Three Different Men

Three Different Men

How can we slumber?
How can we slumber?

I have been thinking about a three men lately. Actually two groups of three. I’ve been pondering Peter, James and John, along with Moses, Elijah and Jeremiah.  As I am pondering these two groups, I wonder what might have been?  What might have been if it had been Moses, Elijah and Jeremiah in Gethsemane with Jesus that night?  Would they have slept?

Would Moses have slept? Could that meekest of men, who was willing to be blotted out of the book of God sleep while Jesus agonized on behalf of all mankind? “Moses realized how dreadful would be the fate of the sinner; yet if the people of Israel were to be rejected by the Lord, he desired his name to be blotted out with theirs; he could not endure to see the judgments of God fall upon those who had been so graciously delivered. The intercession of Moses in behalf of Israel illustrates the mediation of Christ for sinful men. But the Lord did not permit Moses to bear, as did Christ, the guilt of the transgressor. “Whosoever hath sinned against Me,” He said, “him will I blot out of My book.” Patriarchs and Prophets, page 326.

Because he had been heart to heart with Jesus in His sacrificial love for souls, Moses was sent to commune with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, while that other threesome slept.  Moses understood the agony and loneliness of the Savior because centuries before he had tasted that very cup which Jesus must drain to the dregs.  We are told that Moses encouraged Jesus that night to press forward, believing in the resurrection of the righteous as a result of His efforts. (See Desire of Ages, page 422).

What about Elijah?  Would he have slept in Gethsemane? Could the man who “saw Israel going deeper and deeper into idolatry, whose soul was distressed and his indignation aroused”, have slumbered? “Viewing this apostasy from his mountain retreat, Elijah was overwhelmed with sorrow.  In anguish of soul he besought God to arrest the once-favored people in their wicked course, to visit them with judgments, if need be, that they might be led to see in its true light their departure from Heaven.  He longed to see them brought to repentance before they should go to such lengths in evil-doing as to provoke the Lord to destroy them utterly.” Prophets and Kings, page 119.

Could one who was so identified with God’s purposes have slept as Jesus agonized and sweat blood on account of the separation from His Father that sin was causing?  Elijah, too, was sent to Jesus on that Mount, while that other threesome slept.  And He encouraged Jesus to believe in the translation of the righteous as a result of His efforts.

“Moses and Elijah had been colaborers with Christ.  They had shared His longing for the salvation of men.” Desire of Ages, page 325.

And then there was the youthful Jeremiah, from whose eyes the tears of Jesus flowed so freely.   I wonder if he would have slept in Gethsemane?  Speaking in identification with the Redeemer, hear his anguish as he cries: “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?  behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow,…” Lamentations 1:12. And again, soul to soul with the Redeemer he says, “Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous: but I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it.”  And why?  “My tabernacle is spoiled, and all my cords are broken: my children are gone forth of me, and they are not: there is none to stretch forth my tent any more, and to set up my curtains.  For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.” Jeremiah 10:19-21.

Moses, Elijah and Jeremiah understood what Peter, James and John were slow to learn. “How few have any conception of the anguish which rent the heart of the Son of God during His thirty years of life upon earth.  The path from the manger to Calvary was shadowed by sorrow and grief.  He was the Man of Sorrows, and endured such heartache as no human language can portray. He could have said in truth, “Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow” (Lamentations 1:12).  His suffering was the deepest anguish of the soul; and what man could have sympathy with the soul anguish of the Son of the infinite God?  Hating sin with a perfect hatred, He yet gathered to His soul the sins of the whole world, as He trod the path to Calvary, suffering the penalty of the transgressor. Guiltless, He bore the punishment of the guilty; innocent, yet offering Himself to bear the penalty of the transgression of the law of God.  The punishment of the sins of every soul was borne by the Son of the infinite God.  The guilt of every sin pressed its weight upon the divine soul of the world’s Redeemer.  He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.  In assuming the nature of man, He placed Himself where He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, that by His stripes we might be healed.”  That I May Know Him, page 66.

What about that other threesome?  Peter, James and John?  Why did they sleep?  Why would three men who had left all and labored for three years with Jesus, sitting nearly daily under His teaching and watching His miracles, slumber while their Master agonized?  Why did they not understand what Jesus was experiencing?  The answer is very simple:

Lack of full surrender and conversion: “In the upper chamber Jesus said that one of the twelve would betray Him, and that Peter would deny Him.  But now His words include them all…In their self-confidence they denied the repeated statement of Him who knew.  They were unprepared for the test; when temptation should overtake them, they would understand their own weakness.”  Desire of Ages, page 673.

False teaching and preconceptions: “Jesus had opened before His disciples a vast tract of truth.  But it was most difficult for them to keep His lessons distinct from the traditions and maxims of the scribes and Pharisees.  They had been educated to accept the teaching of the rabbis as the voice of God, and it still held a power over their minds, and molded their sentiments.  Earthly ideas, temporal things, still had a large place in their thoughts.  They did not understand the spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom, though He had so often explained it to them.  Their minds had become confused. They did not comprehend the value of the scriptures Christ presented.  Many of His lessons seemed almost lost upon them.” Desire of Ages, page 670.

Kind of scary, isn’t it?  That men so privileged could be so blind!  Again and again Jesus labored to help all of the disciples understand His mission, and again and again the disciples were short sighted and disconnected, jockeying for position in an imaginary kingdom.  They struggled to let go of their upbringing, their own ideas of the Messiah, and the teachings of the rabbis.

For Peter it was that look of Christ after his denial that broke His heart. (Christ’s Object Lessons, page 152).  For John, perhaps, the charge of Jesus to care for His mother.  James…most likely looking through different eyes at the Messiah.  But I do know that this threesome had a second chance to wake up and become heart to heart with Jesus, and He used them to turn the world upside down.  They had missed the opportunity to encourage Jesus in His suffering in Gethsemane, so God sent an angel instead to lift that sacred head upon his bosom and encourage that breaking heart.   With all my heart I believe the disciples ever after regretted their failure to appreciate the privilege.  Perhaps in some measure this regret fueled their zeal.  Perhaps they also realized that, until sin is eradicated, and God’s children are once again gathered to be with Him where He is, that agony will never be fully eradicated.

Our Old Testament threesome was enabled to look forward, seeing by faith the reality of the suffering of the Messiah.  They had an earnest love for souls and for their God, and they shared the burden resting in the heart of the Creator.  Our New Testament threesome didn’t fully recognize the Messiah right in front of them.  Looking back on the sacrifice of Christ, what about us?  I believe that’s just the problem with us.  We need to look UP, not back!  Look UP to where Jesus is now, in the Most Holy Place above.  The suffering of Jesus, His agony over His wayward children, has not lessened, nor ended.  He is still dealing with our sin and the separation it brings.

We are told that, “Few give thought to the suffering that sin has caused our Creator.  All heaven suffered in Christ’s agony; but that suffering did not begin or end with His manifestation in humanity.  The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God.  Every departure from the right, every deed of cruelty, every failure of humanity to reach His ideal, brings grief to Him.” Education 263

And this, I believe, is the problem today.  Like the disciples, we are busy.  Like the disciples, we are drowsy!  Like the disciples, we are blind and don’t know it–and we are just as offended when our condition is pointed out.  (Revelation 3:17-21).  We are working for the Lord, and perhaps even sitting daily at His feet.  Maybe we have even “left all” and gone into full-time ministry!  Yet many of us have lost our focus.  We must look again into the tear-stained face of Jesus and let our hard hearts break.  Can we imagine that the separation caused by sin has lost its sting for Jesus?   Oh, no!  Jesus needs closure in His work to put an end to sin.

May God bring us heart to heart in our love for souls and our sympathy with our Savior in His work.   May we “reach the height of self-abnegation” (Desire of Ages, page 179).  And may we allow the true mission of Jesus to be ours, and not some invention of our own imagination and upbringing.  This is what it means, I believe, to be a Seventh-day Adventist.  Look anew with me into the face of Jesus just now, won’t you, and consider Him.

0 thoughts on “Three Different Men

  1. Thank you so much for sharing from your heart. Without this heart that you describe, we are no better than the Pharisees. Let us pray for each other for an overwhelming burden for souls. I do long for this.

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