All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose Romans 8:28The call leading the disciples from darkness to the light of life is a work of God (Romans 8:29–30). But along with the call comes the darkness of the wilderness where faith acquiesces to trial and temptation and life as we know it changes. What happens in the wilderness?
The WildernessAbout this trial the apostle James wrote,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2 ESV).
The trial of faith, to be sure, can be an unnerving experience. Change caused by the trial can be upsetting in the sense of being confusing, unexpected, and not at all understood. About this work of God, Hudson Taylor said, “I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”
A “wilderness experience” is often a time of intensified temptation and spiritual attack. It can involve a spiritual, financial, or emotional drought. Having a “wilderness experience” is not necessarily a sign that a believer is sinning; rather, it is a time of God-ordained testing.
After his baptism by John in the Jordan River, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for forty days to test his faith. There Jesus would endure a time alone with the Father in preparation for ministry (Mark 1:12–13). But along with the preparation came trials and temptations, testing Jesus’ devotion to God and the Word of God (Matthew 4:3–10; Hebrews 7:26; 2 Corinthians 5:21)!
Though the testing in the wilderness ended after forty days, without Jesus yielding to sin, it would not be the last of his challenges. Perhaps the greatest of all trials Jesus would face came at that defining moment in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prayed in deep agony: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39 NIV).
Gethsemane is unique. Why? Because the name Gethsemane comes from two Hebrew words: gath, meaning “pressing down,” and shemen, meaning “oil.” This is where garden laborers used heavy stones to crush the olive pulp to release its oil.
The image of…Gethsemane on the slope of the Mount of Olives where Jesus went the night before his crucifixion provides a vivid picture of Jesus’ suffering. The weight of the sins of the world pressed down upon him like a heavy slab of rock pressed down on olives in their baskets. Source
For Jesus, Gethsemane became the moment of decision when he realized the cross was his alone to bear (John 18:11; Psalm 40:8). The cup of God’s wrath would not be taken from him. As heavy stones crush the olive pulp, so too would God’s pending wrath crush him. The “weight” of this thought may have caused Jesus to sweat drops of blood and anguish over the woe of what he was about to endure (Luke 22:44).We cannot imagine this moment. After three pleas to let the cup pass from him, Jesus said, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done. (Luke 22:42–43).
After being taken captive from Gethsemane, Jesus stood before Annas, who was the high priest, and then Caiaphas, leader of the Sanhedrin (John 18:12–24). Accused by the Sanhedrin of being a blasphemer, Jesus was sent to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, for execution. Pilate found no fault in him and directed Jesus be taken to Herod, the ruler of Galilee (Matthew 26:57–67; Mark 14:53–65; Matthew 27:1,2; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66–72).
Standing silent before the one he’d called a “fox” (Luke 13:31–32), Jesus was sent by Herod back to Pilate, who washed his hands of the matter and then released that murderous insurrectionist, Barabbas (John 18:38–19:18; Matthew 27:15–26; Mark 15:6–15; Luke 23:6–25)! Pilate approved the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus, which began the outpouring of God’s wrath on Jesus; he took the place of Barabbas, and in a way, our place too.
Barabbas is Every Believer
The story of Barabbas and his undeserved release from condemnation is a remarkable parallel to the story of every genuine believer. We stood guilty before God and deserving of death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). But then, due to no influence of our own, Jesus was chosen to die in our stead.
He, the Innocent One, bore the punishment we rightly deserved. We, like Barabbas, were allowed to go free with no condemnation (Romans 8:1). And Jesus “suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18, ESV). (Source)
While Jesus’ public ministry began after the wilderness, it was a gloriously divine ministry; it was a demonstration of God’s truth wrapped in love, miracles and eternal wonders (John 21:25). But even so, Jesus would be called once again to place “God’s will” before “his own will,” no matter the cost, at all costs.
Calling those chosen for glory to the wilderness is God’s idea. God “does” wilderness experiences, so to speak. Jesus was tested in the wilderness and wholly prepared to suffer the scorn of men, the trial at Gethsemane, and betrayal by his beloved disciples. Consequently, Jesus laid down his will for the Father’s will before laying down his life for the world (John 10:18).
In closing, the cup you and I are given to drink is the cup of surrender: to trustingly submit our will to God’s will (James 4:7–8). No matter the trial and no matter the cost and no matter the call and no matter the distance of our walk, every child of God drinks from the cup of surrender, and they willingly do so for the Son’s and Father’s eternal glory.
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:25).
All the power in the world cannot interrupt God’s gracious progress. What is begun in grace will end in glory. Part 4 – The Cross __________________________________________________________________________
Follow Me – Overview
Image Credit: Pending Ekstrand, Donald W – Soul Transformation – Xulon Press – Kindle Edition.
Note: All Bible references are New King James Version unless noted otherwise.