesus Christ away. This is why the gospel message of love and forgiveness is so inexplicably offensive to the world.
This is the central issue at the core of our existence. When we are operating as our own god, atop the throne of our lives, we are lost.
This is the root cause behind humanity’s problems.
This issue cost Jesus Christ His life, on our behalf, through the cross. It will likewise cost us death to our self-in-charge natures when we choose to follow Christ.