Posts tagged ‘Reardon’

June 18, 2016

Learning to Laugh with Angels

He remembered a hornbill, which was simply a huge yellow beak with a small bird tied on behind it. The whole gave him a sensation, the vividness of which he could not explain, that Nature was always making quite mysterious jokes. …He wondered whether even the archangels understood the hornbill.

Coming across this passage yesterday in G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who was Thursday and being flat on my back today with a high fever, I spent some time reflecting on his theme of heavenly humor. This topic is taken up by several other Christain authors including C.S. Lewis. For example, this scene in The Magician’s Nephew when a Jackdaw has an awkward moment just after Aslan has given voices to all of the animals in the new world of Narnia:

“Laugh and fear not, creatures. Now that you are no longer dumb and witless, you need not always be grave. For jokes as well as justice come in with speech.”

So they all let themselves go. And there was such merriment that the Jackdaw himself plucked up courage again and perched on the cab-horse’s head, between its ears, clapping its wings, and said:

“Aslan! Aslan! Have I made the first joke? Will everybody always be told how I made the first joke?”

“No, little friend,” said the Lion. “You have not made the first joke; you have only been the first joke.” Then everyone laughed more than ever; but the Jackdaw didn’t mind and laughed just as loud till the horse shook its head and the Jackdaw lost its balance and fell off, but remembered its wings (they were still new to it) before it reached the ground.

Chesterton, like Lewis, clearly had a high view of humor and defended it often. His two main themes on the topic are the goodness of human laughter vs. the awfulness of divine laughter. Chesterton suggests that human laughter is an almost unmitigated good. Here are several examples from over the course of his lifetime:

  • Laughter has something in it in common with the ancient winds of faith and inspiration; it unfreezes pride and unwinds secrecy; it makes men forget themselves in the presence of something greater than themselves; something (as the common phrase goes about a joke) that they cannot resist.
  • For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.
  • Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial.
  • Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity.
  • It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.
  • Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.

And this one (which most directly sheds light on the hornbill passage at the start of this post):

Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate. This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity. Nature was a solemn mother to the worshipers of Isis and Cybele. Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson. But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.

In another vein, however, Chesterton suggests that God’s laughter is a serious (even terrible) thing—too wonderful for us—something that we must be protected from or that we are mercifully incapable of hearing:

We are perhaps permitted tragedy as a sort of merciful comedy: because the frantic energy of divine things would knock us down like a drunken farce. We can take our own tears more lightly than we could take the tremendous levities of the angels. So we sit perhaps in a starry chamber of silence, while the laughter of the heavens is too loud for us to hear.

In a later passage, Chesterton suggests that divine laughter is not so much inaudible to us as it is mercifully hidden us:

The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.

In an even more serious-sounding passage that I cannot find, Chesterton says (if my memory serves me), that exposure to the raw power of our Creator’s laugh, in our current sickened condition, would virtually unmake us. Certainly God’s laughter in some Old Testament passages is something very close to judgement. We may also, perhaps, learn something about God’s humor (and I say this tentatively because I doubt that I am right but I still think it worth considering) through a study of the lives of holy fools or through the preaching and the satirical skits of certain Old Testament prophets (see God’s compromise with Ezekiel in 4:15, for example).

Of course, this point about God’s laughter being dangerous is part of a larger theme in Chesterton as well as Lewis and Tolkien: heavenly things are so good that they (in one sense) pain or hurt us in our current condition. In The Great Divorce, Lewis famously describes people from hell stepping off of a bus that has taken them to heaven. They decide that the grass in heaven is too painfully real. They would rather return to hell than endure the too-substantial grass of heaven. However (and Lewis would agree), God’s goodness is always and ultimately wholesome, even when it pains us. We see this perfectly in Jesus Christ. His divine humor may have been heavily veiled as Chesterton suggests, but Jesus clearly teased and jested with those closest to Him. This simple human laughter of Jesus never comes up directly in scripture, but it is easy to imagine what a gift it would have been in the hearts of those who loved Him. In helpful contrast to Chesterton’s reflections on Christ’s awful and hidden divine humor, Patrick Henry Reardon talks about Christ’s sense of humor, and Reardon fully humanizes it. He makes the case that Christ regularly enjoyed laughter with those closest to him:

Jesus related to these original disciples—even from the beginning—as ‘individuals,’ as particular men. He does not permit their specific identities to become lost in the group. Philip, Andrew, Thomas, and the others preserve their individual characters. Observe, for instance, how he teases them. Jesus’ irony toward Nathaniel is a perfect example of this [John 1:45-47].

…What shall we say of the nickname Jesus gave to the two sons of Zebedee: James and John? He called them “sons of thunder,” which in our modern idiom would be “hotheads.” One suspects the brothers received this moniker because … they [once] said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” (Luke 9:52–54)

…Luke relished the irony of it: John bar Zebedee … got his wish … when the church at Jerusalem sent him … as one of its delegates to call down on the Samaritans the true fire from heaven—the Holy Spirit.

…Peter, when he felt enthusiastic, imagined himself invincible … [and ] readily mistook a rush of adrenaline for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit…. Jesus surely recognized the name’s improbability in Peter’s case. The only time [that Peter] showed any rocklike quality was on that memorable occasion when he attempted to walk on water!

…In all these instances, we perceive a light and jocund side of Jesus’ relationship with these men, whom he chose ‘that they might be with Him’ (Mark 3:14). With these disciples, Jesus carried himself as a man among men, to whom he was bound by the sorts of habits, attitudes, and discourse [by which] normal men establish friendships and maintain loyalties.

There are some clear parallels between Reardon’s portrait of Jesus (jesting with his closest followers) and Lewis’ portrayal of Aslan (the first joker encouraging laughter over the vivacious Jackdaw). However, there is also a comforting difference between these two accounts. The humor exercised by Jesus is more gentle, subtle, and deeply personal than that of Lewis’ Aslan. To those learning to follow Him, Christ is a gentle friend (in the aggregate at least).

Finally, in Reardon’s account, Jesus’ joking is connected almost entirely to renaming and nicknames. It is remarkable that Jesus’ humor is bound up so closely with something that is so central to His identity as the Logos, by whose words all things are made and sustained. Naming is a task that God calls humans to share with Him, and Adam’s naming of each animal might have involve more laughter than we imagine. Chesterton may be onto something with his idea that the angels themselves are still learning to laugh at the hornbill. Furthermore, simply by process of elimination, it seems possible that humans with a healthy sense of humor could provide an important example for any angels who are still learning to see God’s mirth on display throughout creation. This line of thinking about Jesus’ enjoyment of clever nicknames also puts new possibilities into play when it comes to the intimate name that Christ has prepared for each of His saints (Revelation 2:17). Each of God’s children may be revealed as an even better joke than the Jackdaw before all is said and done. For my part, I take some comfort in the hope of garnering a few laughs as the trillion-and-first joke when my own time comes.

Nonetheless, if I make light of myself, this is not to make light of humanity or of my own high calling to communion with God. (As Chesterton says: “Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.”) In Christ, Peter did live up to his nickname.

September 1, 2014

Job himself recovers by his praying for them

In this passage near the end of the book, Job appears preeminently as an effective petitioner on behalf of his friends. These men are restored to God’s favor by Job’s praying for them, and Job himself recovers by his praying for them. …We learn of Job’s intercessions almost before we discover anything else about him. Concerned for the welfare of his children, we are told, Job “would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all” (Job 1:5). Let me suggest that between Job’s intersessions at the beginning and the end of the book, we may regard chapters 2 through 37 as a kind of Satanic distraction to Job’s life of prayer.

From The Trial of Job by Patrick Henry Reardon (8-9).

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October 20, 2013

all of Christian doctrine is rooted

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25–27) The meaning of these Scriptures has been a preoccupation of Luke’s gospel from the start. It was the burden of Jesus’ first sermon at the synagogue in Nazareth. It was the subject of his conversation with Moses and Elijah on the mount of the Transfiguration. In the present scene, Jesus feigns ignorance precisely with a view to teaching these two disciples—and through them, all Christians to the end of time—his own understanding of the biblical text. All of Christian doctrine is rooted, I believe, in Jesus’ Paschal discourse to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. The timing of that discourse is likewise significant, for it took place on the very day of his rising from the dead; on that day “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David,” demonstrated that he “was worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals.”

From The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon.

October 20, 2013

his long-established pessimism was about to be shaken

“Rabbi,” they answered, “lately the Jews sought to stone you, and are you going there again?” It was Thomas who accepted the tragedy of the thing: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:8, 16). Thomas may also have been something of a loner, which would explain why, when the risen Lord paid his first visit to the assembled apostles, Thomas “was not with them when Jesus came” (20:24). One speculates that he may have gone off to get a better grip on himself. It had been a very tough week, after all. Just as Thomas had suspected it would, Jesus’ life ended in tragedy. This, the apostle was sure, was the biggest tragedy he had ever seen. Yet he was coping with it, somehow. Years of an inner docility to inevitable fate had schooled him in the discipline of endurance. Yes, he would get through this too. He was a man who could deal with misfortune and sorrow. Just don’t disturb Thomas with hope.

Thomas sensed that his long-established pessimism was about to be shaken. He rose and faced the entering light. He saw the familiar face and recognized the familiar voice: “Peace to you!” We do not know if Thomas felt, at that moment, some urge to hide behind the other apostles. He was not given the chance. Turning to Thomas, the risen Jesus fully appreciated the irony of the hour. Nor would we be wrong, I think, to imagine a smile coming over the glorious face of the one who said to his beloved pessimist: “Reach your finger here, and inspect my hands; and reach your hand here, and place it into my side.”

From The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon.

October 17, 2013

every aspect of the curse

The godhead is indivisible. God does not abandon his friends and loyal servants—much less His Son. Therefore, Jesus’ cry conveyed not an objective, reified condition of his being, but rather his human experience of distance from God. The abandonment was psychological, not ontological. It often happens that God’s friends and loyal servants feel abandoned, and they feel it very keenly. And when they do, they often enough have recourse to the book of Psalms . . . as Jesus does in the present case. When the Savior expressed this painful experience in prayer, the opening line of Psalm 22 arose to his lips—in Hebrew, ’Eli, ’Eli, lamah ‘azavtani—“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” He could hardly have prayed this line of the Psalter unless he knew the Father was still “my God.” In making this prayer his own, Jesus was hardly expressing a sentiment unique to himself. He was, rather, identifying himself with every human being who has ever felt alienated from God, abandoned by God, estranged from God. Jesus became, for us, what the ram in the thorns became for Isaac. That is to say, in making this very human prayer, Jesus expressed oneness with the rest of humanity so that (in the words of a Baptist friend of mine) “the full weight of the curse fell upon the Son as sin-bearer, the fulfillment of both the scapegoat, and the sacrifices of the old covenant. Jesus, thus, experienced every aspect of the curse: death, exile, broken communion with God.” Perhaps this prayer best expresses what we mean when we speak of “the days of his flesh” (Hebrews 5:7). It was in this deep sense of dereliction that we perceive, most truly, that “the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us” (John 1:14). After he prayed the first line of Psalm 22, did Jesus go on to finish that psalm silently? Christians have always suspected that this was the case.

…If Jesus did pray this short sequence of psalms, it took only a few minutes for him to reach Psalm 31:5, which Luke identifies as his final words on the cross: “Into Your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Indeed, I suspect that these were the very words—recorded by Luke—to which Matthew and Mark refer when they tell us: “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit.”

…John records another detail of the scene not mentioned by the other Evangelists: “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (19:34). Taken together, then, John speaks of three things issuing forth from the Savior’s immolated body: the Spirit, the water, and the blood. These things have to do with the gathering of the church at the foot of the cross because this is the place where Jesus’ identity is truly known: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM” (John 8:28). These three components—the Spirit, the water, and the blood—appear also in the cover letter for John’s gospel as the “three witnesses” of the Christian mystery: “And there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three are one” (1 John 5:8). Speaking of the gathering of the church at the foot of the cross, Jesus had declared, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

From The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon.

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October 17, 2013

begins with the word “Today”

In Luke’s narrative the encounter with the two thieves immediately precedes Jesus’ death so that his words to the second thief, promising to meet him that day in Paradise, are the last recorded words of the Savior to another human being during his earthly life. This final kindness, his message to the thief, represents the last thing Jesus has to say to his disciples on this earth. Luke’s gospel has now come full circle: When Jesus began his public ministry, his first sentence to the human race began with the word “Today” (Luke 4:21). On the cross, his final sentence to the human race begins with the word “Today.”

From The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon.

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October 17, 2013

those wounds were simply unbearable to think about

Eight times in all, then, the Evangelists speak of Jesus’ scourging, always briefly and with restraint, avoiding the painful details. These would be too much for the reader to bear. In this respect we may contrast the Evangelists with David and Isaiah. The Psalter and the book of Isaiah dwell lovingly on every wound in the Savior’s body. The Old Testament accounts of Jesus’ Passion are vivid and detailed; his very bones are numbered. Unlike the four Evangelists, these Old Testament prophets saw the Passion from a greater distance, so to speak, but they described it in greater detail. The four gospels, on the other hand, were closer to the event. When they were written, those sacred wounds were still very fresh in the minds of Christians. To many Christians, those wounds were simply unbearable to think about. After all, the Evangelists and their first readers knew exactly what was entailed in those brief references to the scourging, especially when that form of torture accompanied a death sentence. In that setting there were no limits to the number of strokes or the ingenuity of the soldiers to inflict more pain and greater damage. Sometimes the beatings were so severe that the prisoners did not survive them. Indeed, the copious bleeding served to hasten a death on the cross. In this respect, we observe that the Savior’s two crucified companions outlived him, and a strong case can be made that the immediate cause of Jesus’ death was exsanguination.

From The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon.

October 14, 2013

first thing Jesus did when the Resurrection life came surging into his body

What, however, was the first thing Jesus did when the Resurrection life came surging into his body? How did he mark the moment in which the history of the human race stopped, suddenly, and went in a different direction? The simplest and plainest thing imaginable: he reached up, pulled the kerchief from his face, folded it, and set it aside, as though it had been a napkin used at breakfast. Those wounded hands, from which every grace would flow into the church until the end of the world, were first employed in a simple household task: folding a kerchief. When Jesus folded that kerchief—his first action on rising from the dead—was the deed intentional? Perhaps so. He may have done it very deliberately, for the purpose of leaving a tenacious clue for those who might inquire what happened in the tomb. On the other hand, maybe not. The folding of the kerchief may have been completely unconscious. I do not find this hard to believe. The universal Christ, the eternal Word in whom all things subsist, was still the same Jesus to whom an act of elementary neatness came naturally.

…The risen Lord was the same particular person his friends had always known. He had just returned from the realm of hell, where he trampled down death by death. He was on the point of going forth as a giant to run his course. He was about to begin appearing to his disciples, providing them with many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Nonetheless, he was still the same person, the same man, whose instinctive habits remained identical. He paused a moment to do what a deep, subconscious impulse told him should be done, what his mother had always taught him to do. He politely folded the kerchief and set it aside, and only then did the Lion of Judah stride forth to bend the direction of history and transform the lives of his fellow human beings.

From The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon.

October 12, 2013

the personally transforming power of this prayer

The scene of Jesus praying in the garden, on the night before his death, is among the most disturbing presentations among the gospel narratives. Specifically, Jesus’ immense sadness and personal distress seem much out of character with what the gospel stories—up to this point—would lead the reader to expect. What has become of the serenity and self-assurance that tells the leper, “I will it; be cleansed” (Matthew 8:3)? Where now is the confidence that announces to the centurion, “I will come and heal him” (8:7), or commands the wind and sea, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39)? In short, the image of Jesus in the garden stands in stark contrast to the picture we have of him from all prior scenes in his life. From very early times, pagans themselves were quick to notice in the agony what they took to be an inconsistency with Christian belief in the divinity of Christ. Late in the second century, when the critic Celsus wrote the first formal treatise against the Christian faith, he cited Jesus’ fear and discomposure in the garden as evidence against the doctrine of his divinity. Celsus inquired, “Why does [Jesus] shriek and lament and pray to escape the fear of destruction, speaking thus: ‘Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me’?”

…Even as we reject that critic’s conclusion, we are obliged to recognize its force. That is to say, the fullness of Jesus’ humanity was most manifest in the event described in the epistle to the Hebrews as “the days of his flesh” (5:7). In the Savior’s agony, believers perceive the most profound and disturbing inferences of the doctrine of the Incarnation—the “enfleshing” of God’s Son. More than anywhere else in the New Testament, the garden scene presents us with the phenomenon of frailty and conflict in the mind and heart, as Jesus struggles with the trauma of his impending Passion. Indeed, he speaks of this conflict in terms of spirit and flesh. It is during—and with respect to—his experience in the garden that he declares, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). To be in the flesh is to feel weak. He knew whereof he spoke! Whether the conflict is portrayed in terms of sorrow (Matthew and Mark) or of fear (Luke and Hebrews), the New Testament sources agree that Jesus did not want to suffer and die this painful and most ignominious death, and he prayed to be delivered from it.

…Here, above all, we are presented with the profound mystery of self-emptying that the apostle Paul called “the weakness of God.” Each account of the agony likewise demonstrates, nonetheless, how “the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). The inner conflict described in the New Testament was based on an opposition between the powerful psychological disposition of Jesus—his desire to live!—and what he perceived to be the will and call of God. The two options were mutually exclusive. Luke calls the experience a “struggle,” an agonia. In this scene, according to all four sources, Jesus’ intense psychological experience of weakness and turmoil was followed by a determined resolution, which is perhaps the most significant element in the story. Jesus was clearly stronger and more serene when he left the garden, even though his captors had forcefully bound him.

…His final statement to the Sanhedrin was both solemn and self-assured. No less dignified and confident were his few pronouncements to Pilate, and he honored Herod’s curiosity with not a single syllable (Luke 23:9). In all these cases, Jesus acted with a dignity beyond his tormentors’ reach. This renewed strength, moreover, was conveyed to Jesus through his experience of prayer. According to all four accounts of the event, it was in prayer that Jesus resolved the conflict in his soul. In fact, each writer goes into some detail to describe this prayer and the transforming resolution to which it led. We recognize, in short, that Jesus’ prayer in the garden—his prayerful acquiescence in the Father’s will—strengthened him for the dreadful ordeal to come. The Passion story testifies to the personally transforming power of this prayer.

…Only Peter, James, and John were permitted entrance into the chamber where Jesus confronted and conquered the power of death in the person of Jairus’s daughter.6 These three, likewise, were the sole witnesses to Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain. Over the centuries, Christian homiletics and hymnography have copiously testified to a common Christian persuasion on this point: Peter, James, and John received these special revelations of Jesus’ innate glory and his sovereign power over death, in order to be strengthened to endure the sight of his agony in the garden. We do well to consider the element of “planning” in this matter because the preservation of this story was neither a decree of fate nor an accident of circumstances. It was entirely deliberate. Jesus could certainly have suffered this agony in solitary privacy, but he determined that there would be witnesses to it—close enough to behold the scene—because he wanted this scene to be recorded!

…It is important to reflect that we are acquainted with the failure of these apostles because they were the ones who testified to it. Their failure was part of the story, and they recognized it as such. Consequently, when they later narrated to others the events of that night, they made sure not to omit the account of Jesus’ disappointment with them. Indeed, they failed the Savior. Had Jesus seen the three of them steady at prayer, supporting him in his time of fear and sorrow, his spirit—like any human spirit at such a time—would have been strengthened. Thus, an added component of his trauma that night was the loss of human encouragement from those witnesses, who should have supplied it. He knew these men well enough, nonetheless. Earlier in the evening, had he not told them, “All of you will be tripped up tonight” (Matthew 26:31)?

…The epistle to the Hebrews—which may be our earliest written reference to the agony—let us begin with this account. It is the shortest, speaking only of Jesus, who, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save him from death, and was heard because of his godly fear, though he were a Son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered. (Hebrews 5:7–8) This terrible scene took place, says Hebrews, “in the days of his flesh.” The “flesh” here refers not to the Incarnation as such (because the Word’s assumption of our humanity is permanent, not temporary), but to the condition of human weakness, which God’s Son willingly assumed so “that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). This is a major argument in the epistle to the Hebrews. The author of this work speaks of Jesus’ death not just as an objective and clinical fact but as a matter of experience; he employs the metaphor of taste.

…According to Hebrews, then, God’s Son assumed, not simply human nature, but the existential burden of human experience. His was to be a full and felt solidarity, in which “he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying: ‘I will declare Your name to my brothers’” (Hebrews 2:11–12). For this reason, declares Hebrews, “in all things he had to be made like the brothers” (2:17). These “all things” particularly included the tasting of death.

…This obedience of Jesus was not theoretical, detached, or instantaneous. He learned it through the actual process of suffering and dying. Jesus was inwardly changed through this experience, thereby becoming “perfected” (Hebrews 5:9). He was “made perfect through sufferings” (2:10).

…The early believers easily perceived that whereas the first man attempted, in rebellion, to become God’s equal, the second, being in the form of God, did not regard being equal to God a usurpation [harpagmos], but he emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in shape as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death. (Philippians 2:6–8) It is important to bear in mind the traditional contrast between the obedient Jesus and the disobedient Adam when we come to the Gospel accounts of the Savior’s struggle at “Gethsemani.”12 The very name of this place means “olive garden,” abbreviated to simply “a garden” by John (18:1).

…This petition—“Thy will be done”—does not represent a hypothesis or a limitation laid on the prayer. “What You will” is not a restriction of Jesus’ confidence but an elevation of it. It expresses a constitutive feature of his prayer and an essential component of his faith. The real purpose of the Son’s prayer, after all, is not to inform the Father what he wants but to hand himself over more completely, in faith, to what the Father wants. The purpose of all prayer, even the prayer of petition, is living communion with God. The man who tells the Father, then, “Thy will be done,” does not thereby show himself a weaker believer but a stronger one. Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith,” models this prayer. He gives his disciples, in this form, the very essence of true prayer. The “will of God,” in which Jesus places the trust of his petition, is not a blind, arbitrary, or predetermined will. It is, rather, the abiding love of the Father. This theology of prayer is conveyed in Jesus’ prayer in the garden, by which his own human will is obediently united with the will of God.

…First, the sweat of blood is a condition called hematidrosis. This pathology, which results from an extreme dilation of the subcutaneous capillaries, causes them to burst through the sweat glands. This symptom, mentioned as early as Aristotle,19 is well-known to the history of medicine, which sometimes associates it with intense fear. It is not without interest, surely, that Luke, the only Evangelist to mention this phenomenon, was a physician.

…The theological significance of this feature in Luke is that Jesus’ internal conflict causes the first bloodshed in the Passion. His complete obedience to the Father in his prayer immediately produces this initial libation of his redemptive blood, the blood of which he had proclaimed just shortly before, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). Prior to the appearance of his betrayer, then, Jesus already begins the shedding of his blood. He pours it out in the struggle of obedience, before a single hand has been laid upon him. In Luke’s account the agony in the garden is not a prelude to the Passion but its very commencement, because Jesus’ stern determination to accomplish the Father’s will causes his blood to flow—already—as the price for man’s redemption.

From The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon. Also see this poem and this quote.

October 12, 2013

Jesus … recognizes her likeness to himself

Whereas Luke says the widow contributed “all her livelihood,” Mark’s version reads, holon ton bion, “her whole life” (Mark 12:44, emphasis added). For this reason, it is significant that this story of the poor widow in the temple places her in the immediate context of Jesus’ Passion. In Mark this story is found at the end of five stories of conflict between Jesus and his enemies (Mark 11:27–12:40) and immediately prior to his final great discourse—which commences with a remark about the grandeur of the temple (13:1)! In Luke this widow appears in the chapter before the Sanhedrin’s plot to kill Jesus (Luke 21:1–4; 22:1–6). Giving her all for God, she serves as a symbol of Jesus himself, who will lay down his life (bios) to advance the Father’s cause. In both gospels, Jesus “sees” this woman, understands her plight, and recognizes her likeness to himself—all of this within days of his death.

From The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon.

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