Archive for August, 2009
Jesus predicts the panic of the disciples, however Peter denies that he will not.
So what prompted this declaration in spite of Jesus’ words?
Peter obviously loved Jesus but he was assuming that he had the strength to overcome the trials that were coming. This reminds us that we don’t know how weak we are until we are tested. We shouldn’t rely on our own strength to overcome our problems in life but should rely on God to provide the strength which He promises to give us (1 Cor 10:13).
Jesus knew what was about to happen and the knowledge of this was the reason for His anguish and sorrow. Jesus prayed and asked his disciples to ‘watch’ as well. He had already told the disciples that they were shortly going to stumble, so this watching could be to:
- Give Jesus support at this difficult time
- Prepare for what they themselves were about to experience
Because God is perfect, he must give perfect justice, and this means that rebellion against God must be punished. A key point here is the term ‘If it be possible’. A way to fulfill perfect justice and yet allow sinners into heaven was for a perfect person to be punished instead. This verse (Matt 26:39) shows us that this was not just one option out of many, but that it was the ONLY way to do this.
Matthew 26:42 shows that Jesus was the only person who could be sacrificed as a substitute for sinners. The cup that Jesus describes in the verses refers not to his physical death, but to the outpouring of God’s wrath at sin on Jesus while he was on the cross. It is this cup of suffering, poured out on Jesus, that saves us from the eternal punishment for our sin.
When Jesus talks about His will, He is talking about His human nature, this is illustrated in Matthew 26:41 where He says “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
In light of Peter’s declaration earlier, his falling asleep during a period that Jesus had asked him to stay awake for is not a very good start for the trails to come! Jesus teaches us the importance of prayer in that it helps strengthen us against temptation.
It is shown here and in other passages in the Bible that Jesus was in complete control of His death. Not only did He know what was going to happen but He did not or let anybody else try to stop those events occurring (Matthew 26:52-56). This was to fulfill not only the sacrifice for sin, but to also fulfill the many prophecies in the Bible about his death.
As just one example out of many, in Matthew 26:56 we have the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 13:7 (repeated in Matthew 26:31).
That’ll save some copying and pasting!
We are told in the Bible to humble ourselves:
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4)
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:10)
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: (1 Peter 5:6)
So how do we do this? David did it by fasting:
But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom. (Psalms 35:13)
The Jews humbled themselves on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) in Leviticus 16:29-31. Historically the Jewish people observe Yom Kippur as a day of fasting [link]. Also the New Testament has evidence for this in Acts 27:9 where it says:
Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, (Acts 27:9)
The “Fast” is the Day of Atonement, which always fell just before the winter was setting in.
Other examples are:
Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.
For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.
So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us. (Ezra 8:21-23)
Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazon–tamar, which is En–gedi.
And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord. (2 Chronicles 20:2-4)
So we can see that a common way to humble yourself was through fasting.
Fasting is not always abstaining from both food and drink. Although there are examples of this in the bible (Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 9:18), this is the exception rather then the rule. Jesus himself is an example of fasting just from food.
Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. (Luke 4:2)
Jesus also expects us to fast:
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; (Matthew 6:17)
The following examples are of the New Testament church fasting:
And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:3)
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:23)
In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; (2 Corinthians 6:5)
So what is the benefit of fasting?
Compare Luke 4:1-2 and Luke 4:14. Jesus goes into the desert full of the Holy Spirit but returns in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. (Luke 4:1-2)
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. (Luke 4:14)
From this we might deduce that fasting releases the power of the Holy Spirit within us. Before we can make such a statement, we need to look at the Christian life and the struggle between our old, carnal, nature and the Holy Spirit.
First we know that we are strengthened through God, not ourselves, and this is through the Holy Spirit.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13)
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, (Ephesians 3:20)
However our old nature opposes this work:
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Galations 5:17)
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Romans 8:7)
Paul describes how to win this struggle:
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)
Hence we can say that fasting enables us to control our old nature and desires, hence walking by the Spirit (Galations 5:16) instead of walking in the flesh.
So the purpose of fasting is to humble ourselves before God and to discipline our old nature and physical desires so we can focus on the Spiritual rather than the Physical.