Apr 25 2013 - Luke 22:35-53 – Weak disciples
At the Last Supper, Jesus had washed his disciples' feet; he had been among them as one who served. Now they are arguing about which of them is the greatest. Have they learned nothing from Jesus? Have they learned nothing of the nature of his kingdom and how different it is from the kingdoms of this world?
Despite their failure to act as disciples, Jesus promises that they will have a part in the kingdom which has been given him by the Father. One day they will judge the twelve tribes of Israel, but for the present they need to learn what it means to follow Christ in his humiliation.
In the same vein, Jesus exposes Peter's brash self-confidence. It is evident that he does not know his own character. He is weak and will deny Jesus, but Jesus has prayed for him, will keep him from Satan's clutches and will enable him to be a strength to his brothers.
Jesus and his disciples go on to Gethsemane. There Jesus asks his disciples to support him by praying with him. Again they show their weakness by falling asleep. The conduct of the disciples vividly reminds us of our own frailty.
All three Synoptic Gospels record the agonised prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before his betrayal and arrest. They all record the desire of Jesus to avoid the torment that lay ahead of him but also his submission to the Father's will. But Luke adds a couple of significant details; he speaks of Jesus sweating blood as he prayed, such was his agony of spirit. Luke also records that, "An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him" (Luke 22:43).
There are mysteries here that we cannot fully fathom. There is a sense in which we see here the weakness of Christ. He needed to be strengthened by the ministry of an angel in his hour of need. The angel strengthened him by assuring him that his Father had not abandoned him; he would be with him even when it seemed that he had turned his back on him.
Strengthened by the ministry of an angel, Jesus went to the cross for our salvation – refusing to call on twelve legions of angels to rescue him. At the cross we see both the 'weakness' of God and the power of God that is stronger than any human strength. God's power is made perfect in weakness.
Raised from the dead, Jesus is now the one who ever lives to help and strengthen us in time of need:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16).
In our weakness we may turn to Christ our Saviour. He has tasted human weakness but he possesses all the power in the universe. He strengthens us in our weakness. And in ways I don't profess to understand, he also sends his angels to minister to us in our weakness (Hebrews 1:14).
Thank you Jesus that you are never asleep when we need your help. Thank you that you know all about our weakness and yet have promised that we will inherit your kingdom. Help us to trust in you, depend upon you and to know your risen power made perfect in our weakness. Help us also to strengthen one another that together we may live the cruciform life of your kingdom and so confound the kingdom of this world.