January 21, 2018
Second Baptist Lincoln
Leaving It Behind
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.  On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation."  He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,  "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."  An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.  And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground  When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.  "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."
Last week, I began a short series on the idea of letting go of the things that hinder us. It’s similar to what the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 12:1. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”
From time to time, we hear of commercial airplanes running into trouble while inflight. A sudden loss of cabin pressure, trouble with hydraulics, or the loss of an engine means potential trouble for the hundreds of passengers on board. There are certain procedures a pilot must follow when faced with the need to make an emergency landing. That is, the need to dump fuel. Airplane fuel is expensive and when a pilot is forced to make an emergency landing, this expensive jet fuel is drained from the tanks into the air where it is mostly evaporated. Why is this necessary? It is necessary to dump fuel because there is a tremendous difference between the safe required weight of a plane on takeoff, and the safe weight of a plan on landing. The idea is that when a plane leaves Omaha for Orlando, by the time it reaches Orlando, it has burned up enough fuel to make a safe landing. The plane has become light enough. But if they have to make an emergency landing in Kansas City, then the Pilot must get rid of fuel. It is because the plane is only structurally built to accommodate certain weight on landing. Fuel is dumped to preserve the integrity of the plane and the lives of the passengers.
Shedding. That’s what I want to talk with you about this morning. As a Christian, we are also called to do a certain amount of shedding. As members of Second Baptist Church, we too must adhere to that natural act of shedding. As we look to the future and ask the always important question, “Lord, what would you have us do?”, we are reminded that we first must take time to discern what may not be effective in doing God’s will. Worn and tired exercises of the church that are comfortable and familiar, but aren’t necessarily what God is wishing for us to do.
There are literally hundreds of examples in scripture of people shedding the old to make room for the new that God has prepared for them. Last week, I mentioned both Abraham and Jonah, who had to shed their preconceived ideas in order to venture out in a new direction. Think of the many others found in scripture. Peter sinking in the waves and he had to shed his own fear and look into the face of Christ in order to be rescued.
Paul was bent on destroying Christians and was on his way to do so when he was struck down off his horse, blinded and sent to become the greatest Christian missionary of the past 20 centuries. He had to shed his own will, his own preconceived ideas about God and embrace Christ. Noah had to shed the temptation of popular culture of his day. When God said build an ark, he had to fight the urge to say, “Why do we need such a big boat?” The prophets had to shed their own ideas of what God wanted in order to embrace what God ACTUALLY wanted. This shedding is a natural and vital process.
This morning, I want to focus on a scripture that reminds us that not only do all humans have to shed their own will, but so did Christ. For centuries, it has been debated by theologians whether Jesus was mostly human or mostly God. Was he controlled by his human nature or by his divine nature. I don’t want to debate that this morning, only to say that Jesus went from being seated at the right hand of his father in heaven, to inhabiting human flesh in the form of a baby. He became human. He became flesh. He shed his deity in order to walk among us. We know that at the beginning of his ministry, he was led into the wilderness where he was tempted. Temptation is a human experience. To be human is to be tempted. So I think we can say that he was certainly human.
More evidence of this is found in today’s text. Jesus had just experienced several hours of intimate conversation in the upper room at what we call the “Last Supper.” After that, the bible says he went out to the Mount of Olives. There he asked the disciples who were with him to remain behind a few yard and he went on ahead to a place where he was alone. He knelt and prayed. We don’t know what all he prayed. He may have prayed those words recorded in John 17 but we really don’t know the full extent of his prayer.
What we do know is that he prayed these words: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." We could not find a more human statement than this. It’s as if one of us were praying, “Lord, if it be your will, take this cup of cancer from me. Take this cup of pain from me. Take this cup of brokenness and divorce from me.”This was a moment of desperation as he faced the daunting future of the next 24 hours, facing the agony of the cross.The real human details and character of this passage is that Jesus had to face a shedding process of his own. He had to let go of two very important elements.
When Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, it was not a local or even international event. It was a universal event. It affected all of creation and all of the heavenly realms. God chose to become a man and live among us. Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity (Father SON and holy Spirit), came to earth in human skin to live among us.It is no wonder that as he walked the earth and performed miracles, demons shuttered and nature obeyed his commands. Jesus shed his place in heaven, left his place of prominence to enter human form. It meant going from a palace to a hut, wealth to poverty. He went from being king to being a servant.By doing so, he demonstrated to us that we too are joint heirs with Christ, heirs to the throne – but humility is the path of human growth.
Jesus not only shed his place of divine residence to come to earth, but he had to shed something that night in the garden of Gethsemane. As his human nature demanded justice and fairness, his duty demanded that he go through with what the Father required. “Lord, if it be your will, let this cup pass from me.” But then we see the words that make it all make sense. We then see His relationship to destiny. yet not my will, but yours be done." He was bending to the authority of his father and also doing what creation demanded. How many of you like to bend to authority? How many of you like to be under the thumb of a higher command? Think of when you were a teenager and how you looked forward to being out from under the authority of your parents? When you were in the military, and you were discharged from service and no longer had to be under the command of an officer.
But Jesus bent to the authority of his heavenly Father, because our very lives and eternal destiny was at stake. All of creation was lost. Every human born was marked with the curse of sin. The role of Christ was and still is today, “atonement”. His death meant our redemption. His saying “YES”, was our salvation.I’m wondering if this request was more of a rhetorical request. I’m not sure he was really trying to get out of going to the cross as much as he was expressing his human feelings.Whatever it was, he shed his human emotion and desire and accepted his divine destiny. If Jesus were willing to shed his divinity and then shed his own blood on our behalf, shouldn’t we be willing to lay aside our agenda and embrace his will for our lives? We have three prayer groups in our congregation. For those of you who are in one of those three groups, I want to let you in on a secret. A key element of prayer is “discernment.” It means listening to God and then responding to God’s plan. It means making a decision based upon prayer.
This act of shedding is hard for us to do. When we consider those famous “Seven Last Words of the Church” WE’VE NEVER DONE IT THIS WAY BEFORE. Those words work as a barrier, a hurdle to which we must clear in order to truly discern and listen to the will of God. What is God calling us to do as a congregation? Certainly God has made it clear in His word what he wants us to do. 1. He wants us to worship him. 2. He wants us to invite others to worship him through evangelism. 3. He wants us to love one another. 4. He wants us to live a life worthy of his calling.
But what unique, special calling does he have for this church? I think we are still searching for what God has for us to do. But as I said earlier, God’s will is also fluid, constantly in motion, never static. Congregations die when they stand still because they stop listening for God’s direction. They slip into a maintenance mode of operation where we go through the motions, perform the rituals of ministry, but cease responding to God’s ever-changing energy. It becomes a spiritual COMA. We are not only reminded of Jesus’ perceived reticence about going to the cross. We not only see his drops of sweat and blood. We have the benefit of seeing the whole picture. We not only see the death, but the resurrection. We not only see the hammer pounding nails through his hands and feet, we see the nail prints in the risen savior. We see hope after despair. We see daylight after the darkness. God has promised us a new day, a new hope. AMEN.