Sermon 2769. The Weakened Christ Strengthened
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, MARCH 9, 1902.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, JUNE 5, 1881.
"And there appeared an angel unto Him from Heaven, strengthening Him." Luke 22:43.
I SUPPOSE that this incident happened immediately after our Lord's first prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. His pleadingbecame so fervent, so intense, that it forced from Him a bloody sweat. He was, evidently, in a great agony of fear as He prayedand wrestled even unto blood. We are told, by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, that He "was heard in that He feared."It is probable that this angel came in answer to that prayer. This was the Father's reply to the cry of His fainting Son whowas enduring an infinity of sorrow because of His people's sin and who must, therefore, be Divinely upheld as to His Manhood,lest He should be utterly crushed beneath the terrible weight that was pressing upon His holy soul.
Scarcely had our Savior prayed before the answer to His petition came. It reminds us of Daniel's supplication and of the angelicmessenger who was caused to fly so swiftly that as soon as the prayer had left the Prophet's lips, Gabriel stood there withthe reply to it! So, Brothers and Sisters, whenever your times of trial come, always take yourselves to your knees. Whatevershape your trouble may take-if, to you, it should even seem to be a faint representation of your Lord's agony in Gethsemane-putyourselves into the same posture as that in which He sustained the great shock that came upon Him. Kneel down and cry to yourFather who is in Heaven, who is able to save you from death, who will prevent the trial from utterly destroying you, who willgive you strength that you may be able to endure it and will bring you through it to the praise of the glory of His Grace.
That is the first lesson for us to learn from our Lord's experience in Gethsemane-the blessing of prayer. He has bidden uspray, but He has done more than that, for He has set us the example of prayer and, if example is, as we are sure it is, farmore powerful than precept, let us not fail to imitate our Savior in the exercise of potent, prevalent, repeated supplicationwhenever our spirits are cast down and we are in sore distress of soul. Possibly you have sometimes said, "I feel so sorrowfulthat I cannot pray." No, Brother, that is the very time when you mustpray. As the spices, when bruised, give forth all themore fragrance because of the bruising, so let the sorrow of your spirit cause it to send forth the more fervent prayer tothe God who is both able and willing to deliver you! You must express your sorrow in one way or another, so let it not beexpressed in murmuring, but in supplication! It is a vile temptation, on the part of Satan, to keep you away from the MercySeat when you have most need to go there-but do not yield to that temptation! Pray till you can pray and if you find thatyou are not filled with the Spirit of supplication, use whatever measure of the sacred bedewing you have-and so, by-and-by,you shall have the baptism of the Spirit and prayer shall become to you a happier and more joyful exercise than it is at present.Our Savior said to His disciples, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death," yet then, above all times, He was inan agony of prayer and, in proportion to the intensity of His sorrow was the intensity of His supplication.
In our text, there are two things to note. First, our Lord's weakness. And, secondly, our Lord's strengthening.
I. First, then, let us meditate for a little while upon OUR LORD'S WEAKNESS.
That He was exceedingly weak is clear from the fact that an angel came from Heaven to strengthen Him, for the holy angelsnever do anything that is superfluous. They are the servants of an eminently practical God who never does that
which it is unnecessary for Him to do. If Jesus had not needed strengthening, an angel would not have come from Heaven tostrengthen Him. But how strange it sounds, to our ears, that the Lord of Life and Glory should be so weak that He should needto be strengthened by one of His own creatures! How extraordinary it seems that He who is "very God of very God," should,nevertheless, when He appeared on earth as Immanuel, God With Us, so completely take upon Himself our nature that He shouldbecome so weak as to need to be sustained by angelic agency! This struck some of the older saints as being derogatory to HisDivine dignity, so some manuscripts of the New Testament omit this passage-it is supposed that the verse was struck out bysome who claimed to be orthodox, lest, perhaps, the Arians should lay hold upon it and use it to bolster up their heresies.I cannot be sure who struck it out, but I am not altogether surprised that they should have done so. They had no right todo anything of the kind, for whatever is revealed in the Scriptures must be true, but they seemed to shudder at the thoughtthat the Son of God should ever have been so weakened as to need the support of an angelic messenger to strengthen Him.
Yet, Brothers and Sisters, this incident proves the reality of our Savior's Manhood. Here you can perceive how fully He sharesthe weakness of our humanity-not in spiritual weakness, so as to become guilty of any sin-but in mental weakness, so as tobe capable of great depression of spirit. And in physical weakness, so as to be exhausted to the last degree by His terriblebloody sweat. What is extreme weakness? It is something different from pain, for sharp pain evidences at least some measureof strength, but perhaps some of you know what it is to feel as if you were scarcely alive- you were so weak that you couldhardly realize that you were actually living! The blood flowed, if it flowed at all, but very slowly in the canals of yourveins-everything seemed stagnant within you. You were very faint, you almost wished that you could become unconscious, forthe consciousness you had was extremely painful. You were so weak and sick that you seemed almost ready to die. Our Master'swords, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death," prove that the shadow of impending dissolution hung darkly overHis spirit, soul and body, so that He could truly quote the 22nd Psalm and say, "You have brought Me into the dust of death."I think, Beloved, that you ought to be glad it was so with your Lord, for now you can see how completely He is made like Hisbrethren in their mental depression and physical weakness, as well as in other respects.
It will help you to get an idea of the true Manhood of Christ if you remember that this was not the only time when He wasweak. He, the Son of Man, was once a Babe and, therefore, all the tender ministries that have to be exercised because of thehelplessness of infancy were also necessary in His case. Wrapped in swaddling bands and lying in a manger, that little Childwas, all the while, the mighty God, though He condescended to keep His Omnipotence in abeyance in order that He might redeemHis people from their sins. Doubt not His true Humanity and learn from it how tenderly He is able to sympathize with all theills of childhood and, all the griefs of boyhood which are not so few or so small as some people imagine!
Besides being thus an Infant and gradually growing in stature just as other children do, our Lord Jesus was often very weary.How the angels must have wondered as they saw Him, who sways the scepter of universal sovereignty and marshals all the starryhosts according to His will, as He, "being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well" at Sy-char, waiting for the womanwhose soul He had gone to win and, wiping the sweat from His brow and resting Himself after having traveled over the burningacres of the land! The Prophet Isaiah truly said that "the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth,faints not, neither is weary." That is the Divine side of His glorious Nature. "Jesus, therefore, being wearied with His journey,sat thus on the well." That was the Human side of His Nature. We read that "He did eat nothing" during the forty days' temptationin the wilderness and, "He afterwards hungered." Have any of you ever known what it has been to suffer the bitterness of hunger?Then remember that our Lord Jesus Christ also endured that pang. He, whom we rightly worship and adore as "God Blessed Forever,"as the Son of Man, the Mediator between God and men, hungered! And He also thirsted, for He said to the woman at the well,"Give Me to drink."
In addition to this, our Savior was often so weary that He slept, which is another proof of His true Humanity. He was so tired,once, that He slept even when the boat was tossing to and fro in a storm and was ready to sink. On one occasion we read thatthe disciples "took Him even as He was in the boat," which seems to me to imply even more than it says, namely, that He wasso worn out that He was scarcely able to get into the boat, but, "they took Him even as He was," and there He fell asleep.We know, moreover, that "Jesus wept"-not merely once, or twice, but many times. And we also know what completes the proofof His Humanity-that He died. It was a strange phenomenon that He, to whom the
Father has given, "to have life in Himself," should have been called to pass through the gloomy shades of death, that He mightin all points be made like unto His brethren and so be able to fully sympathize with us! O you weak ones, look how weak yourLord became that He might make you strong! We might read that familiar passage, "though He was rich, yet for your sakes Hebecame poor, that you, through His poverty, might be rich," in a slightly different way-"though He was strong, yet for yoursakes He became weak, that you, through His weakness might be strong." Therefore, Beloved, "be strong in the Lord, and inthe power of His might."
What was the reason for the special weakness of our Savior when in the Garden of Gethsemane I cannot now go fully into thatmatter, but I want you to notice what it was that tried Him so severely there. I suppose, first, it was contact with sin.Our Savior had always seen the effects of sin upon others, but it had never come home to Him so closely as it did when Heentered that garden, for there, more than ever before, the iniquity of His people was made to meet upon Him- and that contactaroused in Him a holy horror! You and I are not perfectly pure, so we are not as horrified at sin as we ought to be, yet sometimeswe can say, with the Psalmist, "Horror has taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake Your Law." But for our graciousSavior-listen to the Inspired Words, they are none of mine-to be "numbered with the transgressors," must have been an awfulthing to His pure and holy soul! He seemed to shrink back from such a position and it was necessary that He should be strengthenedin order that He might be able to endure the contact with that terrible mass of iniquity!
But He had, in addition, to bear the burden of that sin. It was not sufficient for Him to come into contact with it- but itis written, "The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." And as He began to fully realize all that was involved in Hisposition as the great Sin-Bearer, His spirit seemed to droop and He became exceedingly weak. Ah, Sir, if you have to bearthe burden of your own sin when you appear before the Judgment Seat of God, it will sink you to the lowest Hell! But whatmust Christ's agony have been when He was bearing the sin of all His people? As the mighty mass of their guilt came rollingupon Him, His Father saw that the Human soul and the Human body both needed to be upheld, otherwise they would have been utterlycrushed before the atoning work had been accomplished.
Contact with sin and the bearing of sin's penalty were reason enough to produce the Savior's excessive weakness in Gethsemane,but, in addition, He was conscious of the approach of death. I have heard some people say that we ought not to shrink fromdeath, but I believe that in proportion as a man is a good man, death will be distasteful to him. You and I have become, toa large extent, familiarized with the thought of death. We know that we must die-unless the Lord should come soon-for allwho have gone before us have done so-the seeds of death are sown in us and, like some fell disease, they are beginning towork within our nature. It is natural that we should expect to die, for we know that we are mortal. If anybody were to tellus that we should be annihilated-any reasonable and sensible man would be horrified at the idea-for that is not natural tothe soul of man. Well, now, death was as unnatural to Christ as annihilation would be to us! It had never come to be a partof His Nature. His holy soul had none of the seeds of death in it and His untainted body-which had never known any kind ofdisease or corruption, but was as pure as when, first of all, "that holy thing" was created by the Spirit of God-that alsoshrank back from death! There were not in it any of the things which make death natural and, therefore, because of the verypurity of His Nature, He recoiled at the approach of death and needed to be especially strengthened in order to meet "thelast enemy."
Probably, however, it was the sense of utter desertion that was preying upon His mind and so produced that extremity of weakness.All His disciples had failed Him and presently would forsake Him. Judas had lifted up his heel against Him and there was notone of all His professed followers who would faithfully cleave to Him. Kings, princes, scribes and rulers were all unitedagainst Him-and of the people, there were none with Him. Worst of all, by the necessity of His expiatory Sacrifice and HisSubstitution for His people, His Father, Himself, withdrew the Light of His Countenance from Him and, even in the garden,He was beginning to feel that agony of soul which, on the Cross, wrung from Him that doleful cry, "My God, My God, why haveYou forsaken Me?" And that sense of utter loneliness and desertion, added to all that He had endured, made Him so exceedinglyweak that it was necessary that He should be specially strengthened for the ordeal through which He had still to pass.
II. Now, in the second place, let us meditate for a little while upon OUR LORD'S STRENGTHENING. "There appeared an angel untoHim from Heaven, strengthening Him."
It is night and there He kneels, under the olives, offering up, as Paul says, "prayers and supplications with strong cryingand tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death." While wrestling there, He is brought into such a state of agonythat He sweats great drops of blood and, suddenly, there flashes before Him, like a meteor from the midnight sky, a brightspirit that had come straight from the Throne of God to minister to Him in His hour of need.
Think of the condescension on Christ's part to allow an angel to come and strengthen Him. He is the Lord of angels as wellas of men. At His bidding, they fly more swiftly than the lightning flash to do His will. Yet, in His extremity of weakness,He was succored by one of them! It was a wondrous stoop for the infinitely-great and ever-blessed Christ of God to consentthat a spirit of His own creation should appear unto Him and strengthen Him.
But while I admire the condescension which permitted one angel to come, I equally admire the self-restraint which allowedonly one to come, for, if He had so pleased, He might have appealed to His Father and He would at once have sent to Him "morethan twelve legions of angels." No, He did not make such a request. He rejoiced to have one to strengthen Him, but He wouldnot have any more. Oh, what matchless beauties are combined in our blessed Savior! You may look on this side of the shieldand you will perceive that it is of pure gold. Then you may look on the other side of it, but you will not discover that itis brass, as in the fable, for it is gold all through! Our Lord Jesus is "altogether lovely." What He does, or what He refrainsfrom doing equally deserves the praises of His people.
How could the angel strengthen Christ? That is a very natural enquiry, but it is quite possible that when we have answeredthat question as well as we can, we shall not have given a full and satisfactory reply to it. Yet I can conceive that, insome mysterious manner, an angel from Heaven may have actually infused fresh vigor into the physical constitution of Christ.I cannot positively affirm that it was so, but it seems to me a very likely thing. We know that God can suddenly communicatenew strength to fainting spirits and, certainly, if He willed it, He could thus lift up the drooping head of His Son and makeHim feel strong and resolute again.
Perhaps it was so, but, in any case, it must have strengthened the Savior to feel that He was in pure company. It is a greatjoy to a man who is battling for the right against a crowd who love the wrong, to find a comrade by his side who loves theTruth of God as he loves it. To a pure mind, obliged to listen to the ribald jests of the licentious, I know of nothing thatis more strengthening than to get a whisper in the ear from one who says, "I, too, love that which is chaste and pure, andhate the filthy conversation of the wicked." So, perhaps, the mere fact of that shining angel standing by the Savior's side,or reverently bowing before Him, may in itself have strengthened Him.
Next to that, was the tender sympathy which this angelic ministration proved. I can imagine that all the holy angels leantover the battlements of Heaven to watch the Savior's wondrous life. And now that they see Him in the garden and perceive,by His whole appearance, and His desperate agony, that death is drawing to Him, they are so astonished that they crave permissionthat at least one of their number shall go down to see if He cannot carry succor to Him from His Father's house above. I canimagine the angels saying, "Did we not sing of Him at Bethlehem when He was born? Did not some of us minister to Him whenHe was in the desert and among wild beasts, hungry after His long fast and terrible temptation? Has He not been seen of angelsall the while He has been on earth! Oh, let some one of us go to His relief!" And I can readily suppose that God said to Gabriel,"Your name means, The Strength of God-go and strengthen your Lord in Gethsemane," "And there appeared an angel unto Him fromHeaven strengthening Him." And I think that He was strengthened, at least in part, by observing the sympathy of all the heavenlyhost with Him in His season of secret sorrow. He might seem to be alone as Man, but as Lord and King, He had on His side aninnumerable company of angels who waited to do His will-and here was one of them, come to assure Him that He was not alone,after all.
Next, no doubt, our Savior was comforted by the angel's willing service. You know, dear Brothers and Sisters, how a littleact of kindness will cheer us when we are very low in spirit. If we are despised and rejected of men. If we are deserted anddefamed by those who ought to have dealt differently with us, even a tender look from a child will help to remove our depression!In times of loneliness it is something even to have a dog with you, to lick your hand and show you such kindness as is possiblefrom him. And our blessed Master, who always appreciated and still appreciates the least service rendered to Him-for not acup of cold water, given to a disciple in Christ's name, shall lose its reward-was cheered by the devotion and homage of theministering spirit that came from Heaven to strengthen Him! I wonder if the angel worshipped Him-I think that He could dono less and it must have been something to worship the blood-red Son of God. Oh, that any of us could have paid Him such homageas that! The time for such special ministry as that is now
over, yet my faith seems to bring Him back here, at this moment, just as if we were in Gethsemane. I adore You, blessed eternalGod-never more Godlike than when You did prove Your perfect Manhood by sweating great drops of blood in the awful weaknessof Your depression in the Garden of Sorrow!
Perhaps, too, the angel's presence comforted and strengthened the Savior as being a sort of foretaste of His final victory.What was this angel but the pioneer of all the heavenly host that would come to meet Him when the fight was over? He was onewho, in full confidence of His Lord's victory, had flown before the rest to pay homage to the conquering Son of God, who wouldtread the old dragon beneath His feet! You remember how, when Jesus was born, first there came one angel who began to speakof Him to the shepherds, "and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." The first angel had, as it were, stolen a march uponhis brethren, and got there before them, but, no sooner was the wondrous news proclaimed through Heaven's streets, than everyangel resolved to overtake him before his message was completed! So, here again is one that had come as an outrider to remindHis Lord of His ultimate victory-and there were many more afterwards to come with the same glad tidings-but, to the Savior'sheart, that angel's coming was a token that He would lead captivity captive and that myriads of other bright spirits wouldcrowd around Him and cry, "Lift up your heads, O you gates; and be you lifted up, you everlasting doors; that the King ofGlory, fresh from His blood-red shame, may enter into His heavenly and eternal inheritance!"
Yet once more, is it not very likely that this angel brought the Savior a message from Heavenl The angels are generally God'smessengers, so they have something to communicate from Him and, perhaps, this angel, bending over the Savior's prostrate form,whispered in His ear, "Be of good cheer. You must pass through all this agony, but You will thereby save an innumerable multitudeof the sons and daughters of men who will love and worship You and Your Father forever and forever. He is with You even atthis moment. Though He must hide His face from You because of the requirements of justice that the Atonement may be complete,His heart is with You and He loves You always." Oh, how our Lord Jesus must have been cheered if some such words as thesewere whispered into His ears!
Now, in closing, let us try to learn the lessons of this incident. Beloved Brothers and Sisters, you and I may have to passthrough great griefs-certainly ours will never be so great as those of our Divine Master-but we may have to follow throughthe same waters. Well, at such times, as I have already said, let us resort to prayer and let us be content to receive comfortfrom the humblest instrumentality. "That is too simple an observation," you say. It is a very simple one, but it is one thatsome people have need to remember. You remember how Naaman the Syrian was healed through the remark of a little captive girland, sometimes, great saints have been cheered by the words of very little people. You remember how Dr. Guthrie, when he wasdying, wanted "a child's hymn"? It was just like he-great, glorious, simple-minded child-man that he was. He said what youand I must sometimes have felt that we needed-a child's hymn-a child's joyful song to cheer us up in our hour of depressionand sorrow!
There are some people who seem as if they would not be converted unless they can see some eminent minister. Even that willnot suit some of them-they need a special revelation from Heaven. They will not take a text from the Bible- though I cannotconceive of anything better than that-but they think that if they could dream something, or if they could hear words spokenin the cool of the evening by some strange voice in the sky, then they might be converted. Well, Brothers and Sisters, ifyou will not eat the apples that grow on trees, you must not expect angels to come and bring them to you! We have a more sureword of testimony in the Bible than we can have anywhere else. If you will not be converted by that Word, it is a great pity-itis much more than a pity, it is a great sin! If your Lord and Master condescended to receive consolation from an angel whomHe had Himself created, you ought to be willing to gather comfort from the feeblest speech of the poorest person-from theleast of the people of God when they try to cheer you.
I have known an old professor say of a young minister, "It is no use for me to hear him, for he has not had the experiencethat I have had, so how can he instruct or help me?" O Sirs, I have known many old saints get more comfort out of godly boysthan they did from those of their own age! God knows how, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, to perfect praise andI have never heard that He has done that out of the mouths of old men! Why is that? Because they know too much! But the childrendo not know anything and, therefore, out of their mouths the praise of God is perfect. So let us never despise God's messengers,however humble they may be.
The next lesson is while you should be thankful for the least comforter, yet, in your times of deepest need, you may expectthe greatest comforters to come to you. Let me remind you that an angel appeared to Joseph when Herod was seeking Christ'slife. Then, later, angels appeared to Christ when the devil had been tempting Him. And now, at Gethse-mane, when there wasa peculiar manifestation of diabolical malice, for it was the hour of the powers of darkness-then, when the devil was looseand doing his utmost against Christ-an angel came from Heaven to strengthen Him. So, when you are in your heaviest trials,you shall have your greatest strength. Perhaps you will have little to do with angels till you get into deep trouble and thenshall the promise be fulfilled, "He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear youup in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone." They are always ready to be your keepers, but, in the matterof spiritual strengthening, these holy spirits may have little to do with some of you until you stand foot to foot with Apollyonand have to fight stern battles with the Evil One himself. It is worthwhile to go through rough places to have angels to bearyou up! It is worthwhile to go to Gethsemane if there we may have angels from Heaven to strengthen us! So, be of good comfort,Brothers and Sisters, whatever lies before you. The darker your experience is, the brighter will be that which comes out ofit. The disciples feared as they entered the cloud on the Mount of Transfiguration, but when they had passed right into it,they saw Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in Glory! O you who are the true followers of Christ, fear not the clouds that lower darklyover you, for you shall see the brightness behind them and the Christ in them! And your spirits shall be blessed.
But if you are not believing in Christ, I am indeed grieved for you, for you shall have the sorrow without the solace-thecup of bitterness without the angel-the agony, and that forever, without the messenger from Heaven to console you! Oh, thatyou would all believe in Jesus! God help you so to do for Christ's sake! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: LUKE22:14-46.
Verses 14-16. And when the hour was come, He sat down and the twelve Apostles with Him. And He said unto them, With desireI have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until itis fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. And it is fulfilled, for Christ Himself is the Lamb of our Passover. His blood has beenshed and sprinkled. His people have been brought up out of their Egyptian bondage and, by faith, they feed upon Him and areglad. How sweetly the Passover melted away into the Lord's Supper and how graciously did our Savior thus teach us that, asa rule, He does not make violent changes in the development of His people's spiritual life, but He leads them on graduallyfrom one stage to another! There may be, sometimes, very sudden elevations, but, as a general rule, we go from strength tostrength, a step at a time, and the Truth of God is revealed to us little by little.
17, 18. So He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves for I say unto you, I willnot drink of the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God shall come. This was the Passover cup-the cup with which theyconcluded the paschal supper. At such times they also usually began to chant a Psalm in happy unison. Just at that point,Christ interjected the first part of the celebration of the new ordinance-the Lord's Supper, into which the paschal supperwas to melt.
19. So He took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My body, which is given for you.This do in remembrance of Me. It was clearly impossible that He could have meant that bread to be literally His body, becauseHis body was there at the table! Therefore, the misunderstanding, or misrepresentation of the Church of Rome is altogetherwithout excuse. Our Savior plainly intended to say, "This bread represents My body; it is an emblem, a symbol, of My body."If this had been spoken concerning the bread after Christ had been dead and gone, and not before, there might have been somewarrant for the teaching of the Papists, but there cannot be any such warrant, as He used the words while He was sitting therewith His Apostles. Let us be careful not to lose the true meaning of Christ's words while we combat the false interpretationthat has been given to them.
20. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you. He couldnot have meant that, literally, that cup was the New Covenant-I never heard of anybody who thought He did. Why, then, takeone part of the ordinance literally, if not the other? But our Lord did mean that the contents of that cup represented theblood which seals and ratifies the Eternal Covenant on which our hopes are built.
21. But, behold, the hand of him that betrays Me is with Me on the table. Lamentable circumstance-sad index of what oftenstill occurs! The worst traitors to Christ are not outside, but inside the visible Church. There they have the best opportunityfor doing mischief. There they can give the unkindest cut of all. God grant that none of us may be among that miserable number!
22. And truly the Son of Man goes as it was determined, but woe unto that man by whom He is betrayed! The fact that it wasdetermined in the eternal decrees of God, that Christ should die, did not at all diminish the responsibility of all who hada share in bringing about that death. Learn, Beloved, to believe firmly in Divine Predestination without doubting human responsibility.Even though you may not be able to show how these two things agree, do not be anxious about that matter! Be satisfied to believewhat you cannot understand. Both these things are true and they are, both of them, in this verse.
23. 24. And they began to enquire among themselves which of them it was that should do this thing. And there was also a strifeamong them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. What a strange thing that it should have been so! Is there anysuch strife among us here? If so, how utterly unworthy are we to be the disciples of such a Master as our Lord Jesus Christ!
25, 26. And He said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority uponthem are called benefactors. Butyou shallnot be so: but he that is greatest amongyou, let him be as the younger; and he thatis chief, as he that serves. You know, Brothers, that it always will be so. If a man tries to be great in the Church, somehowor other his Brothers generally think very little of him! But he who is willing to serve-whose one ambition it is to lay himselfout for the Glory of his Master, and for the general good-that man usually has a great deal more honor than he would haveexpected to receive. The way to be great in the Church is to be serviceable to all around us, to be meek and lowly, to bewilling to wait upon others. We have good reason for being the servants of our Brothers and Sisters when we remember the humbleposition that our Lord Himself assumed.
27. For which is greater, he that sits at the table, or he that serves? Is it not he that sits the table? But I am among youas He that serves. He served in the very humblest capacity, for did He not even wash the disciples' feet? And if He, who wasthe greatest of all, thus condescended to perform the lowliest service, who among us shall be so lifted up as to suppose thatno common work is good enough for him? Brethren, we must be humble, or else we shall be humbled! And let me remark that thelatter experience is by no means a pleasant one, while the former experience is most sweet and gracious. God give us the Graceto be humble!
28-30. You are they which have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint unto you a Kingdom, as My Father has appointedunto Me; that you may eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Yes,there are thrones and a Kingdom for those who are faithful to the King of kings! But there is something else to think of besidethat kind of glory, for notice our Savior's next words.
31. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. And between usand the Kingdom there will be struggles and dangers-and watchfulness and wrestling prayer will be required of us. And hereis our only hope of escape from the perils of the way, as it was with poor Peter-
32-34. But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your Brothers. And he saidunto Him, Lord, I am ready to go with You, both into prison, and to death. And He said, I tell you, Peter, the cock shallnotcrow this day, before you shall thrice deny that you know Me. Though Peter did not really know himself, Christ knew him. Thatis one of our comforts-that the Lord Jesus Christ foresees all future ill and so provides against it. He looks down into ournature and deals with us as we need to be dealt with. It is well for us that we are in His hands.
35-40. And He said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked you anything? And they said, Nothing.Then said He unto them, But now, he that has a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that has no sword, lethim sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in Me, And He wasreckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning Me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords.And He said unto them, It is enough. And He came out, and went, as He was known, to the Mount of Olives; and His disciplesalso followed Him. And when He was at the place, He said unto them, Pray that you enter not into temptation. Or, "into trial."We do not often enough present that petition, "Lead us not into tempta-
tion." We are not able to bear temptation if it goes beyond a certain point-and it is a greater mercy to escape temptationthan it is to pass through it and to overcome it. I mean, of course, only in some respects. We may ask to be delivered fromthe Evil One if we must be tempted by him, but our first prayer should be that we may not enter into temptation.
41, 42. And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if You are willing,remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done. We can read these words in a calm, quiet tone, but theywere uttered by our Lord with an intensity of agony which we can scarcely call up before our mind's eyes. So terrible wasthat agony that our Savior became utterly weak and faint through the intensity of His pleading.
43. 44. And there appeared an angel unto Him from Heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony Heprayed more earnestly.More and more intense was that brief prayer as His supplication was continued.
44. And His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke was a physician, you know, so hewas the most likely one to record this phenomenon. It has happened-so we have been told-to some other persons in intense frightor agony, that their sweat has been tinged with blood. But we never remember reading or hearing of anyone but our Lord ofwhom it could be said, "His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground."
45. And when He rose up from prayer, and was come to His disciples, He found them sleeping for sorrow. Great sorrow may havequite opposite effects upon different men. You have, perhaps, sometimes noticed that intoxication produces upon some men exactlythe opposite effect to that which it produces upon others-some become irritable and noisy, while others become taciturn andquiet. It is also quite a matter of fact that great sorrow has various effects upon different minds. In the Savior's case,it aroused Him to an awful agony of earnestness in prayer. In the disciples case, it sent them to sleep.
46. And said unto them, Why do you sleep? Rise andpray, lest you enter into temptation. The great trial for them, as wellas for their Lord, was close at hand. It was late at night and they were drowsy and sleepy, yet no time is amiss for supplication.Prayer is never out of season and never unnecessary. We never know when temptation is near, so let us pray without ceasingto Him who is able to preserve us from temptation, or to deliver us out of it.