“Word for Today” – Luke 22 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

September 16, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Matt Barkley 1He’s six foot three and 220 pounds.  He has charm, charisma, and poise.  He just turned nineteen and is a freshman at USC.  He is also their starting quarterback.  His name is Matt Barkley.

I have to admit that I am no fan of the Trojans.  I am a dyed in the wool Texas Longhorn through and through.  But even I am watching with interest to see what USC’s quarterback can do.  He definitely has raw talent.  The question on everyone’s mind, however, is, “Can mere raw talent carry a football program at prestigious and ambitious as USC’s to victory, or will Matt Barkley choke under the pressure of having to play California and Ohio State?”  Doesn’t USC need someone with more experience?  Someone who is more trained in the rigors of the national football stage?  Time will tell.  And I’ll be watching.

In our reading for today from Luke 22, Jesus’ end is drawing near.  Indeed, Jesus is facing a challenge much more rigorous and taxing than having to play California and Ohio State combined.  For Jesus is on his way to his death – his death on a cross.  Perhaps Jesus, in the face of such of a terrible fate, will run and hide from those who seek his life.  Perhaps he, as the Son of God, will crush his opponents with a divine fury that he could surely and effortlessly deliver.

Jesus does neither of these things.  Instead, Luke informs us that, in preparation for his crucifixion, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.  On reaching that place…he withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed” (verses 39-41).  Jesus, as he faces the most harrowing moment of his ministry and life, prays to his heavenly Father.

Quite honestly, if I was faced with the same plight, I don’t think I would respond with the same kind of spiritual fortitude with which Jesus responds.  His disciples certainly don’t.  When questioned about his relationship to Jesus, Peter denies that he even knows him (cf. verses 54-62) and the other disciples desert him in terror (cf. Matthew 26:56).

So how does Jesus do this?  How does Jesus keep his spiritual grounding even in the midst of his impending death?  Luke gives us a clue:  “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives” (verse 39) where he prayed.  The Greek word for the phrase “as usual” is ethos, denoting the characteristic spirit of a person’s being.  In other words, Jesus’ prayer at the Mount of Olives is something which flows from the very core of his being.  It is his very ethos to pray, for this is not the first time that Jesus has been to this mount to commune and communicate with his heavenly Father.  Indeed, it has become usual practice for him.  As Luke earlier informs us, “Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives” (Luke 21:37).  Jesus has spent a lot of time on this mount praying to heavenly Father.  Now, when facing his darkest moment, Jesus does not lose his spiritual grounding.  He does not “choke,” as it were, because of his previous training in praying with his heavenly Father.  Jesus thus completes his mission and defeats his opponent Satan.

The apostle Paul writes, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:25).  Paul says that, like Jesus, there are some things we ought to be doing as usual practice.  For these things are training for our souls.  Things like Bible study, prayer, worship, and fellowship are invaluable so that we do not “choke” when we face the allures of sin and the challenges of this world.  In fact, Jesus himself gives us precious training for our souls when he offers to us his body and blood and then says, “Do this in remembrance of me” (verse 19).  Jesus wants communion with him in his supper to become usual practice for us.

In what ways can you continue to train your soul so that when a big trial or challenge comes, you do not “choke”?  Without God’s Spirit, we would certainly all choke at the faintest hint of sinful temptation and yet, blessedly, God’s Spirit uses what we do as usual in our lives to help us resist temptation at the monumental crossroads of our lives.  So today, do what you usually do.  But remember, just because it’s usual, doesn’t mean it’s insignificant.  For it is in the usual that God trains our souls.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Luke 21 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Luke 23 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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