Hi, this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday (feeble as they may be) about Jesus’ thoughts on a painfully necessary Thursday.
One of my favorite scriptures of all time was most likely given to us on a Thursday. The words we read in John chapter 17 come directly from the prayer Jesus prayed the evening before his crucifixion. We know that took place at Passover, on the day we call Good Friday, so it stands to reason these words of our Lord were spoken on a Thursday evening.
This prayer of Christs’ is essentially made up of three parts. In the first part He prayed for Himself. In the second section He prayed for His disciples, and finally He prayed for us…for you and for me. It is the final portion I usually find so special because Jesus is literally praying for us, and expressing that the reason He was willing to go to the cross was so that He would be able to spend eternity, being one with us, in heaven, forever! When I recognize the gravity of that it is so moving. Let it hit you for a minute. Jesus loves you so very much that He can’t bear the thought of spending eternity without you. His love for you is so immense…so intense that when faced with the choice of an agonizing death or being separated from you forever…He chose the cross! There is literally no way you or I could be loved more completely.
Going back to the second portion of Jesus prayer, He prayed for His disciples. He specifically prayed that rather than them being taken out of the world alongside Himself, that they would instead be enabled by God to remain behind and through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power, offer their testimony to others about The Christ. Again He was willing for their pain to necessarily be endured that we might know through their ministry His great love for us.
Today however, my thoughts are focused on the beginning of His prayer. Here Jesus prays for Himself. Verse 1 of that chapter tells us that Jesus asked for God’s help with what was coming. We read that He opened his prayer with these words. “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You…” We know that this was an incredibly difficult time for Jesus. In Matthew’s account found in chapter 26 of his gospel it tells us that Jesus was exceedingly sorrowful, to the point of death. There we read that He prayed that if it was at all possible, if there were any other way to get the same result, He asked God to choose that, instead of what He knew was in store for Him. However, we read that He relented, that if there was no other way, He would submit to this one. Why? Again, He was unwilling that we be left without a way to be one with Him forever. You can read other accounts of this same prayer recorded in Mark 14 and Luke chapter 22.
Why did Jesus need encouragement so badly that Luke’s account tells us God sent an angel specifically to strengthen Him? Why would the Son of God need to pray for Himself? Because He knew that what was coming was going to hurt. Obviously He knew it would hurt physically. Jesus had likely seen crucifixions. It was the barbaric way the Romans executed those they found deserving of capital punishment. It was so brutal that the Jewish people didn’t think a dog deserved to die in that fashion. To their way of thinking it was completely inhumane. The Bible tells us Jesus was well aware that this was the painful way in which He was going to be put to death. It says that He told His disciples that the Son of man would be “lifted up” as on a cross, so that they too would know the manner in which He was going to die. Jesus knew that physically speaking the crucifixion was going to hurt, in fact, it was going to be excruciatingly painful.
Jesus also knew it was going to hurt emotionally. Just days before this prayer was being lifted to the Father, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem triumphantly. He had come in riding on the back of a colt. People had thronged to see him and to have the opportunity to wave palm branches and even pave his entrance to the city by throwing their clothes down on the road under His mount. He had received from them a welcome fit for a king! We are told that as He took that ride He looked at the city stretching out before Him and said sorrowfully, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, oh how I would have gathered and cared for you like a hen gathers and protects her chicks…but you would not have it”. As Jesus prayed that evening in the garden, I think He knew that the next day some of those same voices that had heralded His entrance with “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” would soon be following another crowd and vilely spewing the words filled with hatred, “Crucify Him…Crucify Him!”. I think Jesus was also in such distress because He knew emotionally, it was going to hurt beyond belief!
I believe Jesus also knew it was going to hurt almost unbearably, in a spiritual sense. Remember, Jesus was willing to go through all of this because He could not bear the thought of spending eternity without you. If there was any less of a payoff than that…it would not have been worth it to Him. In fact, in the final part of the prayer recorded in John 17 it tells us that He prayed these words, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us…” (John 17:20-21 NKJV) Jesus proclaimed He was doing this entirely to enjoy a oneness with us. Hebrews Chapter 12 tells us that it was for the joy set before Him that He endured the cross. What was the joy? Oneness with us!
So what was this excruciating spiritual pain that was coming, that needed prayer to enable Him to overcome? Jesus was fully aware that to enjoy that oneness with us, He had to take upon Himself our sin. He understood that to do that was going to mean that His Father who had been one with Him for eternity…was going to be forced to separate Himself from Him. There had never been a time when He and The Father had not been one, but if Jesus were to enrobe Himself with our sin, so that we could wear His robes of righteousness, the Father was going to be forced to turn His face away from His only Son! Just a few hours after this time of prayer, Jesus would be crying out to His Father in agony…”My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!?! Let that rest on you for a moment. Jesus was so desirous that we not be separated from Him that He was willing to spend the darkest, most physically, and most emotionally pain filled time of His eternal existence separated from His Father for our sakes. The one who had been with Him forever, was going to turn His back on Him, and that was the plan Jesus was asking for strength to endure…all to have an eternal oneness with you and with me.
Jesus needed prayer that Thursday because He knew that Friday would bring the worst pain imaginable…physically, emotionally and spiritually. The Bible tells us that Jesus desires that no one should perish, but that all would be saved. His prayer on that particularly difficult Thursday and His actions on an awful, and unbelievably painful Friday prove He is all in because He was willing to die for us. In response to that, anything less than being ready and willing to live for Him doesn’t even make sense! We might not have the opportunity to do that except for the resurrection power of God who raised Jesus from the grave just three days later and placed Him on the throne of highest authority in Heaven! Glory to God for the Easter morning miracle that restored our wonderful, sweet, sweet Savior to His rightful place at the right hand of the Father. He deservedly sits on the throne of Heaven, and equally deserves to sit on the throne of our very lives!
So now, under the weight of His incredible love for You…normally I would tell you to go be awesome…but today I think we should all Go thank Him for being so awesome!