Together in Gethsemane with Jesus and One Another Today
“It’s Friday. But Sunday’s coming!
Many of our brothers and sisters experience persecution because they live in failed states like Syria and Iraq, and they don’t have the option to leave. With your help, we’re providing food and other essentials just to help them survive. But these friends get wounded in the process. So we also provide trauma training to help them deal with the stress. It’s amazing how many of God’s people don’t sink under the weight of their suffering, but by leaning on Him, discover hope and healing - and become an instrument of God’s healing for others, too.
Jesus’ call to stay and keep watch with Him leads us to stand by with our brothers and sisters, who love their countries and want to stay. As Henri Nouwen says, “We need to be angels for each other, to give each other strength and consolation. Because only when we fully realize that the cup of life is not only a cup of sorrow but also a cup of joy, will we be able to drink it.”
By Tony Compolo (Open Doors Magazine, May 2014)
Barely twelve months after journeying through Gethsemane with Jesus (during Lent in March/April 2017) as a community of God’s family, it is time to go with Him again. Why is this appropriate?
Commonly, we carry on with our daily lives from day to day till without being bothered or aware of others till some crisis hits our routine of home-work -institution-church-society. When hit by an impending crisis, we wake up and become more aware of who and where we are. For example, ‘bananas’ (those who are genetically Chinese in family DNA but reflexly practice more of a western culture due to choice or unchosen circumstances) seldom consciously feel that they have become so until they are in the midst of Mandarin speaking Chinese friends. They feel as if they are being treated like second class citizens, especially when the latter refuse to speak English even if they can.
Similarly, in our nation now, we have to pause to take stock of our faith, or rather, consider our relationship with and commitment to the One in whom we place our faith both now and for eternity. If not already, we need to ask ourselves questions such as:
Since so many of the up and coming younger generation of all cultural groups are now openly identifying themselves as freethinkers/secularists/liberals (it seems to give them a sense of freedom from others, especially those who are authority figures at home, church or society) can they be right? Is there actually no one in charge on earth or in the unknown hereafter? Are ideas like ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ words from the ideology of mere humanism? Or did such ideas come from ancient roots in God’s creation throughout human history but became distorted? Or did they come by chance as many would swear…by chance?
I know of several parents who throw up their arms in desperation that they do not understand their young adult sons and daughters anymore!
“Their thinking is so different! Though I support them and gives them what they need, after they graduate they become aliens! Not an ounce of gratitude. Even when they plan their weddings, parents have no say apart from being there to save whatever is left of family face! I wonder whether they will care for us when we need them...” is an often heard complain or depressing refrain.
Many parents have decided to care for themselves first…just in case they are left in a lurch in old age. This is wise in a way since they have worked hard and taken care of their children till they are independent. However, many things have been taken for granted that the older generation despair of the young. Love has been lost or become unrecognizable. Gratitude seems to be absent.
However, different from human parents, God, the Father of all mankind, loves His created people so much that He sent His Son Jesus to be unjustly crucified for us stubbornly sinful children so that we may legally and justly return to Him. He included the young and the old in His redemptive plan.
Know the Reason for Our Faith in the God of the Bible
How do we give an answer for our faith in the God of the Bible, as different from false gods? And if the only true and living holy God exists and is actively involved in our current life (which to many, include parenthood or childlessness or singlehood and issues like social events and politics) and livelihood in a real and broken world, how do we represent Him as the only answer to their need for a Saviour? How do we match the answer to the question? We have been enrolled as His ambassadors, like it or not. Therefore, it is more edifying to take it as a privilege and joy rather than a chore to represent Him.
Many believers’ usual reply to the questions above is:
“Read the Bible, read books about our faith, attend more seminars, etc. etc. Then you will know the reason for your faith.”
But the critical problem for us is not that the Bible or other factors are not enough to give us the reason for our faith in Christ, it is because we do not read, meditate and memorise (or sing Scriptures) the biblical contents enough as commanded by in Deuteronomy 6. Hence we do not live by His truth and grace in our conscious and subconscious life very much. But we need to do so for we cannot live without Him, like a fish living out of water which it needs in order to live. So we need to have His word in us till we automatically wake up and go to sleep with the thought of Jesus and His word in our minds. Then, when we have to give a reason for our faith, the words will come tumbling out naturally. I have seen and heard a teenager reciting Bible passages in Hokkien fluently in a Sunday School in the 70’s in Malaysia. Not many of us can do that but surely we can memorise a few verses. In old age, what was recorded first in our minds would be lost last. That is why the aged at times recall their childhood days vividly but cannot find their spectacles which they use daily. How much more must believers hide God’s word in their hearts as instructed to do so in God’s written word (e.g. Psalm 119:11).
The Reality of Christ in Daily Life
There was once a new adult believer whose life had changed for good so much that his friends thought he had gone mad. They sent him to a psychiatrist who did his job by checking his background (P = psychiatrist; Z = new Christian)…
P: Who is your father?
Z: Which one do you mean?
P: You have two fathers?
Z: Yes, I have.
P: What are their names?
Z: Michael Bob and God.
(P wrote it down)
P: Where do you live?
Z: Which address do you want?
P: Yu mean you live in two places? Tell me where.
Z: I live in the heavenly kingdom and in this earthly one.
P: But how can you live in two places at the same time?
Z: Of course I can! The first is invisible like the wind while the second one is visible…as visible as you are to me.
So it went on until the psychiatrist put his faith in Z’s God who is so real to Z.
If someone should casually or otherwise ask us about our position and life in the God of truth and grace, are we able to simply state our relationship with this God, the Father of our Lord Jesus whom He has now shares with us? Are we able to do so without using academic theological terms which most do not know about but certainly are His lost children too?
Can our reply be as basic as replying to someone who asks, “Who is your father or grandfather?”
If we love God, feeble though our love may be, we must be able to give an answer for our faith in Him from the cradle to the grave on this side of heaven. Can we feel and identify with Him as our Father God and His only begotten Son as our Elder Brother in a truly natural way?
We can no longer give the usual excuse: “Ask the pastor/theologian/small group leader/youth worker” or” I am not strong, old or learned enough.”
With Jesus…Into the Slums of the Human Heart
Jesus journeyed into the slums of the human heart in order to identify and die in our place. He who calls us His friends said, “…Greater love has no man than this, that he gave his life for his friends. I have called you friends…” (John15). He gave His life for humanity in general and much loved friends who believe in Him in particular. He wants to take us with Him into the slums of the yet to be redeemed human heart, in order to take the slums out of their hearts just like what He has done for us already. To do this for Him, we have to let go of our old identity and put on His unchanging identity. Will we do our homework, give a reason for our faith and go with Him through our own Gethsemane because we love God and love our neighbours as ourselves? Let us walk with one another through tribulation to good cheer for Christ has indeed overcome the world.
Tony Compolo is right… “It’s Friday…But Sunday’s coming next!”
But are we willing to be one another’s companion in this endeavor? If not, as the late Francis Schaeffer said in “The Mark of a Christian”, the world has the right to call us non-Christians even if we are. How then can we be Christ’s ambassadors?
Reflect and Consider
A Negro Spiritual:
Jesus walked the lonesome valley
He had to walk it by Himself
O, nobody else could walk it for Him
He had to walk by Himself.
Jesus prayed for His disciples
He prayed alone for you and me
O, nobody else could bear such sorrow
He prayed alone for you and me.
Jesus died on Calvary’s mountain
He died alone for you and me
O, nobody else could die for sinners
He had to die for you and me.
Jesus rose from death’s dark prison
He lives again for you and me
O, nobody else could bring us victory
He is alive to set us free.
By Eileen M. Johnson
Jesus walks with us through the lonesome valley of today’s Gethsemane
experience if we let Him… till we are enabled to say, “
“…Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.”
What a victory in obeying Him!
What will you do with Jesus,
Neutral you cannot be;
Some day your heart will be asking
What will He do with me?”