Were You There When He Was Troubled?
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
For us humans, life began in a garden. The first people walked with God in the cool of the day and had a close relationship with him. They were free to enjoy every part of their Utopian home, living together among the birds and animals, doing the meaningful work of naming and caring for them, and partaking of the fruits of all the trees except one. Of course, you know what happened. The one thing God had forbidden his children to do was eat the fruit of that one tree. Was it a test of their self-control? If so, it was a test they failed, and their failure to obey God in that one thing introduced sin, shame, and death into the world, tainting humanity forever and separating us from God. No more walks with him in the cool of the evening. No more life in paradise. All because of an act of disobedience. Imagine the anguish the first people felt as they were expelled from their first home. Cut off from their creator and Father.
Fast-forward approximately four thousand years to another garden: Gethsemane, an olive grove, a quiet place to think and meditate. Jesus went there after the Passover Seder with his disciples (minus Judas Iscariot) to pray and to wait for what he knew would happen. He had passed every test he’d been subjected to so far—his temptation in the wilderness after his baptism, all the challenges the Pharisees and teachers of the law had thrown at him, all the opportunities he’d had to say or do the wrong thing. But that night was the final exam. The final test of his obedience to his Father. And he was deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he told Peter, James, and John, whom he’d pulled aside and taken farther into the garden. His closest friends. “Stay here and keep watch,” he said. And then, going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that God would release him from this ordeal. That there would be another solution to this problem the first people had created with their act of disobedience.
Did Adam even hesitate before taking and eating the forbidden fruit? We have no evidence that he prayed for strength to overcome temptation or guidance for his decision. He simply acted without a second thought, either not understanding or not caring what the cost would be for himself and his wife and for all humankind. But Jesus knew what the cost of his choices would be. If he chose to disobey, to evade his arrest and trial and execution, humans would continue to be estranged from God. We would forever be imprisoned by sin and death. So he prayed, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” As much as he dreaded what was to come, he chose to obey. To experience the injustice of a secret trial, the misery of torture, the shame of being on public display, and the agony of crucifixion. The very thought of what he would endure provoked a level of anguish we can’t even imagine.
Or perhaps we can. Although we don’t face what Jesus experienced, we do suffer. We lose loved ones. We get sick and injured. We have our dreams crushed. We are victimized. Jesus understands our suffering because he suffered the ultimate disgrace and pain. Although he was innocent, he offered himself as a sacrifice so we did not have to be estranged from God forever. He secured for us the mercy we don’t deserve, because God loves us and wants a relationship with us. Knowing the cost, he chose to obey. When faced with the choice to obey God or to do what we want, we might not know the cost of either. But we can trust that God’s way, even if it’s difficult, leads us closer to him. Are we willing to say, “Not our will, God, but yours”?
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (Children’s Worship and nursery care available) and stay for Discovery Hour (all ages).