Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Rejoice Despite Suffering

This week Michael writes that in Matthew 25-26, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem.  He used these precious moments before his crucifixion to teach His disciples some important life lessons. He told them a parable about ten virgins who were waiting on the bridegroom. The bridegroom had left and didn't tell them when he would return. The virgins were responsible to keep their lamps burning until the bridegroom returned. The bridegroom came back unexpectedly but the oil had burned out of the lamps of five foolish virgins. They asked the five wise virgins if they could borrow some oil from their lamps but there was not enough oil for the foolish unprepared virgins.Another parable was about three stewards to whom the master gave talents to invest. The lesson was to make wise faith-based and not fear-based investments into the kingdom of God. A third parable was about judgment between sheep and goats. The question is whether the disciples were sheep or goats.

In Matthew 26, the leaders of the temple, the chief priests and Pharisees, were planning to kill Jesus. A woman met Jesus and anointed His head with oil, but the disciples rebuked her. However, Jesus told the disciples that the woman would be blessed because she had anointed him for His death. Jesus taught the disciples many other lessons in those few days before His death. In the upper room, He taught them by washing their feet that he who is greatest among them must be servant of all.

Jesus then took Peter, James and John into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Jesus needed some time alone with his Heavenly Father.  He prayed "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful even unto death."  He told his disciples, "Stay here, watch and pray."  Jesus prayed, "If there be any other way, please let this cup of death pass from me." The conclusion to Jesus' prayer was "nevertheless, not my will, but thy will be done." Jesus agonized over the gravity of the payment He had to suffer for your sin and mine. He knew that He himself was the payment for the original sin committed by Adam which was passed on through Adam's seed to all mankind. Suffering is the pain of a trial that we must endure. It is a struggle that is a part of life. James said, when you encounter various trials, count it all joy. For tribulation shall have its perfect work that you may be perfect and entire wanting nothing.

Why did Jesus have to suffer humiliating torture and death? Why did He need to endure the cross on our behalf? Jesus came from His prayer in the garden and was ready to do the will of His Father. Even though His flesh said, "let this cup of suffering and death pass from me," Jesus willingly obeyed His Father's will.  The prayer of faith says, "my Heavenly Father is the pilot. I will trust Him to get me to the destination." Obedience means, "not my will, but thine be done." The only way to get to that kind of obedience is to abide with our Heavenly Father and spend time intimately in His presence. To live to Christ is to die to self.  

When Jesus came back to see the disciples in the garden, they were asleep.  At His time of greatest trial, even the disciples forsook Him and succumbed to the weakness of the flesh.  Beforehand, according to Matthew 16, Jesus had asked his disciples "Who say ye that I am?" After Peter answered Jesus, "Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God," Jesus told them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be killed before His resurrection on the third day.  He said, "If any man shall come after me and be my disciple, he must forsake himself, take up his cross, and follow me."  Jesus gave His disciples grace and mercy. He did not see them as failures, rather He saw them as men whom His father loved. He knew that His death as the full payment for their sins would result in their salvation. He saw them, not as they were, but who they would be by His payment for sin on their behalf that they may be made the righteousness of God in Him.  

Oswald Chambers said, "No healthy Saint chooses suffering. Rather he chooses God's will whether or not it requires suffering." As Paul said, "thy strength is made perfect in my weakness ...Thy grace is sufficient for me."

According to Isaiah 53, "when we see Him, there is no beauty in Him to be desired. He hath no form or comeliness ... a man of sorrows and visited by grief, He was despised and we did not esteem Him." At the crucifixion, the people thought that He was being executed for His own transgressions. However, the truth of the Word of God says that "He who knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf, that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him."

In the Gethsemane's of life, God will answer your prayer if the conclusion to your prayer is, "nevertheless, not my will but thine be done." The answer to Jesus' prayer was the resurrection. Because of the resurrection, according to Hebrews 12:2, Jesus Christ, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down on the right hand of the throne of God. Because of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ we have been made the righteousness of God in Him.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ, Michael

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