God knows how hard it is for us to exercise faith. His knowledge of our human frailty is demonstrated in part through His incarnation—God …became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us (John 1: 14). The Apostle Paul explains that …although He [Jesus, the perfect ‘God-Man’] existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2: 6-8).
Jesus Christ surrendered His kingly position with God the Father and become a willing bond-servant to serve His Master out of love. According to many Gospel accounts, Jesus’s life was marked by His habit of praying to His Father in Heaven. When our faith is weak, we can look to Jesus as our example--and look to His Spirit for power.
In this parable, Jesus pictures the life of every Christ-follower as a branch of a fruitful vine (Jesus); and, the Father is pictured as the loving caretaker of the vine.
Then, Jesus explains that Christ-followers (“branches”) are joined and nourished by the vine so that we can be fruitful (see Galatians 5: 22-23): I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing…(John 15: 5). If we are to “abide in Him” we must (a) hear and obey His Word and (b) commune with Him through prayer in knowledge of His will: If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15: 5, 7).
They had also just heard Jesus tell Peter that Satan has asked permission to “have you to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you (Luke 22: 31-32).” They also heard Peter’s vow never to deny Jesus; and, Jesus’s prophecy that Peter would deny Him three times (v. 33-34). Now it was time for them to see what “abiding in Him” actually looks like, especially when they were about to face great trial and turmoil.
Jesus had prayed many times in the dark, lonely setting of the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22: 39). But neither His disciples nor we as readers of the Gospel accounts will ever understand the physical, mental, and spiritual struggle Christ faced on that crucial night. There, Jesus poured out His anguished soul to His Father as He anticipated being separated from God the Father as He would take upon Himself the sins of the whole world and carry them to the grave in His physical death.
His disciples entered the garden with Him; and then, He invited Peter, James, and John to accompany Him to pray and keep watch while He drew aside to pray (Matthew 26: 36-46; Mark 14: 32-42; Luke 22: 39-46). As we carefully read these accounts of Christ praying in physical and spiritual anguish in the Garden, may we find great comfort and instruction to help when we face temptations and trials that threaten our abiding in the vine-Life of our Savior. Remember, Christ's dependence on the Father is our example to follow.
When we feel isolated and alone in times of spiritual and emotional distress, may we find comfort in knowing that Jesus knows all about this experience. His disciples, especially the three closest to Jesus, saw Him praying nearby in great anguish and distress. But they did not continue in prayer. Jesus found them three times fast asleep. If we’ve ever felt the loneliness of being forsaken by our dearest friends in a time of need, we can be sure Jesus knows how it feels. What’s more, Jesus’s spiritual battle may have been even greater if He heard Satan saying something like, “See, no one cares for You! Not even your closest friends. And, you came to “seek and to save” them?”
In times of spiritual battle, our obedience and prayers may not only face “spiritual interference” from our sense of loneliness and from Satan’s attacks. We may also experience doubt when we don’t cling to God’s Word. In His humanity, Jesus Christ’s spiritual battle in the Garden of Gethsemane may have brought back memories of the spiritual battle faced by His first human image bearers, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3 records how Adam and Eve let go of their faith in God’s Word as Satan twisted the truth and convinced them that he offered a better way than God had promised. Failing to abide in the Word of God, the first humans took and ate the only fruit that was forbidden in the Garden of Eden. Now, Jesus had come to a pivotal point in His messianic mission to rescue Adam’s descendants from the curse of sin. Thankfully, Jesus the “second Adam” (1 Corinthians 15: 45) faced the spiritual warfare in “another Garden” and, through prayer and obedience to His Father, did not lose the spiritual battle.
When we face many-colored trials--loneliness, being misunderstood, the lust of the flesh, spiritual lethargy, doubt, or some combination of these, may we be encouraged by the teaching and example of Jesus, the Son of Man-Son of God. The Apostle Peter who matured through many humbling trials and sufferings later wrote (1 Peter 2: 21-24),
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
Our Savior Prays for Us: If the teaching and example of Christ are not enough to encourage us in our trials, consider that according to Hebrews 7: 24-25, Jesus is now our faithful High Priest Who holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore, He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. In Romans 8: 34, in response to the question, “Who would condemn us?”—we read that it is Christ Jesus…who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
May we abide in the True Vine and so aim toward the ideal of Christ who prayed to His Father, I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do (John 17: 4). Abiding in Christ with His mind and purpose is the foundation of all stewardship. And praise God, even when we feel most helpless and besieged, “We are in Christ, not because we hold Him, but because He holds us…” -- F.B. Meyer
How About You?
Like many people, you have no doubt experienced times of turmoil and isolation. Do you know that God knows all about you and your need? He also has made provision for you. If you have not experienced dying to self and being raised through faith to New Life in Christ, perhaps the Steps to Peace with God will point you in the direction of Salvation in Christ. If you have additional questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you. Just post a “Comment” below or e-mail me at email@example.com