photo credit: kleuske
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.
What are Jesus’ feelings here? Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow, deeply distressed. How is this possible? At one time, Jesus had said “The Father and I are one.” Doesn’t that make Jesus all-knowing? Doesn’t he know he’s God – and that he’ll rise again? Why is he afraid or worried about a human death? You can’t hurt God, you can’t kill God.
Why is Jesus so honest right here? Shouldn’t God be setting a better – stronger more confident example for us to follow?
Jesus says in Luke 22:42 ” Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus basically says “if there is another way to do this – I’m all for it.” Why include this story in the Bible? It really makes God look human doesn’t it? Does Jesus struggle with his own humanity, or does he struggle to show us that it’s ok… to struggle?
Here is a similar story from one of Christ’s disciples: Matthew 26:69-75
Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
This is from the gospel of Matthew. Are any of the other disciples around? No. Is Jesus in this story? No. So who told the story of Peter’s total failure so that Matthew can record it? Peter did. This is a terrible story- why would Peter tell this story? This a story of failure.
Didn’t Jesus say of Peter, “on this rock I will build my church?” If you’ve been named the cornerstone of the church – if you’re the guy who gets the go-ahead to begin Christ’s church on earth, why would you ever – let this story get out?
Peter need better P.R.
Let me look back over a few points from Paul’s writings
v22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two:
The first thing I want you to see is that you need to…
1. Own your own: name your feelings they’re real so name them, call them for what they are, don’t push them to the side, bring those things out into the light. You can’t have authenticity without raw emotion. We think to ourselves, “I’m a Christian, so I can’t say that.”
To project an image of “I have it all together.” But that’s not the church we see in the bible. The church of the bible is raw and open and exposed. Of course it is – it’s made up of people – real people.
We have to be the kinds of people that name our thoughts and feelings – that is what it means to be in true community.
James 5:16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Notice healing come from confessing our shortcomings to each other. We all seem to be ok confessing our sins to God, but we’re too afraid to admit we’re broken and hurting to each other – James says “do it so that you’re healed.” We need to own our own.
2. Doubt your doubt – Listen to your doubts, pull them out into the light and then compare them with your beliefs. The Light, will only make your doubts weaker and your convictions stronger. Because the problem isn’t “doubt” – doubt is natural. The problem is when we allow our doubt to sit there and grow and gain strength in the dark. As Christians we need to “doubt our doubts.” Spiritual Maturity is learning how to address your thoughts and feelings and to see them for what they really are.
Jesus said, John 12:46 “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
Jesus told Pilate John 18:37 “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Listen, when you learn to doubt your doubts – when you hold your doubts up to your convictions – when you hold them to the light – you will find that God will crush your doubts every time.
If you’re sitting there – and you have doubts – listen – you are sitting in a room of years of doubt. Generations of questions. You are not the first.
Is there really a God? Is Christianity an American religion and do I only believe in Christ because I am an American, or because my parents were Christian? How valid are other religions? How do we know the bible is really God’s word? Who can rightly say there is an afterlife? Was Jesus who he said he was, or was he just a great teacher? If God is so good, why is their pain and suffering in the world.
You are not the first
You are not the first to ask those questions. You are not the first with those doubts.
But please don’t let those questions sit there… in the dark… unanswered.
Find the answers.
Doubt your doubts – do you know why?
Tim Keller in his book, The Reason For God, in his introduction writes these words, “People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do …will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.”
In other words, If you don’t listen to your doubts, you may find your beliefs crumbling when the questions come. – when pain comes.
Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts – not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’. Why? Because doubt can do wonders for your beliefs and convictions. Doubt sends you back to the drawing board, doubt sends you into the lab, doubt forces you to study and read and discover for yourself – and one day it will become your own rock solid foundation. It won’t be your friends foundation, or your parents, it will be yours, and it will be strong and it will be tested. and it is through the questions and the testing and the trials that doubt is destroyed.
Jesus equated that to a person who builds their house on the rock
Let’s go back to Paul one more time before we close.
I think Paul makes it extremely simple for us – “to live is Christ.” I don’t think we have to get lost in theological clouds and we don’t have to be prisoners of our own fears – Paul said a life of purpose is to live for Christ.
Problem is most of us only ask how our own lives can be made bigger. How can I make my life better? How can I get more? Be more? Do more?
But Paul asks, How can I live in such a way that Christ is made bigger? That Christ is glorified?
That’s the challenge and the call that is set before us today.
You know, the gospels begin with the story of a preacher who was growing in popularity, he baptized, he converted the lost and he convicted people of sin – and he had many followers – but as soon as Jesus stepped onto the scene, John’s disciples began to fear that his popularity was waning.
“What are you going to do?” They asked John – and John’s response was beautiful…
John 3:30 He must become greater; I must become less.
When we learn that, “to live is Christ” – it will be a life that seeks to make Christ greater, bigger, exalted. To live is Christ means to look past today, to look past our circumstances (whatever they are) it means to look past even our own darkness and fears and doubts and to discover the true meaning of life…. a true life of purpose