In Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46)
Here we see the perfect submission of the Lord Jesus to the will of God. His humanity and holy suffering stand out. Hebrews 5:8 says, “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which he suffered.” Verse 39 records these words: “And He came out, and went as He was wont, (or ‘as His custom was’ RV) to the Mount of Olives.” Only Luke includes these words: “And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (v44). He agonized in Gethsemane, but there was no possibility that He would refuse to do the Father’s will. His Father loved Him from all eternity, not only because of His own person, but especially because of His willingness to lay down His life, as He Himself said (John 10: 17-18).
At the Cross, in His First and Last Words (Luke 23:34, 46)
Right after Judas went out in John 13:31, Christ said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him.” The cross is the greatest display of moral excellence ever seen in a man. What a triumph of His moral glories that He prayed for His enemies while He was in excruciating pain. Crucifixion was so painful that they always gave an anodyne to dull the pain and to make the prisoner easier to handle. They offered this to Christ, but He would not drink of it. He was willing to go through all of the sufferings of the cross without any dulling of His senses. It was painful when they were nailing His hands and His feet to the cross. But when they raised the cross into place, there was a sudden increase in pain when all of His weight was suspended on the spikes. The normal human response would be to cry out with the worst kind of words against the perpetrators. But think of His words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (23:34).
He was living out in perfection what He taught in Matthew 5:44: “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.” No wonder Peter said in referring to the responsibility of the Jews for the crucifixion of Christ: “I wot (or “I know”) that through ignorance ye did it as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17). Paul also wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:8 (referring to the wisdom of God), “Which none of the princes of this world knew, for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” It is no marvel that almost 40 years passed before Jerusalem was destroyed, or that God still has future purposes of grace for the nation of Israel. Stephen was characteristically controlled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:55). The Holy Spirit enabled him to die like the Lord Jesus. What Stephen said in Acts 7:59 while being stoned to death was like the Lord Jesus, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” What he said next took a lot more grace, and was even more like the Lord Jesus: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60).
During World War II, I read about a Christian soldier who prayed on his knees every night at his bunk before he got into bed. One rainy day the sergeant came in with very muddy boots. He took off one of them and saw the Christian at the far end of the barracks praying. He took that boot and threw it, intentionally hitting the Christian. Then the sergeant went to sleep. After the Christian finished praying, he stood up and retrieved the boot. He cleaned off all the mud, and then he shined up both boots and put them under the sergeant’s bed. When the sergeant woke up in the morning, saw his boots, and remembered how muddy they were and what he had done with one of them, it just about broke him to pieces to think that the Christian would do that! The sergeant got saved within a few days. That Christian was just following the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 5:44. He was also following the Lord’s example in Luke 23:34. The Lord Jesus lived out in perfection all that He taught.
His last words at the cross, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46) were spoken shortly after the cry that broke the long silence on the cross, a silence that lasted at least three hours and possibly as long as five hours. That cry was, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt 27:46). The last four cries on the cross were very close to each other. He said His last words consciously and voluntarily in the language of Psalm 31:5. No wonder that the centurion cried out, spontaneously glorifying God, “Certainly this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47).
May the Lord help all of us to be more like our Lord Jesus in our prayer life and may we all be encouraged in prayer by the reminder of how He prayed.