Have you noticed that everyday living exerts a pressure on you with the capacity to shape who you are and what you do? Paul describes this a “the pattern of this world” and urges Italian Christians to thirst for transformation rather than conformation in relation to this pattern.
This week you may feel the pressure to over promise, mislead or lie. You may be pressurized to under deliver, deceive or be dishonest, not necessarily in the big things but in seemingly small details.
Then there is the pressure to go along with unfair working practices or unjust actions, cooperate with greed or be complacent in a cover-up.
For the Son of Man these pressures started at a different place. For him, he already had within him the perfect shape, the ideal pattern. His intrinsic wholeness was carried in his soul. He wasn’t challenged to “no longer be conformed”, his challenge was to maintain his perfect, pure shape as the pressure piled on.
Over the next few weeks I am going to invite you to look at some of those pressures which were constantly with him but found their most concentrated form in the last 18-hours of his life. Here’s the first.
If you watch an endurance sports event, you will know this phenomenon. At the starting pistol all runners, riders, rowers or swimmers start at the same point. As the laps or lengths proceed the numbers thin and thin until at the final tape it is not unusual for there to be one, or very few, who cross the line.
The pressure that the Son of Man faced was that of those who dropped out, faded awayor just couldn’t keep up. Many turned away when his teaching, in their eyes, was too demanding.
Others went home or were too busy. Still others wouldn’t give up their wealth or power and lay it down at his feet.
It’s a regular theme in his parables, the three types of soil in the sower story demonstrated the lack of any end product. The trees that would not bear fruit and other metaphors were used to open up the concept of starting and giving up.
This pressure reached some sort of peak for the Son of Man when his three chosen companions gave up praying and slept.
How did he keep his shape when others were giving up and giving up on him? How do you keep your shape when support starts to shrink? What happens when in a week or two from now, those who you thought were with you are no longer with you and you find that you are facing situations on your own?
Let me introduce you to two internal dynamics that helped him keep his shape.
First, he brought the danger into the light. The parables I have referenced were part of a long-term strategy which consistently warned of the danger of “putting your hand to the plough and looking back”. In his stories and his sermons he exposed the problems to the Truth and Light.
Second, he carried on doing exactly what others were failing to do. He carried on being alert when others were missing the point. He stayed awake when others slept. He kept walking when others stopped in their tracks and ultimately he kept on praying while his three friends were silent (and asleep).
Can you see that his words and his actions had a consistency about them and a constancy? By the time he got to the garden he was well practiced in staying awake and praying. So he kept his watchful, persevering shape.
Geoff Shattock (born 18th July 19??)
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.[a]
45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
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