Tag Archives: Bible Study

What Cup?: A Closer Look at Jesus in the Garden

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If you’re familiar with the Easter story, you’ll remember the poignant scene of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Here’s Matthew’s account.

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’ And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’ And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.’ Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners’” (Matthew 26:36-43 NAS).

Three times Jesus prayed the Father would “let this cup pass.” What did He mean by that?

Most people will say that Jesus was praying to avoid the pain of the cross and the separation from the Father. They summarize it like this: “Jesus was God, but He was also man. His spirit was willing, but His flesh didn’t want to suffer on the cross. He prayed the Father would give Him a way out, but He didn’t. In the end, Jesus obeyed the Father and suffered and died for our sins.”

I’ve always taken issue with this stance. First, Jesus told the disciples they should pray to avoid temptation. He said their flesh was weak, not His.

Second, Jesus had just spoken of His coming death and resurrection that very night during His last supper with the disciples.

“And He said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God'” (Luke 22:15-16 NAS).

He also instituted communion, a prophetic symbol of His coming death:

“And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood’” (Luke 22:19-20 NAS).

Would He, just hours later, pray the Father would allow Him to avoid that very suffering?

 

The Plan

After dinner, on His way to Gethsemane, Jesus warned His disciples:

“’For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, “AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS”; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment’” (Luke 22:37 NAS).

Jesus was quoting Isaiah:

“Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12 NAS).

The cross was God’s plan to redeem His people to Himself. Jesus, as part of the Trinity, was a willing participant in that plan. His entire life and ministry was focused on fulfilling that purpose. Why, then, would Jesus pray for a way out at the last minute?

 

The Power

After Jesus prayed in the garden, Judas betrayed Him. One of the disciples defended Jesus by striking the slave of the high priest. Jesus responded:

“Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54 NAS).

Again, Jesus pointed His disciples to the Scriptures which prophesied His death and resurrection. However, He also referenced His ability to call upon the Father and receive help. Since angels did not appear from Heaven to prevent His crucifixion, we know that He did not pray for that.

What, then, did Jesus pray for in the garden?

What was the cup He prayed would pass Him by?

 

The Cup

I think the answer is in Luke’s account of that evening:

“Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:43 NAS).

Luke was not speaking in literary terms. Hematidrosis is a real medical condition in which a person sweats blood. It’s associated with extreme fear or stress. As God, Jesus would have no cause for fear, though He could have experienced stress as He awaited His fate on the cross. However, Scripture tells us that Jesus would have felt a lot more than His own emotions.

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:5-7 NAS).

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NAS).

It was our sins and illnesses that weighed heavily on Jesus that night in the garden. How His heart and body must have ached with the vileness of the world! How long could His human body withstand their burdens? What if Jesus had passed out or slipped into a coma? What if He had died before He could reach the cross?

I believe it was this very scenario that Jesus prayed to avoid. The responding angel then “strengthened” Him—not to give Him courage but to give Him physical strength to withstand the coming abuse prior to His crucifixion.

Jesus’ prayers were not to avoid the cross but to fulfill it. 

This explains how Hebrews 5:7 can be true:

“In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety” (Hebrews 5:7 NAS).

Jesus knew His purpose, and He never wavered. He came to earth willingly that He might preach the gospel, die a sinner’s death on a cross, and raise Himself on the third day. (Tweet This) When our sins wore heavily on Him, He prayed for strength to carry on and fulfill His purpose. Aren’t you glad we have such a Savior? Isn’t our God worthy of praise?


Additional Reading About Easter

Words from the Cross
A Savior We Can Relate To
Hosanna
The Name of Jesus


I’ve included Isaiah 53 below. I encourage you to read through it with new eyes. Take a moment to stop and appreciate this prophetic word that foretold the death of Jesus—a sinner’s death for a perfect God. Then celebrate that Easter didn’t end with the cross but with an empty tomb! Hallelujah!

“Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:1-12 NAS).

A Biblical Look at Abortion

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I’ve always known that God loves us, especially innocent children. But when I became pregnant with Gordon last year, I became more aware of this than ever. Every day, I felt God’s love and care for my little baby. I came to realize that as much as I loved my son, God loved him even more!

Unfortunately, the Enemy is no fool. He knows that every life has the potential to glorify God and impact the world in His name. That’s why the Enemy wants to destroy lives as early as possible. Abortion is a very efficient way of accomplishing that goal because it ends the life of the baby and often ruins the lives of the parents.

Recently, legislators here in the US have made headlines with bills that would permit abortions up to the moment of the baby’s birth. Virginia’s governor even indicated that a baby’s life could be taken after birth! This is the sickest, most shameful thing I have ever heard, but it’s not really surprising. In fact, it’s quite logical. If it’s okay to abort babies at 6 weeks, why not 36 weeks? And if we permit babies to be aborted in utero, why not after birth? It’s the mother’s decision after all, right? Or so the Enemy would have us to believe.

But, as Christians, what should we believe? As with all things, let us start with this question: “What does the Bible say?”

Children are a blessing

Children were always part of God’s perfect plan.

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it….’” (Genesis 1:27-28 NAS).

Throughout the Bible, children are referred to as the “fruit of the womb” because they were considered treasures from God.

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…” (Psalm 127:3-5a NAS).

Only in the past few decades have we considered children liabilities instead of assets. [Tweet This.]

Children are Spiritually Aware

The world uses the term “fetus” to differentiate between an unborn baby and one who’s been delivered. The unborn is depicted as an unfeeling, unthinking mass of tissue that only becomes a “baby” upon birth.

However, the Bible indicates that each person is comprised of a body, soul, and spirit. Even while a baby’s body is still forming, his spirit is alive and able to communicate with God.

God told Jeremiah,

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5 NAS).

An angel told Zacharias that his barren wife Elizabeth would bear a son (who would become John the Baptist).

“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15 NAS).

Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth when they were both pregnant, and Elizabeth’s baby responded to the presence of the Lord. Elizabeth said,

“For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy” (Luke 1:44 NAS).

Later, the apostle Paul told the church in Galatia that God,

“…had set [him] apart even from [his] mother’s womb….” (Galatians 1:15 NAS).

Clearly, our spiritual development begins before birth and is independent of our cognitive and physical development. [Tweet This]

Child Sacrifice is Idolatry

You won’t find the term “abortion” in the Bible. However, you will find many references in the Old Testament to child sacrifices, especially requiring a child to pass through fire in an effort to appease a god. This blood sacrifice was the deepest form of idolatry. And what is abortion, really, but the sacrifice of a baby to the god of Self? [Tweet This]

When God called the Jews out of Egypt and set them apart from the world, He commanded them to abolish such evil acts and to conquer many of the groups that performed them.

“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire… For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you” (Deuteronomy 18:10a, 12 NAS).

Unfortunately, the Jews continued to be influenced by those around them.

“They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin” (Jeremiah 32:35 NAS).

Many years ago, the Holy Spirit showed me what He feels about abortion. I think it’s time to share that experience. Click the following video to hear more.

Children Belong to God

In the Book of Ezekiel, God makes it clear who is actually being sacrificed.

“You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire” (Ezekiel 16:21 NAS).

“For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. Thus they have committed adultery with their idols and even caused their sons, whom they bore to Me, to pass through the fire to them as food” (Ezekiel 23:37 NAS).

The truth is that our children are not our own; they belong to the God who created them. [Tweet This]

Sin Separates us from God

Like all sin, child sacrifice (including abortion) separates us from God.

“’When you offer your gifts, when you cause your sons to pass through the fire, you are defiling yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I will not be inquired of by you’” (Ezekiel 20:31 NAS).

A nation that serves idols cannot also expect to call on the living God. [Tweet This]

God is the Answer

Regardless of what you hear in the media, abortion is not a debate. It’s not about politics. It’s not about healthcare. It’s not even about women’s rights. Abortion is about ending a life. 

While I personally support life-saving legislation, I don’t think the answer will be found in our legal system. The answer is, and always has been, found in God. We as a Church have to create an environment where families are supported and babies are welcomed. Only then will new parents want to choose life for their babies. [Tweet This]

This may seem like a tall order, but there’s something really simple that each of us can do: we can support our local pregnancy crisis centers. It’s there that women find the help they need on a daily basis.

This year, I’m taking a stand—actually, I’m taking a walk. On Saturday, March 9, I’m participating in the Walk for Life to benefit A Women’s Pregnancy Center here in Tallahassee. The money raised will allow them to continue providing free pregnancy tests and other resources to help expectant mothers in my area. They’ll also make sure each new mom knows just how much God loves her and her baby.

Will you stand with me? Will you help save babies and bless families by donating $10 or more to A Women’s Pregnancy Center? I’ve set up a website here where you can donate securely: http://www.fundeasy.com/m/4264980/.

“Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14a NAS, Jesus speaking).


We are so fortunate to serve a God who is merciful! If you’ve had an abortion, please know that God loves you and wants to heal your heart. Don’t go through this alone. Seek out counseling resources through your local church or pregnancy crisis center.

If you’re pregnant and in need of more resources than your local crisis center can offer, check out such groups as Lifecall. Their site, www.lifecall.org, states they even provide shelter for expectant moms who have nowhere to go.

There are resources available! There is hope.

Set Apart: Understanding the Strange Commandment of Circumcision

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There are a lot of unusual commandments in the Bible, but none is stranger than that of circumcision. As new parents, Robby and I had to decide whether or not to circumcise our little boy. After digging into God’s Word a bit, this strange practice now makes a lot more sense.

In talking with other parents, though, I realized that many make this decision based on cultural norms or medical studies, but few understand the biblical basis for circumcision. Here it is in a nutshell.

First, what is circumcision?

The penis has extra skin on the tip called foreskin that retracts as the child develops. Circumcision is the surgical removal of this foreskin. The procedure can be performed on adults or infants.

When did it begin?

We first read of circumcision in the Old Testament when God commanded Abraham to circumcise himself and his children and for the practice to be passed down through his descendants:

“This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you” (Genesis 17:10-11 NAS).

Interestingly, other groups also practiced circumcision, including the Egyptians and Moabites, so it was not unheard of. However, only Abraham and his descendants used circumcision to symbolize their covenant with God.

Are we required to practice circumcision today?

This was a question the First Century Church struggled with as the first Gentiles became believers.

“Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’” (Acts 15:1 NAS).

Peter answered them:

“Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are” (Acts 15:10-11 NAS).

The idea here is that if we treat circumcision as part of the Law, and we circumcise ourselves in order to adhere to the Law, then we must adhere to the entire Law…something no one can do.

Should we circumcise our sons today?

Although we aren’t required to circumcise our sons, the practice still holds a lot of value (as do so many of the Old Testament Commandments).

Sign of Faith – The removal of the foreskin is a symbol of separation from the world and unto God. We are a people set apart. What greater and more intimate way can a man declare his faith and obedience to God than through circumcision?

Choosing to circumcise your children is also an act of faith. Robby and I discovered this when we chose to circumcise our little boy. We didn’t want to put him through an unnecessary procedure with potential health complications, but we trusted that God would take care of him (and He did). As a mother, this was a much bigger act of faith than I had ever appreciated before.

Dedication – Although it is not required, a new believer may choose to undergo circumcision as a sign of faith and dedication to the Lord. However, most circumcisions today are performed on infants. While the procedure doesn’t secure the child’s salvation—he still has free will—it is a type of dedication unto the Lord. As my son grows up, he’ll have a constant reminder that God loves him and wants him to be counted among His children.

Health Benefits – Not surprising, doctors have determined that there are medical benefits to circumcision, including a reduced chance of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases. It’s also not surprising that doctors have confirmed the eighth day (the day God commanded) is the safest to perform the procedure as this is when the body’s blood-clotting substances are at an all-time high. When God first gave the commandment of circumcision to Abraham, He certainly knew what He was doing!

Whether you circumcise your children or not is a matter of personal choice. There are biblical and practical reasons to support it, but there are also risks associated with any medical procedure. Before you decide, research God’s Word and pray about the best course of action for your family.

As believers, we are called apart from the world. This week, I encourage you to “circumcise your heart,” or to submit your heart to the Lord. More important than any outward symbol, this inward submission is a true sign of your relationship with God.

“Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6 NAS).


Click to Tweet: As believers, we are called apart from the world.


Update: A reader submitted a comment regarding Galatians 5:6:

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6 NAS).

He said this verse proves that circumcision is now useless. I disagree.

In the context of this chapter, Paul is speaking to the church at Galatia. There, a number of Jews were essentially telling new Gentile believers that they had to become Jewish before they could become Christian—and a big requirement to being Jewish was to be circumcised. Paul responded to those who were “seeking to be justified by law” that they should not seek the law itself, or the “yoke of slavery,” but instead accept God’s grace that was freely given to them (Galatians 5:4 and 5:1 NAS).

As stated above, circumcision is NOT about salvation—it never was. However, just like the other commandments of the Old Testament, it can still hold value to us today if we seek God’s heart in it and avoid the trap of legalism.

I’d love to hear from you! Please leave your questions or comments below.