Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Salvation From Eternity Past, Determined in Unity -- Part 2

Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane -- photo used under Public Domain license.
The image is of a painting at the Darlington, MD Methodist Church, also under Public Domain license
We're back with the second part of this important Biblical topic.  Consider a couple of further things with me.  We can go to the book of Job and read about a person who is only a man, going through most of 42 chapters with trials and pain.  He decried His existence because of them.  But Job never asked God to change His mind about the trials nor did Job curse God.  And Job was only a man. When Jesus prays, in Luke 22:42, for the cup's removal, are we to assume that part of the Trinity is less than Job and willing to go against the Father by begging out of going to the Cross?  Let's look at the passage.

Luke 22:42-44  saying, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done."  Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

We know that Jesus had to go to the Cross as a man because it would require a man to atone for men.  He had to set aside His Godly powers and bear our sentence as a fellow man.  Despite all our scholarship, we really don't know when the switch occurred.  But, from that passage, it appears to be when Jesus entered the garden to pray, or sometime before.  And we see Him as a man requiring spiritual support from an angel.  And, even so, Jesus sweat blood.

There's a known medical condition called hematidrosis, sweating blood.  Doctors don't really know the cause, but it appears to be stress related.  The condition has been seen in prisoners who are condemned to die.  That thought might make us consider, along with the statements of some, that Jesus was toying with a possibility of not going through with the plan.  Having second thoughts about obedience.

Remember that we already pointed out that this would put Him in disunity with the rest of the Trinity. Yes, we humans can be double minded.  But are we saying that's possible with God?  Can the triune nature of God be one and perfect and yet ambiguous in His thought life?  Perhaps there's an alternative suggestion that explains His prayer.

Ezekiel 28:13, in the King James and New King James, speaks of "timbrels and pipes".  Other translations use different terms.  But there's a likelihood there of Satan, before the fall, being involved with musical instruments.  Several passages in Revelation refer to harps being used in heaven.  In Ezekiel 28:14, all the translations refer to Satan as some variation of an "anointed guardian cherub".

Whether he was the heavenly worship leader or a guardian of the throne, Satan held a position of honor and power.  High enough that the archangel Michael called on God for assistance when contending with Satan for the body of Moses in Jude 9.  And whatever his position, Satan was close enough to God to learn the plan of salvation and the fact that he and the other fallen angels weren't included.  The supposed reason for lots of anger against God and mankind.  And plenty of time to come up with schemes to thwart the plan.

We often talk about being attacked by "the other kingdom" when things don't go as we expect or want, never thinking they may be part of God's plan, for our benefit.  And the Bible is clear there are demonic attacks.  So, our founding pastor's suggestion that it's likely that Jesus experienced a massive demonic attack at Gethsemane makes sense.  And that fits what we know about Satan and what he would try to do.  If the attack created enough stress to bring on hematidrosis, that (perhaps along with Jesus being flogged) could very well have Christ bleeding to death before He got to the Cross.  End result -- the plan of salvation foiled.  So, the angelic strengthening was very likely a necessity for the plan to succeed.

Kenneth Wuest is a renowned Biblical scholar and translator.  I like the way he words his translation.

Mark 14:35-36  And having gone on ahead a little, He fell repeatedly upon the ground, and was praying that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He was saying, Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Cause this cup to pass by and from me. But not what I desire, but what you desire.

Wuest points out several things in his commentary on this passage.  The phrase "Abba, Father" is redundant.  The Greek for Father was an addition for the non-Jewish reader.  But he also points out that the Jewish reader would recognize that Abba goes beyond mere title into relationship.  There is real unity and submission to the Father.  When we previously read Luke 22:42, the NKJV includes "nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done."  Wuest's translation says "Nevertheless, not my desire but yours, let it keep on being done."  That last phrase is powerful!  "Let it keep on being done"!

When we go back to Wuest's  Mark 14, this makes a particular statement stand out.  "Cause this cup to pass by and from me."  It's not, as some commentators suggest, Jesus seeking a path of disobedience.  Rather, He's looking for a way to get through all of it without human failure.  Jesus is still in agreement with his teaching in John 5:30, "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me."  

There's no contradiction, no sense of Jesus wimping out.  Indeed, Jesus was unwavering in exemplifying John 15:13, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."  In fact, Jesus says, in verse 15, that the disciples (and, by extension, us) are not servants, but friends.  And that status is why He is doing what He is and communicating so clearly.  For us, that means salvation, plus speaking via His Word. 

This demonstrates a described plan of salvation that has clearly been created in eternity past and never wavered from.  God's love for us was so great that all three persons of the Trinity were in unity about following it from conception, through inception, to completion!  Does that excite you as much as it does me?


  1. Interesting take on that section of the passion. There is another passage prior in Mark's gospel where Jesus is told that the apostles failed to cast out the demons that plagued the man, an epileptic and demoniac. Jesus reacts with anger asking how much longer he must "put up with"... "this faithless generation" and ends up healing the man himself. I wondered, because he seemed to realize later on that the demon in that man was especially strong, or, at least, of a certain type. He tells the disciples afterward that they couldn't help the man because "That is the sort that can only be driven out by prayer [and fasting]." (Mark 9: 14- 29)
    This seems strange to me, in that Jesus always seems several steps ahead of everyone else he deals with. It really has me puzzled. Can you set me straight?

    1. First, the group Jesus is talking about as "a faithless generation is "and the scribes questioning with them". Or, as Kenneth Wuest translates it, "and men learned in the sacred scriptures wrangling with them". What we're seeing is the Scribes arguing to the point of stealing their faith. And Jesus is upset with them for that.

      There's a Biblical study principle that if something is mentioned more than once, it holds greater weight. There are two healings mentioned in three of the Gospels, where Jesus tells them that it was their faith that healed them. What about the Centurion whose child was healed by his faith, despite the fact that Jesus was never present with the child?

      So, is it any wonder that Jesus was upset with the Scribes' Scripture twisting to argue with the disciples instead of bolstering everyone's faith? It merely highlights the ongoing spiritually diseased mind of the Scribes and Pharisees that Jesus notes throughout the Gospels. And, here, He's angered that their faithlessness is aimed at diluting everyone else's faith.

      I hope that helps.

    2. Certainly it does and thank you.