Sermons About or Influenced by C.S. Lewis

"Gethsemane: Embracing the Cross 

Before the Cross"

It was May of 1939. All of Europe was on the verge of the greatest conflict that would ever engulf our world. Just a few months earlier Adolf Hitler had moved German troops, first into Austria, and then into Czechoslavakia. Indeed, anyone familiar with European history could see that World War II was just around the corner. Commenting on Jesus' experience in Gethsemane, Christian author C.S. Lewis wrote to a friend that he was thankful, that as of yet, his own faith had not been too greatly tempted by the present horrors and that he was daily thankful to God that Gethsemane, of all other scenes in our Lord's life, had not gone unrecorded. (Letters of C.S. Lewis. May 8, 1939). 

For just as all the world in 1939 was looking over the edge of time into the great tragedy that would soon erupt into World War II, our Lord came to Gethsemane and was permitted by His heavenly Father to view, in His spirit, the greatest test of his own life. He saw at that moment, as he had never seen before, what lay ahead of him for the next 24 hours. He saw in the Garden of Gethsemane the cup of suffering and separation that He would soon be drinking, that cup that would be given to Him as He surrendered Himself to the cross of crucifixion. For here, in His soul of souls, at the center of His own humanity, Jesus came face to face, not so much with His own death - we all must face death - but Jesus came face to face not only with His own death, but also with the sin of the whole world that would soon be laid upon Him, as he willingly chose to open his hands to be nailed to the cross beam of that "old rugged cross." Here in Gethsemane Jesus would be asked in His spirit and soul to embrace beforehand the very agony of the cross that would come to Him in just a few hours. Here He would be asked to accept the cup and come to the end of Himself.

As we come this morning to a fourth scene in the passion of our Lord, He takes his disciples with Him into a garden of olive trees just outside of Jerusalem. He takes them to the garden named Gethsemane, to pray with Him before He is arrested, before He is betrayed into the hands of those who would crucify Him. And here he invites you and me to come with Him into that scene, that we, too, might be willing to embrace our own crosses, those difficult places in our lives where we must be willing to surrender ourselves totally to God's will. Let's look now at this morning's printed scripture, from the fourteen chapter of Mark, beginning at verse 32:

Mark 14:32-42

Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, "Sit here while I pray." {33} And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. {34} Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch." {35} He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. {36} And He said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will." {37} Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? {38} "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." {39} Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. {40} And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. {41} Then He came the third time and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. {42} "Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand."

May God bless both the reading and hearing of His Holy Word. Amen.

Here we see, laid out for all to disocover afresh, the humanity of Christ, that One we call both the Son of God and the Son of Man, who suffered and was tempted in all things as we are except without sin. One of the most obvious things that we see in this scripture is that even Jesus had a need for others to be with Him in His time of testing. He did not go alone to Gethsemane. He took the twelve and later the three to be with him as He prayed. Verses 33 and 34 tell us that He was troubled and deeply distressed, even exceedingly sorrowful. It is not unmanly or feminine to express your need for companionship. It is our pride. It is our fear of what others might think or say about us that often holds us back from sharing with others the deepest hurts and concerns of our hearts. Jesus our Lord, Jesus our example, lays his life open before His own followers. He dares to admit His need for others. Yes, they fail him. They fall asleep. They do not understand the depth of His need. But Jesus still needed them, and we men today still need one another, not only to do things together, not only to solve the problems of our world, our church, and our community. We also need to come to the place and see that we need one another just as Jesus needed His own disciples.

But a second thing is also evident as Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane. Let me ask you this question. If these disciples fell asleep and they basically misunderstood what Jesus wanted from them in that Garden, how do you suppose that these events came to be recorded in the New Testament? How do you think the disciples knew that Jesus ever prayed such a prayer of surrender in Gethsemane. If you're thinking along the same lines as I am; then, you will come to the only possible conclusion: Jesus, the Perfect and Faithful Son of God, was not ashamed to tell His own followers later about His own struggles with accepting God's will in Gethsemane. He not only needed them with Him for companionship; He also had no need to hide His struggles from them. Jesus was transparent and calls us to be transparent as well; not only in the good times; not only when things go the way we want them to; but also, when everything in our life seems to be going exactly opposite of what we had hoped it would be.

First, Jesus needed others and we do too. Second, Jesus shared Himself, even in the difficult moments of His life. But our third, and most important point this morning is that Jesus was willing, throughout this whole process to bring all of Himself to His heavenly Father, lay it all out before Him, all that He had hoped and dreamed for, and say to Him in verse 36, "Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will." Jesus was willing to come to the end of Himself.

Some of us are man-pleasers. We crave and desire the acceptance of others - what we wear, how we talk, what we do is affected by what others think of us. Others of us are self-pleasers. We could care less about what anybody else, including God, thinks. We want our own way in everything. We don't know how to say no even to ourselves. But Jesus wants us to God-pleasers - willing to say no to all and anyone except our Heavenly Father.

This morning, do you have a decision to make. Have you come to that place of surrender and sacrifice where you are willing to do whatever God wants you to do? Are you willing to say "not my will, but thy will be done?"

John tells us of Jesus' calling from His heavenly Father in John 6:38:

"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."

And He says to us, "As the Father has sent me, so send I you." (John 20: 21)

But some would say, "I'm not sure that God's will will be the best for me. Maybe I'll have to give up too much. Maybe His will is not exactly what I need. But listen to what Paul tells us about God's will in Romans 12, verse 2:

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

We all have Gethsemane's to face. None of us can escape coming to God and facing Him about the decisions in our life. Your experience may be different. It could be big or small or somewhere in between. The main point for each of us is "have we come to that place in our life where will say to God, "not my will, but thy will be done."

Someone has said that diamonds are merely pieces of coal that made good under pressure. At Gethsemane we see Jesus voluntarily being formed under pressure into the "diamond" of God's love to be offered for you and me. When we come today, to receive Christ, He offers each of us the privilege of becoming part of His church, the bride of Christ, and in so doing He asks us to follow Him, to also be willing to become diamonds of God's love to be offered to others. This morning, have you chosen to let God's will be your will? Have you let go of your plans and willingly placed them in His hands that He might use you to His glory? This morning, is your desire, not to be a man-pleaser and follow the way of the crowd, not to be a self-pleaser and look out only for yourself, but to be a God-pleaser, saying as Jesus did to His heavenly Father, "not my will, but thine be done?"

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Last Updated: Sunday, September 02, 2001