“So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.” (Matthew 26:44)
On the way to the cross, Christ faced what we can hardly comprehend: unbearable agony, face down beneath the olive trees; a betrayal with a kiss by one of his closest companions; spit from violent lips that hit his face like putrid venom.
Remarkably, in the midst of his anguish, Jesus taught us by example about our powerful spiritual weapon. Five different times in a matter of ten verses, the Gospel of Matthew repeats Christ’s exact response when faced with indescribable suffering. Jesus demonstrated what we must do when we have no clue what to do. Before he lay down his life, he humbly showed us the way to endure life’s hardship.
He finished his last meal with the twelve, gave them final instructions, warned them about the horrors ahead, and then the King of the ages flung himself before his Father and prayed.
Throughout his time on earth Jesus taught us how to live a life of obedience, of compassion, of mercy. His words and actions were all powerful proofs that he was fully God and fully man. Wine where water once flowed, sight where blindness had brought bondage, bread in abundance where only hunger had prevailed.
Then when death was imminent, when the agony crushed him because he knew implicitly every single portion of the suffering that awaited him, Jesus spread himself before his Father. And prayed. The Scriptures even record exactly what he had to say: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
Like a blueprint for survival, Christ draws our attention to this power source when enemies are close and friends are incapable, when our heart breaks and the future is grim. Christ tells us not to despair, not to imagine for a moment we are abandoned, not to foolishly turn our backs on the Father.
Instead, Jesus’ message is clear. Pour out your burdened heart to God. Cry out desperately, plead for mercy, beg him for help. Regardless of where we are or what troubles are hounding us, the one who carried our sorrows and bore our griefs showed us that the only way forward is always one of prayer.
Elizabeth Ann Mitchell
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