05 April 2007

The astonishing Jesus

by Dan Phillips

This is a brief thought for this "Maundy Thursday." It comes from Mark 14.

You know the setting. In fact, you know it better than the disciples did! Judas had gone to the priests, to turn Jesus in for his blood money. Jesus was being betrayed, and His climactic sufferings were about to begin.

Rather than running away, Jesus runs to His Father, and prays in light of the coming events. He selects His three closest disciples, Peter, James and John. He takes them apart to pray, and then withdraws "a stone's throw" from them (Luke 22:41).

Their opportunity becomes yet another failure, as they fall asleep. They all sleep, but Jesus singles out His #1 man, Peter — who had just boasted that he would never forsake Jesus (v. 29).

"Simon," He says (v. 37). (Not much of a rock now.) "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?" They are all asleep, but the verbs are singular, addressing Simon alone.

Simon Peter had boasted of his strength; yet Jesus says more literally "Were you not strong enough [οὐκ ἴσχυσας, ouk ischusas] to keep watch for one hour?"

And then what does He say? "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (v. 38).

The numbers are all plural now. "You lot watch, and you lot pray, that you may not enter..." Peter's weakness is all of their weakness, as it is all of our weakness. It is the weakness of the flesh.

But my focus is the phenomenon of Jesus' specific counsel. He tells them to pray. What would you tell them to pray? I started to write what I'd tell them to pray, but in all likeliness I'd not be there to tell them, if I had any idea what was coming. I'd be on a fast flight to Elsewhereville. Because my flesh is weak, too. I may be renewed, I may be reborn; but my flesh is still weak.

But if for some unfathomable reason I were still there, I'd be asking them to pray for me, in light of the Hell that I was about to endure. I might reproach their selfishness, their lovelessness. They're sleeping, when they should be thinking about me!

Whatever I might have done, Christ didn't do. He told them to pray — for themselves! "Pray that you may not enter into temptation."

What He was going to do, He was going to do alone. He was going to tread the winepress alone. He was going to be more alone than He had ever been. He was going to do the great work singlehanded.

And they needed to pray for themselves.

Pause and marvel.

Here is the worst situation any human being has ever been in, ever, in the nightmare history of our race. "Worse" in every sense of the word: more unjust, more criminal, more insane, more fraught with horror and desolation — yet He tells them to pray, not for Him, but for themselves.

And what are they going to go through, compared to what He is about to endure? Nothing. Nothing. A walk in the park with a little breeze tousling their hair. Nothing!

And yet He does not ask them to pray for Him. Simply amazing. They were not strong enough. We are not strong enough.

He was strong enough.

What an astonishing Man. What an astonishing Savior.

Dan Phillips's signature


Simon said...

Thanks, Dan

Thanks and praise to the Lord Jesus who saves!

Rebekah said...

That's beautiful. Thank you, Dan.

philness said...

I am undone.

Unknown said...


Rosesandtea said...

Thank you for that.

the postmortem said...

Amen. And thank you Dan. Nothing better to get me in the right attitude about Easter than seeing Christ's love at work.


donsands said...

"He was going to be more alone than He had ever been."

To be seperated from His Father is something that is unsearchable, in every aspect of life.

Thanks for sharing such heartfelt words.
A blessed Holy Thursday to you.

Anonymous said...

That would have been a staggering request - Christ asking His followers to pray for Him - to and through Him. How could they, or we, pray for the all-sufficient God-Man to be sufficient to face the horror that was coming upon Him? Not logical. And not in His character, which is always seeking for the good of His people. Even when He was about to be sacrificed for them.

Thanks Dan, and a blessed Resurrection weekend to you and all your readers.

Steve said...

I love reading posts that magnify the greatness of our Lord.

Buckley said...

I have a Bible Commentor For Young Person from 1879 that has a stunning engraving after this Doré engraving (the image above). I was able to have it archivally scanned. Come see this image, and others:


Anonymous said...

I must join the chorus of Amens! Thank you for this beautiful post.

Daniel said...

Jesus is =worthy= of glory. I love it when a post brings some of that home. Thanks DJP.

FX Turk said...

How can it be Maundy when it's Thursdy?

donsands said...

Frank has been on a role! Is there any stoppin' him?

DJP said...

Many have tried, but few return to the sunlit lands.

Jonathan Zila said...

Great perspective. I am astonished by our Savior!

slf said...

absolutely beautiful...thank you Dan, once again, for glorifying God through your writing.


Ebeth said...

Amen and amen to this post.

~Mark said...

There are wonderful times when I remember how small and petty I am before God. Thank you for another reminder of how deep His grace and mercy.

Anonymous said...

Please, please, please do not use pictures, even bad ones, that attempt to depict Christ. This is a violation that strikes at the very heart of God's Person by lessening His glory, not to mention going against His very clear commands!!! Need I post a scripture reference??

Rosesandtea said...

I've already commented but wanted to say I've been thinking about this all weekend.

Happy Resurrection Day.