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For the umpteenth time Mary restlessly rolled her aching frame over on the mat she called her bed. The past two nights her body had tossed and turned almost as much as her weary brain. The thoughts and visions of that horrible day would not stop circling like ugly vultures reviewing the latest kill.
Finally she could stand it no longer and she rose to her feet. “I will go to His tomb and wait for the morning.” She stumbled around in the dark, but finally found her way. The cool air caressed her tear-soaked cheeks and burned her eyes, sensitive from hours of weeping.
Nearing the cave that held the body of her Lord, she was startled to see a gaping hole where the stone cover should have been. She pressed her fingers to her aching eyes and peered intently into the gloom to discern what the shadows held. It was true. Though it was still so early, someone had already been here and the stone was gone.
With only a moment’s pause she turned and ran to where the disciples Simon Peter and John were just arising from their similarly tortured slumber. “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him,” she gasped.
Matthew 26:41 “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
Since 1907 this has been the motto of the scout movement. All Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts make it their duty to be prepared in mind and body to know the right thing to do, to be willing to act on it, and to be physically fit to carry out the action when necessary.
None of our family, aside from my brief stint with the Brownies in elementary school, has been a scout member. Even so, this motto is one that we should all consider making part of our life strategy.
Jesus knew that His time on earth was short. He understood what the next few hours would hold for Him – the betrayal, the ridicule, the pain, the torture, and the weight of the world’s sin. Death on a rugged cross was why He had come to earth and His final hour was drawing near.
During the last Passover supper, Jesus prepared His disciples with much information regarding what was ahead. He acted out a picture of the purpose of His death by washing their feet. He had come not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.
He comforted them with the promise of the Holy Spirit Who would give them power and lead them into all truth.
He encouraged them by explaining how they could bear much spiritual fruit by remaining in the vine. By abiding in Christ and letting His words abide in them they could ask whatever they needed and it would be done.
He warned them of rejection and tribulation but reminded them that He had overcome the world.
Finally, He prayed that God would not take them out of the world but keep them from the evil one.
All of this Jesus did so that His disciples would BE PREPARED for what lay ahead.
Yet, even this was not enough. There was something they needed to do.
While in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus went away by Himself to pray. His soul was deeply grieved over all that was about to occur. He asked His disciples to keep watch with Him, but they could not keep their eyelids open. The warmth of the evening and the activity of the day weakened their stamina and soon there were snores echoing throughout the otherwise quiet sanctuary.
Jesus, heavy with grief, returned, awakened them from their slumber, and urgently imparted some important advice. He knew what was coming and how crucial their preparation of mind and body would be when temptation crept up on them. At the moment of decision His previous teaching and preparation would be forgotten if they had not prepared their minds and bodies through prayer. He said,
“Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation.”
The men groggily listened to His warning, but then rolled over and continued snoring. The hour of Jesus’s betrayal and suffering was at hand but these followers were not ready for what lay ahead. Though their spirit might have been willing had they understood, their exhausted flesh was weak.
Later we read that all of them deserted their Master in His greatest hour of need. Peter, who boasted of loyalty, went as far as to vehemently deny that he even knew Jesus. How sad they all were when they realized that their lack of preparation caused them to do the wrong thing.
What a lesson this is for us! The Scout Motto, while a good life strategy, is also necessary spiritually to protect us from all temptation. Unlike Jesus, we do not know what a day holds. We must keep watching and praying so that we can withstand whatever comes across our path.
I am glad Jesus was prepared to suffer and die for my sins and yours.
Obey the instructions He gave His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. Make it your motto and duty to always BE PREPARED in mind and body to know the right thing to do, to be willing to act on it, and to be physically fit to carry out the action when necessary.
Jesus shared the secret to success – stay alert, keep watching, keep praying.
Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
There are some stories that always amaze me. Year after year I reread them and they never grow old. Instead they encourage me, strengthen my faith, and renew my desire to obey the Lord’s commands fully.
During the Easter season we reflect on the events that occurred in the last week of Jesus’ ministry on earth. He had spent three years publicly teaching, healing, and revealing His identity to crowds of followers. Many had rejected His claim to be the Son of God, the Messiah, but many believed and followed Him.
Among the followers there were twelve men who were His closest companions. He intimately trained them to carry on the spread of the Kingdom message after He was no longer physically with them. Over the months and years these men had seen and participated in many great things. They had laughed and cried with Him, and the majority had learned to trust their Master and follow His instructions carefully. In so doing they were blessed and others along with them.
Another Passover season was approaching and Jesus and His followers made preparations to travel to Jerusalem. A cloud of unrest overshadowed the joy of the holiday. So much difficulty had occurred in the previous weeks causing the disciples to struggle with concern over their Master’s safety, not to mention their own. Yet they had learned to trust and obey Him.
They set out on their journey and upon reaching the small village of Bethphage, Jesus gave some strange instructions. He appointed two of his followers to enter the village where He told them they would find a tethered donkey with its colt.
“Bring them to me!” He instructed. “And if anyone questions you, tell them that the Lord has need of these animals. They will comply with your request.”
These men did not question Jesus’ instructions, but instead they went and did all that He asked.
They entered the village.
They found the animals.
They grabbed the lead ropes.
They brought them to Jesus.
No ifs, ands, or buts – only unquestioning obedience.
At the time I doubt they had any idea that they were participating in the fulfillment of prophecy. They were just doing what the Lord asked. Yet their actions contributed to a scenario that had been foretold hundreds of years before in the book of Zechariah.
Matthew 21:4 “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet.”
Mounting the coat-saddled colt, Jesus rode into the great city of Jerusalem, announced by the excited screams of the massive crowds,
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!”
This was the beginning of a week to which all of the Old Testament pointed. The exuberant crowds would soon turn violent and revolt against the Prince of Peace. Yet the Savior directed every single detail. Not even the things that seemed out of control were out of control! The One who kept a never-ridden colt completely calm in the midst of a riotous celebration also allowed the masses to shift sentiments and lead Him to the cross where He would fulfill His purpose of bringing salvation to the world.
The Lord’s complete control over every step of the journey to the cross is such an encouragement in our own personal journey here on earth. It is easy to be deceived into thinking that difficult experiences are unplanned mistakes. This could not be further from the truth. God has ordained the details of our lives and is expertly working out His plan for us. Our job is not to panic, but to trust and obey!
This week as you consider Jesus’ final days on earth let the story encourage you, strengthen you and renew your desire to trust and obey the Savior’s every command.
When life gets hard and confusing remember God is still in control of every detail and our . . .
Unquestioning Obedience Leads to Unbelievable Blessing