Saturday, March 09, 2019

When the cross answers our prayers

[This is part of the journal entry from my quiet time with God yesterday morning.]

Look: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered…” (Hebrews 5:7-9)

The passage goes on to say that because of His humble submission to the will of God that He, as the perfect Son, would die on behalf of sinful humanity, would become our great high priest, able to give new life to all who believe in Him. (This is similar to what Paul talks about in Philippians 2:5-11.)

But what strikes me about this passage is that it affirms that because of Jesus’ “reverent submission,” His prayers were heard. Apparently referring to Jesus’ anguished prayers at the Garden of Gethsemane, the preacher in Hebrews says that Jesus “offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death.”  At Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

The question that occurs to me is: Were Jesus’ fervent prayers offered in humble submission heard by the Father?

One answer is that, while Jesus had asked to be spared “the cup” of suffering and death, He had also submitted to the Father’s will. In that sense, His prayer was answered. I think that this is a good explanation, but maybe, incomplete.

Today, this passage from Hebrews, which I’ve read many times, for the first time, suggests another answer to me. It’s this: The only way for Jesus or us to be “saved...from death,” the very thing for which Jesus prayed, is to go through death. Had Jesus skipped death and accepted whatever temporal power the world and the devil might offer Him, He would have been condemned to everlasting, final death. (And destroyed our hope for new life with God in the bargain.)

Although, Jesus, like any normal, sane human being, didn’t want to suffer or die, He understood that the way of life is the way of the cross. It’s only when the power of sin over our lives is extinguished that we can have life.

Jesus’ prayers were heard, including those for salvation from death. Thank God for that!

Listen: The clear implication for me in my daily life is to daily submit to the crucifixion of my old self so that Christ can save me from death. It means facing the fact of physical death with confidence, knowing that I must die to all pretense of being “like God,” while submitting to the God I know in Christ, to have a share in the victory over sin and death Jesus won on the cross. That’s part of what Jesus is talking about when He says that we’re to take up our crosses and follow Him.

In daily submitting myself to God through Jesus, I’m asking God to do His will in my life, to save me from death by killing off everything about me that isn’t of Him. Because the wages of sin is death, I know that for God to save me from death, I will go through death, beyond which is a perfect life with God, without sin or death.

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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