Not a Surprise for Jesus

We have a tough time persevering and trusting God when we are suffering, especially because we feel like we don’t know what’s going on (and, from our limited vantage point, we don’t know and can’t know all that is going on!). It dawned on me, as I was reading about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying to God to “take this cup” from Him, that Jesus is omniscient (or all-knowing) just as God is.  Which means that He knew exactly what was coming in the crucifixion, and exactly how horrible and humiliating and painful it would be.  How terrifying would that be?! The Bible said that as He was praying, Jesus was “in anguish, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44) — even while He was praying that not His will, but God’s would be done. Surely Jesus was aware of God’s will in this situation.  Surely Jesus knows all that God knows and so was aware of each and every agonizing moment that was to come — and the redemptive purpose behind all of it.

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:39-46, NIV).

Jesus spoke with the disciples repeatedly about His death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, and 20:18-19, Mark 8:31, 9:31-32, and 10:33-34, and Luke 9:22 are some examples).  In Luke, He describes in vivid detail what lay ahead for Him: “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about” (Luke 18:31-34, NIV).
Jesus knows God’s heart better than anyone, knows His purposes and intentions, knows what the results will be — because His heart is God’s heart and God’s heart is His:

“The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:24-30, NIV, emphasis added).

Jesus was facing more suffering, humiliation, and agony than any of us will ever face (including God turning His face from Him!) yet walked right into that suffering because He knew God’s purpose and what the result of His suffering would be. He knew what His suffering was for.  He knew what it would look like and feel like (again, omniscient). He knew on top of all of that how He would be betrayed by those who He had spent just about every second of the last three years with.  Yet He walked right into it, even though it is clear from the fact that He was sweating blood that He was terrified beyond imagination. (That would actually be an advantage to not being omniscient. How many of us would knowingly walk right into horrible suffering if we knew the scope and depth of the horribleness?) So the One person who had all the answers about His suffering that we seek about our own suffering — What will it be like? What will be the extent of it? How long will it last? Why do I personally have to be the one who is suffering? What’s it for? WHY??? — walked right into it. He knows God completely and intimately – His purposes, His will, and everything else about Him – and still walked right into horrific suffering, trusting God completely.  And He did it out of unfathomable love for us.  How’s that for compelling love?

Additional Scriptures: Philippians 2:5-8, Matthew 26:36-56, Mark 14:32-52, Luke 22:40-53, John 18:1-11

Love Compels Us (And Another Reason to Dig Deeper Into Scripture)

I had two conversations this week about the same thing: the idea of doing something or obeying someone out of love for them and trust in their love for us, even when we don’t understand or even necessarily agree with what they are asking us to do. (It will be no surprise that both of these conversations were parenting-related.) After talking about it so much, it finally dawned on me that this is exactly what God asks us to do — to trust in His love for us, and to obey out of our trust in His love even when we don’t understand what He is commanding us to do or why He is commanding us to do it. This is what God asks me to do, even when I have a million reasons why I think I should do something else, or just do nothing at all.  The verse fragment that popped into my head with this was from 2 Corinthians 5:

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NIV).

I saw here that the word compels was translated a bunch of different ways, so I went here to look up the word in the original Greek and see how it was used in the New Testament. (I know that sounds hopelessly nerdy, but what I found was such a perfect example of why digging in like that is so worth it!)
So here’s what I found: the word that was translated “compels” is synecho. It’s defined at length here, but there are three meanings that really jumped out at me at this particular moment in my life:

“[T]o hold together…any whole, lest it fall to pieces or something fall away from it”,
“[T]o press on every side [like] a besieged city”,

and last but not least,

“[T]o press on every side [like] a cattle squeeze, that pushing in on each side forces the beast into a position where it cannot move so the farmer can administer medication”.

A little more meaningful than just “compels” or “controls”, isn’t it?

One of the things I love and find incredible about Scripture is how it contains a range of meaning on a variety of levels. The very thing that has been incredibly hard and unnerving lately is that everything that is going on (with my sister’s illness, and a variety of other things) makes me feel like I am on the verge of falling apart in some horrifyingly public way. I feel like I’m going to fall to pieces, and when I saw that in the definition this morning — when I saw that the love of Christ holds us together lest we fall to pieces — it brought me to tears. I so needed to know that — that God is holding me together and that He is the one who will make me whole and keep me whole.

At the same time, the other definitions reminded me that the primary purpose of our time here is sanctification — that, for His glory, God is making us more and more like Him and He is doing this through trials and temptations. He besieges us in a sense, He blocks our path with thornbushes and presses us on every side, and He does this so He can speak tenderly to us and — as in the cattle example! — give us the medicine we need.

Instead of seeing God as the mean old grandpa who is not letting us do what we want to do (not sure why that’s the image that always comes to mind for me when I’m being rebellious, but I digress), we should always see God as the One who loves us more than anyone else, and to obey and go where He leads and commands because we trust in His love. After all, there is no greater love than His! And it is that love that compels us, and His Holy Spirit that gives us the strength to go forward when we think we will fall to pieces.

God is not commanding what He commands out of a desire to control us and make us miserable, but because He loves us infinitely and sees far more than we ever could in any and all situations. He is holding us together and treating all that ails us in our flesh and weakness. When He calls on me to love and forgive and pray for everyone (even and especially for my sister’s doctors, who never seem to answer phone calls or messages while she is waiting and suffering in pain), He is compelling me by His love, surrounding me and pressing me and sanctifying me and healing me in and through all of this.

That’s truth that is definitely worth digging deeper for!