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Thursday: Jesus, His Friends and the Garden.

Thursday: Jesus, His Friends and the Garden.

April 1, 2021

Andrew Gibson:
Hi, everybody. Welcome to day four of our Easter podcast series. This week, we are exploring Jesus final moments as He journeys towards His crucifixion and how we can find our story within His story. On the Thursday before his death, we watch as Jesus heads to the Garden of Gethsemane with His friends to pray. And we ask ourselves how this informs our understanding of friendship in community and prayer? Let's listen as CFC South site pastor Laura Bell concludes our Easter podcast series.
Laura Bell:
Welcome listeners. It's Laura here. We've been journeying together through Holy week. And today we find ourselves on the evening before the crucifixion. Jesus and his disciples are in an enclosed orchard on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, commonly known to us as the garden of Gethsemane. This is a remarkable narrative which gives us an incredible insight into the nature of Jesus's relationships. So let's dive into the text of Matthew 26 to explore what this scene from the life of Jesus has to teach us about friendship. A topic so close to my heart, and so crucial for us as believers to explore in these days of isolation and loneliness. If you're reading along with me, we're going to read from Matthew 26, verses 36 to 46. Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to them, sit here while I go over there and pray.
Laura Bell:
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him. And he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, stay here and keep watch with me. Going a little further He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, my father if it's possible, may this cup be taken from me, yet not my will, but as you will. Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour? He asked Peter, watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away a second time and prayed, my father if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.
Laura Bell:
When he came back, he again finds them sleeping because their eyes were so heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time saying the same thing. Then he returned to disciples and said to them, are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the son of man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise, let's go, here comes my betrayer. This story gives us the most intimate insight into the nature of Jesus. It beautifully blends together the reality of Jesus's humanity, the one he is fully human, just like you and me with his unique position as the son of God, Jesus, fully human, fully God. We have of course seen Jesus's humanity demonstrated in so many ways throughout the gospel. Born from a mother's womb he plays with children, goes to a wedding with friends, he has a back and forth with his mother at said wedding.
Laura Bell:
I'm sure we can all relate to that. He's tired. He's hungry. He weeps at a friend's grave. And this story in Gethsemane gives us an insight into Jesus's dark night of the soul. Here we have Jesus who calls himself the son of man, the human one, the one who has come to show us what it is to be human fully alive in God. And at the very center of the picture, friendship comes to the fore. We want to reflect on the question. What is Jesus modeling for us here when it comes to friendship and community? And what does it mean to be Christ-like in these areas of our lives? Well, the first thing is that Jesus models for us in the garden, Jesus chooses intentional relationships over isolation or individualism. In Gethsemane we see Jesus intentionally seeking community. He asks his friends to be with him in this difficult time.
Laura Bell:
He specifically seeks out three close friends Peter, James, and John. He asked them to come and pray with him and keep watch with him. Jesus is not choosing to journey in isolation or on his own, he's intentionally journeying in community. I wonder if this is our practice when we're overwhelmed, or troubled, or fill of sorrow, did we seek out friends to be with us, to pray with us, and to keep watch with us? The Jesus way requires effort and intentionality. The way of individualism which is so embedded in our culture, the way of self-reliance, looking out for our own interests, and living in extreme independence. It may be easier in the short term, but experience has taught us that it only leads to unhappiness and quite often devastating results in the long-term for better or worse, we need each other. In times of crisis, we have two choices.
Laura Bell:
We can either retreat into isolation or individualism, or we can move forward surrounded by a community of people who are with us, and for us. It makes sense to choose the latter. But let's be honest too often we're tempted to journey alone. The Jesus way pushes against this dominant thought that we need to be self-reliant, and not reach out, not speak out, and not share one another's burdens. This last year. It's been a time of crisis. As you take some time to reflect, would you say that you've retreated into isolation or chosen like Jesus to surround yourself with a community of friends? Some of us might feel stuck or unsure about how to move forward intentionally, but we can pray and ask our father God to help us like Jesus, to model intentionality over isolation so that whenever we're tempted to go through a trial alone, we be reminded of the beauty of gathering with fellow believers, asking father God, to help us to lay aside our pride and reach out to faithful friends who can journey alongside us.
Laura Bell:
I'm so grateful that God never intended for us to walk through life alone. He never intended for us to go through trials alone. God adopted us into his family and call us as his own and for better or worse, we need each other. So when it comes to friendship, Jesus chooses intentional relationships over isolation. And the second thought is this, Jesus chooses community over comfort. If you read the New Testament and honestly, if you pursue any relationship beyond the surface level, you will discover depth and community can be challenging. The friendship zone is not always the comfort zone, especially when we consider some of the building blocks of biblical friendship which are highlighted in the story in Gethsemane. So what are the building blocks of true friendship that we see Jesus model here? Well, the theologian David Kidner defines the marks of biblical friendship and his commentary on the Proverbs and Psalms as candor and constancy. Jesus models in Gethsemane both candor and constancy.
Laura Bell:
Candor means vulnerability, openness, transparency, honesty, truth telling. Constancy means commitment, sticking with you, reliability, it's to say, you know what? I'm going to be there for you even if it costs me something. Proverbs 18-24 gives us this wisdom. One who has unreliable friends, soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Tim Keller summarizes these building blocks of friendship in this way. A friend always lets you in candor and never lets you down constancy. Candor and constancy means that friends strive to always let you in and never let you down. Well, take a look at Jesus here in the garden, how much more candid could he be? In verses 37 and 38 we see the vulnerability of Jesus where he openly and honestly expresses his feelings to his friends. He tells them that his soul is full of sorrow and overwhelmed to the point of death.
Laura Bell:
I mean, hold back Jesus. It's not like he does at all. RT France in fact, says in his commentary on this passage that this is a weak translation of the full throttled off the scale Greek words that Jesus used here for being deeply grieved. Jesus is literally pouring it out. He is candidly expressing his emotion. As humans, we are well acquainted with sorrow, and pain, and sadness, and times of unrest in our soul. Perhaps this last year has been for some of us, a dark night of the soul. Jesus shows us that we all need safe spaces to openly and honestly share our hearts and talk about the things that we are wrestling with. Friendship should be places of candor, where we can be vulnerable, open, transparent, honest, and truthful. So Jesus is candid. He lets us disciples all the way in, but he doesn't let them down.
Laura Bell:
He remains constant. I mean all of his friends let him down in this moment. Judas is off betraying him, Peter, James and John, who is asked to pray and wait with him have fallen asleep, and will in mere moments after his arrest, desert him and deny him, yet Jesus remains constant saying not my will, but yours be done God. Jesus remains faithful to the end. How are your friendships going? Would you say that you exemplify these qualities of candor and constancy as a friend? As I've said, true friendship that goes beyond the surface level and really glorifies God is rarely forged in the comfort zone. It takes intentionality and it's built rather than just gifted. This forging happens by choosing community over comfort. We see this as Jesus demonstrates true friendship. Even when the disciples epically fail him, the disciples literally fall asleep to the needs of their friend Jesus.
Laura Bell:
We see here in verses 40 to 41, that instead of just turning away and rejection, Jesus calls them out in this. He speaks truth to them. He brings accountability and he candidly tells them that they have let him down. Do you feel that down today? Is there a conversation with a friend that you need to have in order to move forward in a God glorifying way? When we hear how Jesus true friendship modeling, constancy and candor, bringing his friends all the way in, but not letting them down. It can evoke such a longing in us because we feel that we lack the friends that our hearts needs. It can evoke a sense that we don't measure up. I mean, how easy is it for us to be transparent, to really open up, to really let a person in? And how easy is it for us to give the gift of emotional, vulnerability and connection?
Laura Bell:
It's hard. We're afraid. And because we are not good at giving it, we often don't receive it. So the question is where are we going to get the power to be the friends that we need to be so that we can have the friends that we need to have? And the answer is friendship with Jesus. Just before they arrive at Gethsemane, Jesus was desperately trying to teach and explain to his disciples the meaning of the cross. This is outlined and John chapters, 13 to 17. And one of the things Jesus sees in order to explain what he is going to do when he dies is with the concept of friendship. In John 15, he says to them, I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master's business. So Jesus is letting them in. But tonight I call you friends. Now love one another as I love you, for greater love has no one than this to lay down one's life, for one's friends. Jesus, is the ultimate friend, he lets you in and also never lets you down, because in the garden of Gethsemane, as he saw his best friends falling asleep on him, denying him, betraying him, deserting him. The father comes and says to Jesus, you're going to have to go to the cross and be separated from me, like become unfriended from the father or you're going to lose your friends? And Jesus said, I'll become separate. I'll become unfriended so that you and I can be friends with God and true friends to one another. Now, if you know that, that liberates you to be the friend that you need to be. If you and I know that Jesus has embraced us and brought us all the way into friendship, that he loves me no matter what, then I can move out.
Laura Bell:
Not being afraid of rejection. If I know Jesus will never let me down, then I can move out, not being afraid of being let down because all of my eggs are not in the human friendship basket. And when I'm liberated to be the great friend I ought to be by the great friendship of Jesus on the cross, then I'll find myself paradoxically getting the great friends that I need to have so that I will have you. You see, our final thought is this, Jesus chooses sacrifice over separation. What was lost in the garden of Eden, Jesus restores in the garden of Gethsemane. The separation that was lost in Eden is restored at Gethsemane. When Jesus says in John 15, am lying down my life from my friends. Suddenly the whole history of the world could be understood with regards to friendship. In Genesis three, God walked with Adam in the cool of the garden and walking was a Hebrew metaphor for friendship.
Laura Bell:
God made us for friendship, but sin separated us from God, and from one another. However, because of Jesus's great act of friendship on the cross, which he chose in the garden of Gethsemane, we who once were far off, have been brought near through the blood of Jesus. And we're no longer called enemies or even at best servants of God, but friends of God. Jesus shows us the radical cost of friendship on the cross, where Jesus let us all the way in and chose to never let us down. He is so radically befriends us that we can become the friends that we need to be for his glory in the world. Thank you so much for listening and journeying this Holy week with us.
Andrew Gibson:
Thanks Laura. And thanks everyone for listening along this week, we hope you've enjoyed our mini Easter series and have felt encouraged by what has been shared. If you're listening to this during Easter week 2021, then I have just three things I want to remind you about. Firstly, tomorrow night each of our CFC sites are holding a special good Friday service on zoom. If you'd like more information, please email info@thisiscfc.com. Secondly, on Saturday CFC teaching and discipleship pastor Charlotte Curran will be sharing a short devotional on our social media channels. So make sure to tune in. And lastly, we would really love for you to join us this Sunday for our special Easter Sunday service at 10:00 AM on CFC Belfast Facebook and YouTube. It's going to be a good one. God bless. And may you know His grace and peace this week.

CFC Christian Fellowship Church Belfast
Thursday: Jesus, His Friends and the Garden.
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