Jack Graham - Drops of Grief
Open God's Word to the twenty-second chapter of the Gospel of Luke chapter 22. We're taking a longer look... a lasting look at the final week of our Lord's life on earth. We're asking the question and we're answering the question from God's Word, what really happened? What really happened in the last week of our Lord's life? And in this detailed day-to-day look at our Lord's passion, it is my hope that every one of us will go deeper than ever before into the depths of God's love and His grace, His power to change each one of us. On Sunday, the first day of our Lord's last days upon Earth, He came into the city of Jerusalem riding on humility yet honor on the back of a donkey. He was praised and yet He was humbled and broken by the fact that so many were lost and separated from Him. He wept over the city of Jerusalem. He then on the next day, on Monday went to the temple and cleansed the temple.
And there taking command, taking charge of that holy place he began to teach and heal and bless the people, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday evening He observed the last Passover and the first supper with His disciples. The betrayer has left to do his damnable deed, and Jesus along with the other disciples make their way through the city of Jerusalem late that night, near midnight to and through the Kidron Valley and to a garden on the side of the Mount of Olives. I brought you some video that we took just this last trip to Israel. You can actually go to the Garden of Gethsemane today, and there are these wine, or rather olive trees. And they've stood, many of these, for hundreds if not thousands of years. It is still a place of quiet solitude and we enjoy times of prayer. This was a special place for our Lord.
Remember Jesus throughout the week had been sleeping on the hillside, along with His disciples; camping out, if you will, on the Mount of Olives. But on this particular night they went to a garden where Jesus prayed ultimately alone, and surrendered His life to the will and the work of the Father. Beginning at verse 39 we discover what really happened that night at midnight. It was the midnight hour when drops of grief, our Lord poured out his passion for us. "And he came and he went out, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, 'pray that you may not enter into temptation.' And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, 'Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless'".
That's an important word for all of us to learn. Whatever we experience in life, trusting in God... Lord whatever, nevertheless... nevertheless... nevertheless I surrender to you. "'Not my will, but yours, be done.' And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow", they were just out, "and he said to them, 'Why are you sleeping? Rise up'", and even though they had failed to pray, he said keep praying, "'pray that you may not enter into temptation.'"
It's obvious, isn't it, when we walk into the Garden of Gethsemane with our Lord that we are on holy ground. This is sacred ground and there are mysteries to you in this passage of Scripture that I cannot explain. Mysteries beyond our ability to comprehend. When we view the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, suffering and sorrow and pain and agony beyond physical pain, though it was physical, but the mental anguish and the emotional exhaustion of our Lord as He prepared for the cross. While we cannot explain it, what we can do is worship Him, worship the one who unreservedly, completely chose to give His life for us. We see Him weeping and crying, even sweating drops of blood. Isaiah the prophet predicted that the one who would come, the Messiah would be a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and though Jesus was a Man of joy... He was not pale, sanctimonious, recluse... He enjoyed a good party, He had a great time, His disciples loved being with Him.
Can you imagine these campouts along the hillside of the Mount of Olives and throughout their ministries, enjoying the company of the Lord of glory? He was a glorious Savior but He was a Man of Sorrows. "Man of sorrows, what a name. For the Son of God who came, wooing sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah! What a Savior"! It was a divine moment, a moment in which Jesus was steeling His soul in preparing Himself for His death. But it was also a time to teach His disciples and all who would follow Him; important lessons that we learn as we face our own Gethsemanes, as we face our own struggles and sorrow and death. I want you to imagine the worst possible case scenario in your life. Maybe it's already happened; maybe it's happening. Maybe that sorrow is yet to come. I promise you there's no life without pain. There is no life without suffering and anguish. But I want you to think of the darkest possible moment; the most dreaded thing; the most awful thing! Is Christ enough in this? Can God sustain us and strengthen us when our heart is breaking?
When the doctor says, "You have an incurable disease"; when your husband says, "I'm leaving"; when your child says, "I don't want any part of your faith"; when your employer says, "We're downsizing". I don't know what could be the worst in your mind. Your child has died... Many of you listening to me right now have experienced such tragedy and trauma; and yet none of us have suffered as our Lord as suffered! It is impossible for us to suffer to the degree that Jesus suffered. The Scripture says that He was in agony. Judas had already betrayed Him, or on his way to betray Him. The disciples... He knew would soon desert Him. His own people had rejected Him! He was about to bear the weight of the world, the sins of humanity! And so He weeps. And we learn here a lesson in sorrow. Jesus felt a desperate need in this time of sorrow to run to the Father, to run to the throne of grace. It was time for solitude, it was time for silence. He asked that His disciples pray for Him and with Him. And even our Lord needed a companionship of those who would pray for Him.
This is one of the great joys of the fellowship of God's people and God's church: that we have those who will pray for us. And it's important that we pray for one another. And then when we hurt... when we struggle, that we are prayed for. Jesus needed that, and so do we. And let me remind you that this is not Jesus super hero; this is Jesus in His humanity. Here we see this amazing convergence of both God and man, the mystery of the Godhead. He is holy, holy, holy God, but He is also human, human, human... Man. Christ is not pulling rank on us here, but rather as the Man of Sorrows, He is experiencing the full load of life and death. This was not so kind of a divine drama or story that is playing out; this is reality. Jesus could, in fact, have walked away from the cross. He was tempted.
What we're seeing here is a battle of the wills: the will of the Father, the will of Son, and even the will of Satan, because in the midst of this sorry, Jesus is wrestling with the powers of darkness. It is a kind of cosmic conflict that is taking place at that moment in this quiet garden in the dark night of Jesus' soul. And so He could have left. He could have slipped out of the darkness and gone back to Galilee or to Nazareth His home town and taken up the shop of His earthly father Joseph and just lived a quiet life away from all of this Messiah business. He could have turned from the cross. Again, this wasn't just a set up; this isn't a... this isn't a phony experience. This is real. He could have yielded to the temptation, but He chose... This is what makes the cross so wonderful! Jesus chose it for you and me! He chose the cross! And here in sorrow and pain He cried out to God!
As we read, He saw the cup... Lord, if there be... "Father, if there be any way, let this cup pass from Me". What was in that cup that was so horrendous, so terrifying to our Lord, that He asked the Father to take it away. God, mercy! What was in that cup? The sin of all humanity is in that cup: every vile deed, act or thought; every lie; every murder; every sinful habit; every addiction; all the lust and unfaithfulness; all the perversion. Imagine that! The pure, holy Son of Man about to drink this bitter brew in that cup! And make this personal! Every time you sin, a drop goes in the cup; You lied, another drop in the cup; you cheated, another drop in the cup; you dishonored God, another drop in the cup. Drop after drop, drops of grief.
So no wonder when Jesus, speaking of anticipating drinking of this cup, that He cried out to God. I'll tell you what else was in that cup, the wrath of God against sin was in that cup. The Bible often speaks of cup of wrath... the cup of God's wrath. It's a symbol at times for judgment. God who is just and God who is holy cannot tolerate sin! There must be justice done in the face of mankind's sin. God who is perfectly just cannot just make it go away, but rather in the infinite plan and knowledge of God... Remember, none of this is by chance or accident; nothing is spinning out of control here. In the plans and purposes of God, God sent His only Son to bear His wrath upon the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21, "He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God," that we might be saved! Jesus died; He suffered not only with us, but for us!
Every one of your sins was in that cup. You sinned? A drop went in the cup. You lied? A drop went in the cup. You were unfaithful? A drop goes in the cup. That was in the cup... this satanic brew, this devilish portion and potion in the cup. Jesus, overwhelmed by this, anguished by this... The word there He began to be in agony, agonidzi. This is extreme direst, emotional, physical, mental, spiritual direst. Sometimes emotional pain is greater than physical pain; to the degree that Luke (what was Luke's profession?) was especially interested to note that when He sweated it was like drops of sweating blood.
Now he said it was like drops of blood. So we don't exactly know if it was just appearing to be these huge drops like blood dripping, or if literally He is oozing blood from His brow, from His pores. There is a medical condition wherein when someone is under extreme pressure and direst (Gethsemane means oil press) when there is extreme pressure that literally the small capillaries of the skin will burst and blood will pour from the pores. Whatever happened that night physically, the dark night of Jesus' soul, it was real. And all of us must face great sorrow and struggles, not to the degree of our Lord in this case, but again, He not only shared our sorrows, but He gave Himself for our sins.
There's also a lesson concerning submission, and this is what I really want you to see. Jesus prayed "Not My will, but Your will be done". He cried out, "If there be any way, release Me from this cross. Is there another way, Father? Nevertheless, not My will but Your will be done". In this resignation and in this surrender we find our Lord giving Himself in the Garden in submission to the Lord's will. And one more thing, God the Father... His heart is breaking. Don't see God the Father as the bad one and Jesus as the good one. The heart of the Father is breaking. God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit had agreed in eternity past that this is the plan and now in the mystery of this, this is a divine mystery that we can't understand this side of eternity. But in the divine mystery of the deity of the Godhead of the Trinity, God the Father and God the Son are together in this, His perfect plan.
But here's what I want you to hear about God. God is sovereign, right? That means He is in control. He has the right to rule because He is God and I am not. But God could be sovereign and distant. Sovereign and in control but cold, caring not for me. But what we learn in the scriptures, what we learn in what Christ has done for us is that yes, God is sovereign but God is good. That He is loving. That He did this for you, He did this for me. His love is poured out. Everything, everything, do you hear me? Say it, "everything is good"! Say it, "everything is good that God does"! So accept what God chooses for you. Experience His peace and His grace to sustain you and strengthen you. I have a little plaque in my study that says, "God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him". "God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him".
Here it is, God chose in His love, He chose the cross. While He could have walked away, He walked right into the wrath of God to prove His love towards us. And so when you are struggling, when you are in pain, when you are in anguish, when you are broken, when you don't know what to do, even how to pray. Lord I surrender my life to you. Not my will but your will be done. Lord, my will I give to you so that your will would be done. we can pray as Jesus prayed and that is to pray with submission. "Not My will". Jesus taught this in the Lord's Prayer. Matthew 6:10, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". He not only taught this, He practiced it. He surrendered His life. And we can do the same when we don't know what to do, when we don't know what to say, when we don't know where to run, where to turn, we can simply submit our wills to His, knowing that His will is always good! May God help us, like Jesus, to persevere!
That's why He taught the disciples to stay awake, to stay alert, to pray, "lest you also enter into tests, trials, temptations". Because the harder life gets the more intensely we must pray! And there is no situation so desperate, so difficult that we cannot be sustained by the power and the presence of our God in prayer! When you are afraid, when you are anxious, when you are attacked, do what Jesus did: pray like you've never prayed before. And in prayer we find peace. I learned this in my bout with cancer four years ago. I was resisting and struggling with it. I was facing emotional distress with it. And I learned something that I will never forget about life and about suffering and trials and difficult and that is this: acceptance equals peace.
As long as I'm resisting and fighting and struggling against my pain, my hurt, my difficulty, my darkness, there's battle. But when I surrender my will to know and do His will, there is perfect peace. And that's the lesson of strength. Jesus was strengthened in this time of prayer, alone with the Father, and He willingly offered Himself, and gave Himself to do the will of the father from that moment on. And God's will was done. And beyond the pain, the plan of the cross and then the resurrection, and now the suffering Savior is the risen Lord and He lives in us to empower us and strengthen us when we face the cross, when we face crisis in our lives! To endure in the tough, even tragic times of our lives, whether it is in victory or in defeat, whether it is in gain or in loss, whether it is in sorrow and suffering or peace and comfort, not My will but Your will be done. And all this is made possible because of the price that He paid when He gave His life on the cross for us.