July 14, 2014

Humanity in Jesus and Jesus in Humanity, Part Two

Waiting In The Garden (1895)
Valdemar Heinrich Nicolaus Irminger
Jesus’ perfect obedience was at the cost and was the cause of much further suffering. In other words, Jesus knew that obedience to the Father would incur substantial and continued suffering. By perfect obedience to the Father, Jesus was knowingly and willingly submitting Himself to an ongoing onslaught of increased suffering and punishment in His human life. A life that would culminate in the Crucifixion.

Matthew 16:21 ~ “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

What does this say to believers that would follow in Jesus’ footsteps as His disciples?

Matthew 5:11 ~ “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”

John 15:19-21 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you…. If they persecuted Me they will persecute you… for they do not know the One who sent Me.” 

Instead of being revered as a King, Jesus is reviled and hated…even by His own people. He is rejected. For Jesus to remain obedient in this situation assured suffering…and He certainly knew it because he told the disciples it would happen (Matthew 16:21). Regardless of the pain He was certain to suffer, Jesus walked right towards His persecution, affliction and inevitable crucifixion. Why? Because it was the will of God the Father.

The Suffering and pain would only be intensified as His Crucifixion approached and that is where this idea of learning obedience through suffering really begins to take on significant importance and meaning. A Christian’s obedience usually has to be understood in the context of suffering or persecution. Like Christ we need to understand that ultimately, continued obedience will more than likely lead to more pain and suffering or vice versa, suffering and pain will be a good indicator of a true believers obedience.

Like us, all of Jesus’ previous incidences of suffering and obedience were incremental increases of faith in the Father’s provision. Like us, these incidents built one upon another and prepared Jesus for the greatest act of obedience: The Cross and the facing of death. It is the same with us. Our greatest suffering and greatest need of faith is when we die and face the impenetrable barrier of death. Jesus did just this and came out the other side for us to see. In a way, He has given us rest and assurance of life after death, eternal life by His Resurrection. Jesus’ greatest act of obedience was submitting to a sacrificial death for others even before they would understand or appreciate it.

The increasingly difficult tasks of obedience that were sure to bring discomfort or pain for Jesus were specifically set in front of Jesus by God. If we too take up our crosses daily, we to should expect the same.

This interpretation seems justified based on the context and the Greek. What does verse 7 say about the context of Jesus’ suffering and obedience? It says Jesus, “…offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” It further says Jesus was heard by the Father. It was these things that he learned in a progressive fashion. This implies Jesus was indeed in pain and it was beyond His emotional capabilities at the given time to overcome them…so He called on His father through the Spirit to aid Him. We, in our times of trial (even death) are to do the very same thing. All these things indicated an increasing effort on Jesus’ behalf to spiritually fight and gain things through prayer and supplication as a human being. Just was we should. Loud cries and supplication do not sound like the hallmark of an easy Christian life, do they? So we are called to emulate Jesus and even Jesus has told us…

John 15:20 ~ “Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

There was nothing automatic about Jesus’ life. Planned, yes, automatic because He was God? No way. In human nature it is clear Jesus struggled…just as we do today and will tomorrow. It isn’t as though Jesus did this once and was done either...totally satisfied with what the Father did for Him one time, the first time. No, the language was clear in Hebrews, it said he was offering up prayers (plural)…in the days of His flesh which means all of them or an ongoing continuous set of actions that were completed by the time of His death. Just like we should be doing. 

Never is this fact more evident than in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prayed on three separate occasions the night of the arrest. It is clear His human nature is extraordinarily troubled. Even in his hesitation to go to the Cross it is the desire to do the Father’s will that overrules in this situation. So He prays that God will aid Him to persevere onward. In His humanity Jesus clearly had a great desire to avoid the pain of Crucifixion and separation from the Father but He had an even greater desire to obey the Father and do His will. 

So should we.

This is a constant battle for us too. We need to turn towards God as evidenced by Jesus’ behavior. Jesus unequivocally knew the truth. In the end, the only place to go is to God. When we all eventually have that moment of crisis it invariably must be God to whom we turn. At the moment of death where else is there to turn?

If we don’t interpret this passage this way, we sell Jesus’ humanity short and require too much of His divinity that He didn’t really use when in the flesh. He relied on the Spirit and the will of the Father. His obedience came at a human cost and sometimes it was torturous. So might ours be. In this way we can see that Jesus’ entire ministry and His entire life were preparatory for His death and Resurrection, just as the entire Old Testament was too. Increasingly difficult demands on His life until the end.

So when it says that Jesus was made perfect it does not mean that He wasn’t already. It means that the will of the Father had been obeyed perfectly just as it had been planned in eternity past. It was a process that was set in motion long before and had finally reached perfection or culmination. God’s plan of Salvation had reached its desired end by having Jesus meet His earthly end according to Scripture. It was finished.

The Resurrection was the other side of the grave and the beginning of the New Life and the New Covenant initiated by the culmination of the old. The old having been fulfilled through Jesus’ perfect active and passive obedience. The Kingdom had come at least in part and would only come in full when we all those predestined reached glory like Him.

So what can we believers take away from this?

In our lives nothing is insignificant. There are no little sins. We are either obedient or disobedient. Everything we do is either a chance to improve our character or destroy it. Every trial or endurance is a chance to increase our faith or lose it. We should never take our pleasures lightly nor our suffering. Many pleasures are often there to tempt us. The suffering and pain is nearly always there to build us up, not break us down. In building us, it prepares us for greater challenges of faith awaiting us down the road. If it happened to the Master, it most certainly will happen to His servants.

Luke 12:47-48 ~ “And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

Acts 5:41 ~ “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name.

James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 

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