Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Wilderness, The Mountain, The Garden & The Cross, Pt. 1

     As the Son of God, Jesus came to reveal who God the Father is.  But as the Son of Man, Jesus demonstrated how we can walk in relationship with the Father.  It's all too easy to assume that the supernatural life and ministry of Jesus were a result of his divinity, but keep in mind that he didn't do any miracles until the Spirit came upon him after his baptism at age 30.  And Jesus even said that he couldn't do or say anything that he didn't first sense his Father leading and empowering him to do or say.  The divinity of God was revealed through the humanity of Christ, and the same opportunity awaits you and I.
     It's amazing when you think about it.  We are also called sons of God and are given the same invitation to participate in God's life that Jesus demonstrated for us.  It only makes sense:  if Jesus depended on the Father for a continual supply of divine life, then so should we.  Unlike the children of Israel in the wilderness, divine life didn't fall from the sky for Jesus to find and eat.  Jesus had to make a concerted effort to get away from the multitudes and even away from his closest disciples at times to maintain his connection with the Father through consistent prayer.
     Scripture gives us insight into the prayer life of Jesus which should inspire us to follow in his footsteps.  If Jesus did miracles because of his divinity then there wouldn't have been a need to stay connected to the Father through prayer.  But that was not the case.  Consider this:  Luke 5:16 reveals that Jesus "often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed."  Prayer wasn't something that he occasionally did as the need arose.  It was something that he consistently did because he knew that as a man he needed God's strength, refreshing and guidance to fully participate in divine life, which enabled him to resist temptation and to fulfill God's will.
     We know that Jesus spent 40 days praying in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry, which actually set a precedent for the next few years.  It was this same wilderness that Jesus returned to time and time again, knowing that "man doesn't live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."  Jesus made it a priority to talk to God and to listen for His voice because he knew that there is life-giving power in God's words, whether they are heard, meditated on, confessed, prayed, prophesied, sung, taught or proclaimed.  Living off yesterday's Word will eventually lose its power just as manna gathered by the Israelites grew stale if not consumed within 24 hours.
     When Jesus sensed a need in his human spirit for a divine reload he would attempt to find a quiet place but the crowds often hunted him down and made it difficult to get alone with the Father.  But he persevered nonetheless and found time and a place to spend with God.  There is an obvious lesson to be learned and applied here.  There are many hindrances to prayer, even noble ones that need to be set aside for the priority of receiving divine life from the Lord and cooperating with His will for our lives through prayer.
     Then there were special times Jesus spent on the mountain with the Lord, sometimes all night long.  Luke 6:12 says this was the case the night prior to choosing and identifying the twelve disciples from the larger group of disciples.  Jesus also took Peter, James and John with him to the mountain (probably Mount Horeb) for a season of overnight prayer on what is known as the "mount of transfiguration."  Toward the end of his earthly ministry Jesus would teach in the temple by day but at night He went and stayed on the Mount of Olives (Luke 21:37).  Luke 22:39 says that this became his regular custom, possibly in preparation for what he knew was his last season of ministry.
     It's interesting to note the special privilege that Jesus extended to his close disciples in terms of letting them know where he was praying so they could find him if need be.  He kept this information private because of the crowds.  After feeding the 5000 "Jesus was praying alone and his disciples joined him" because they knew right where he was at (Luke 9:17,18).  Also, Luke 11:1 tells us that "as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, Lord, teach us to pray..."  Once again, they knew right where he was.
     It seems that Jesus placed great importance on getting away from the many needs of people long enough to get his own needs met by the Father, so that in turn he could be empowered to meet other peoples' needs.  It also seems that he thought it important enough to involve his disciples in his prayer life at times so they could get a glimpse of what a dynamic interaction with the Father looks like.  It was through this access into his prayer life that his disciples developed a hunger to know God for themselves.  Hence they asked him to teach them to pray.  And Jesus did just that.  He gave them an understanding that prayer isn't just our way of getting God to do what we want or to twist His arm to meet  our needs.  It is the opportunity to know Him, to be transformed by Him and to make Him known.

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