“And he came out, and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.’ And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, ‘Why do you sleep? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?’”–Luke 22:39-48
Our homes have modern bathrooms with both hot and cold running water. And we learn quickly how to adjust the faucets so as neither to be frozen nor scalded. The proper mix results in a healthy bath. In the text one sees Jesus doing something like this in His relationship with God. He is mixing His feelings, intellect, and will at a very strategic period in His life. And it is vital we learn how He did it so we may follow faithfully as well.
First of all, notice that Jesus had feelings. He joyfully made wine at Cana’s wedding feast. He wept at Lazarus’ grave. He expressed fierce anger at corruption in the temple, and disgust at the disciples’ unbelief. “Have I been with you so long and still you do not believe?”
The marvelous thing is Jesus never apologized for expressing Himself emotionally. You never hear Him say, “I’m sorry, men! Just give me a moment to pull myself together.”
Some Christians throw away their emotions. After all, emotions are so unreliable, so like the wind–blowing this time hot, that time cold, or not at all. Since emotions can’t be depended upon, we bottle them up. And we base our faith on sterile fact.
Other Christians, enamored of emotions, love ecstasy. And they’re out chasing spiritual goose pimples. You’ve seen the ad, “I’d walk a mile for a Camel.” Sensual Christians go the distance for a “feel-good” experience. They become addicted to the rush of emotion, constantly searching for bigger and more thrills. Why, something is badly wrong if life is not gushing joy!
Religious emotions are powerful. They can lead one to holy crusade hacking up infidels with sword, to mass suicide under the tutelage of Jimmy Jones in South America, to dancing at a wedding, or tearfully passing a communion cup.
In the garden of Gethsemane Christ expresses His feelings in a healthy balance. A few days earlier the Lord had enjoyed the emotional high of the triumphal entry. The excitement of a big crowd, the singing of hosannas, spreading coats along the road… it was sheer adulation! But now Christ is kneeling in Gethsemane, agonizing in prayer, experiencing the revulsion of knowing He must surely perish on a torturous cross. He is alone amidst sleeping apostles, sweating great drops of blood.
See the balance Jesus models in His behavior. He does not reject His feelings. He accepts the full range from joy to despair. And He expresses each emotion honestly whether weeping, laughing, or angrily cleansing the temple.
So Jesus had His feelings. But He also had His facts. Here in Christendom we call facts truth.
Christ is at prayer in the garden. Tired disciples succumb to sleep. Is Jesus hurt? Angry? Certainly that’s in His emotions. But He comforts Himself with a fact. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Brutal soldiers come to arrest Him. Our Lord knows they will mock Him, beat Him, cruelly impale Him on a cross. Sure His emotions are gusting with terror. Yet He comforts Himself with a fact. Isaiah 53 predicts Him to be a suffering servant “wounded for our transgressions.” Boiling emotions are urging Jesus, “Run away, hide! Save yourself!” Yet Jesus is cognizant of a fact: Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins!”
See how feelings played a part in Christ’s life? But so did facts. The truth. Scripture. And while feelings are variable, facts are changeless. Example: One weds. The honeymoon is pure ecstasy! Then six weeks later one wakes up grumpy. The feeling is gone, so you say, “Honey, I don’t feel married today!” Do you trust your feelings or do you trust the facts? Jesus put facts ahead of feelings. Though He expressed both, it was truth that led Him, not His emotions.
In Gethsemane we have witnessed the interplay of Christ’s emotions and intellect. Now, look to His will, His faith.
For sheer drama it is hard to surpass Gethsemane for intensity. The fact of the needed cross and blood atonement, the emotion of lonely, bloody sweat, and the will to declare, “Let this cup pass!”
The looming question is whether or not Christ will be led by His emotions. “Sorry, boys! I just don’t feel like dying today.” Or will He be ruled by fact? God’s will? God’s Word? Crying human need? The clincher comes when Jesus prays, “Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.”
His feelings screamed against it.
The facts begged for it.
And Christ by faith set His will to obey the facts.
I liken life to a sailboat. Faith is the hull, reason is the rudder, and faith is the sail. Or is it like a railroad train. Faith is the engine, the coal car is facts, and the caboose is feelings.
James wrote about this, saying, “Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [facts], slow to speak [will], slow to anger [emotions] (James 1:19). See the order? Get the facts. Act on them, and allow emotions to follow, not lead.
C. S. Lewis writes how a father teaching a child to walk will hold the little one’s hand. But as the child matures, a loving dad must withdraw the hand so the child can stand on his own two feet and make his own way in the world. Lewis then remarks how God often gives us a sense of His nearness to us and our dearness to Him. And we relish the feelings. But comes the day such emotions dry up. And we panic, thinking something is terribly wrong. “Doesn’t God love me any more?” Yet nothing is wrong. Something is right. The good Lord is weaning us away from living by faith in feelings to faith in facts.
Let’s say a sculptor selects a huge unshaped stone from which to carve a masterpiece. And let’s suppose that stone can feel and think. At first the stone feels thrilled to be dug out of the ground, carted off to a studio. It’s nice to get attention! Then the shaping begins. Huge chunks of its ungainly hulk are chiseled away! “Ah, progress!” the stone sighs. “I’m taking shape quickly,” he muses.
There comes a time, however, when the sculptor puts away the chisel and takes up a tiny etching knife or a silk polishing cloth. And suddenly things seem to slow down. The progress stymied, the hand of the sculptor absent. To the stone the feeling of being dug and chiseled is gone. But the fact is the artisan is still on the job finishing his work.
At our conversions we often feel so loved, so new. And there is joy in rapid development. But most Christians go through a slump sooner or later. And we panic! “Have I lost Jesus? What’s wrong?” When this occurs, don’t trust your feelings. Trust the facts. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace we have been saved through faith….” Not saved through feelings… or progress… or works. God’s grace is a fact!
I like to tell Christians that facts, faith and feelings sat on a wall. Feelings fell down and pulled faith with it. But facts pulled them both up again.
In Gethsemane we see Jesus Christ as fully human. He is an emotional, willful and intellectual human being. There is no dimension of Himself that He is stifling.
If Jesus were only emotional, He’d be a leaf in the wind, a human pinball, a wimp. If He were only intellectual, he’d be sterile, a kind of Mr. Spock from Star Trek. If he were only willful, He’d be an unfeeling, regimented Colonel Von Trapp from The Sound of Music. Yet He put emotion, will and intellect together and became the most beautiful person who ever lived, the Son of God, Jesus. And we are called to follow His example by loving God and one another “with all our heart and mind and soul and strength” (Mark 12:28-33).
As in your bathroom you must acquire the skill of adjusting the hot and cold taps so you won’t get burned or chilled, so in your life you must learn to live with your emotion, will and intellect. Jesus models the balance in Gethsemane. Facts first. Faith second. And feelings following. That’s how mature persons do it.
Lord, thank you for showing the way. Now, help me as I trust you and walk in it. Amen.