Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Agony of Deceit

Matthew 26:36-39
"Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, 'Sit here while I go over there to pray.' He took Peter and Zebedee's two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, 'My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.' He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, 'My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want our will to be done, not mine.'"
This has been one of my favorite passages for a very long time. There's something about this scene that I find so moving and altogether inspiring. Jesus, the Son of God, wrestling with the mission and calling God had placed on his life. It's such a vivid picture of his humanity.

In my reading this morning, I reflected on what was really happening in the garden as Jesus faced the final hours of his earthly life. I believe Satan was present in those moments. Earlier in Jesus' ministry, we have record of Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness. At the close of that passage we see that Satan, having been unsuccessful in his attempts to lure Jesus to sin, left him until the next opportunity came (Luke 4:13). And now, at the end of his earthly ministry, we have record of Jesus coming to grips with the magnitude of his mission - he's in agony; crushed with grief to the point of death. He even pleads that it be taken away. Why? Was it simply in anticipation of his death, or was there more going on?

I believe that in those moments Satan found his next opportunity, attempting to cripple God's plan of salvation by whispering: You can't do this, Jesus. The pain and agony of crucifixion is more than you can physically bear. And for what? Men will still curse you and reject you. And perhaps his most compelling argument: You don't have to do this, Jesus. There's a way out... you can opt out of this. Don't do this Jesus!

How many times have we been waylaid in our obedience to Christ because we listened to the enemy's whispers: You can't do this. And besides, you don't have to! There's a way out! We wrestle and reason with God until we feel justified to take our own way out, avoiding the sometimes difficult and painful road of obedience. Instead we opt for the agony of deceit - the painful consequences of living outside of the will of God.

Jesus wrestled with the deceit of the enemy, but never wavered in his surrender and total obedience to God, finally declaring your will be done! What a triumph! Man, I so want to live in that victory... to be fully surrendered to God, even to the point of denying myself in obedience to him.

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