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I received an excellently produced invitation in the mail to attend a major church conference focused on the way churches minister to children, students and families, namely “reconnecting parents with kids”. On the back of the flyer, one quote reads, “This is the central conversation in the church today.”
Wow!! That should make me want to attend this conference, except for the fact that it’s not the central conversation. CJ Mahaney said, “The most important truth is the easiest to forget… the foundational reality that Jesus Christ died so that sinners would be reconciled to God and forgiven by God.” The cross is the central conversation of the Church and, in our society, it is also the conversation that is constantly in danger of being put aside. This conference has the means and an incredible opportunity to further the conversation of the cross, but it seems they have been distracted. Jerry Bridges wrote, “The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living it.”
Let’s hope the speakers, or “Champion Communicators”, who have accepted invitations to address the attendees center their messages around the cross and the gospel of grace. Let’s also center our lives and ministries upon the most important truth… the gospel of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The hill of comfort is the hill of Calvary; the house of consolation is built with the wood of the cross; the temple of heavenly blessing is founded upon the riven rock-riven by the spear which pierced his side. No scene in sacred history ever gladdens the soul like Calvary’s tragedy.
Light springs from the midday-midnight of Golgotha, and every herb of the field blooms sweetly beneath the shadow of the once accursed tree. In that place of thirst, grace hath dug a fountain which ever gusheth with waters pure as crystal, each drop capable of alleviating the woes of mankind. You who have had your seasons of conflict, will confess that it was not at Olivet that you ever found comfort, not on the hill of Sinai, nor on Tabor; but Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha have been a means of comfort to you. The bitter herbs of Gethsemane have often taken away the bitters of your life; the scourge of Gabbatha has often scourged away your cares, and the groans of Calvary yields us comfort rare and rich.
– Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening
In Matthew 26.37-38 we read, “And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” Words cannot truly express the depth of emotion that our great Savior begins to feel here in the garden. The grief is encompassing, encircling and overwhelming our Lord. Thomas Goodwin, the puritan wrote, “He was plunged head and ears in sorrow and had no breathing-hole.” The grief was overwhelming our Lord to the point where he felt like he was suffocating. Our Savior was drenched with a sorrow so deep that it felt to him as if it were killing him. Surely he had felt grief and sorrow in his life, but why is there now a sudden plunge into deep agony?
Here in the garden, Matthew gives us a view into what it means for Jesus to be Savior and his sinless nature was shocked beyond our comprehension at how intimately he was now being associated with iniquity… iniquity he did not commit. He began to be sorrowful and troubled because the Father began to withdraw His presence from His One and Only Son. Charles Spurgeon said, “The shadow of that great eclipse began to fall upon His spirit when he knelt in that cold midnight amidst the olives of Gethsemane… He was left single-handed… to contend for the deliverance of man.” He now begins to taste what his name means, to be the Savior (Matthew 1.21), what it means to receive God’s full and holy wrath on our sin. The cup that was always future is now this cup and Matthew’s language describes quite simply that Jesus began to be overcome with distress because of the cup’s arrival.
What is this cup? It is a reference fully loaded with Old Testament imagery of God’s wrath against mankind’s sin. Isaiah 51.17, “Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.” Psalm 11. 6, says it’s a cup of “fire and sulfur and a scorching wind”. Isaiah 51.22 says it is a cup “of staggering; the bowl of my wrath”. This is what caused our Savior to shudder in terror, to become deeply distressed and overcome with sorrow to the point of death. He beheld this now present cup. So overwhelmed, he falls to the ground and prays, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” This cup leading to death is the one held out for Jesus to take from the Father’s hand in fulfillment of his mission to save his people from their sins.
The first Adam, in the Garden of Eden, knew what the will of God was but when the moment came he did not submit his will to line up with the will of God. Now here, the Last Adam, also in a garden, must come to terms in emotion and will with what he has known was coming his entire life. In the garden of Eden, the first Adam said ‘Not your will but mine‘ and sin and death changed Perfection to wilderness. But here, in the garden of Gethsemane, the Last Adam prays ‘Not my will but yours be done’ and it brings extreme sorrow and anguish to him but transforms the wilderness and saves his people from their sins!