Can I Invite You Into the Place My Conflict and Struggle?

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by John Mark. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirty-two through fifty-two of the fourteenth chapter. SUFFERING DOESN’T TAKE PLACE IN A VACUUM! STRUGGLING NEVER HAPPENS ALONE! INVITING OTHERS INTO THE STRUGGLE! CHOOSING NOT TO STRUGGLE ALONE! WILL YOU JOIN ME IN THE GARDEN? IF I TRUSTED YOU WITH THE MOUNTAINTOP CAN I ALSO TRUST YOU WITH THE GARDEN? THE TRANSITION FROM THE MOUNTAIN TO THE GARDEN! IF I TRUST YOU WITH THE GLORY CAN I ALSO TRUST YOU WITH THE SUFFERING? IF I TRUST YOU WITH THE GLORY CAN I ALSO TRUST YOU WITH THE STRUGGLE? IF I LEAD YOU UP THE MOUNTAIN, CAN I ALSO LEAD YOU INTO THE GARDEN? IF I ALLOW YOU TO SEE ME TRANSFIGURED, CAN I ALSO ALLOW YOU TO SEE ME VULNERABLE? When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the night of Jesus’ betrayal moving further along and the approach of the one who would betray him entering into a place that was incredibly sacred for Jesus and His disciples. As we come to this particular passage of scripture we will find the fellowship and communion of the upper room drawing to a close, and the meal which Jesus shared with His disciples being completed. As you approach this section within the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark you will find Jesus and His disciples leaving the place of fellowship and communion and transitioning into the place of prayer and struggle. In all reality it is quite interesting to consider the fact that Jesus and His disciples would move and transition from a place of quietness and rest and unto a place of struggle and conflict. Most of us would think about a garden and think of it as a place of peace and as a place of tranquility, however, what we find within this passage of scripture is anything but that reality. The garden which we find in this particular night was not and would not be a place of peace and tranquility, but would instead be a place of intense conflict, a place of intense sorrow, a place of intense struggle, and an intense place of wrestling. Much like Jacob wrestled with the angel of God at the Jabbok River throughout the night and would not let go until the angel blessed him, so also would Jesus remain and aide in the garden in prayer before His Father who was in heaven. The garden on this particular night was anything but a retreat and a place of solitude and serenity, for it would be on this particular night when Judas would enter into the garden with a contingent of soldiers armed with swords and staves ready to lay hold of and take Jesus by force.

What is interesting about this particular passage of scripture is the fact that when Jesus and His disciples left the upper room on this particular night, Jesus would lead them from the upper room into the place of prayer and communion with the Father. As you read this section of scripture you will find Jesus leading His disciples to the garden of gethsemane, however, once He arrives at the garden with His eleven disciples, He would do something interesting and unique. Before we even get into that which Jesus did there in the garden it’s interesting and worth noting that when Jesus arose from the table this night, He arose with all but one of His disciples. Scripture records that Judas was initially in the upper room with Jesus and the other disciples, and even that Judas partook of the Passover meal with those present within the room. Judas would even be among the disciples who would have their feet washed by Jesus the Christ, and yet even after his feet benign washed, and even after partaking if the Passover meal with Jesus and the disciples, he chose to rise from the table in order to carry out the plot and scheme which he conspired together with the scribes and Chief priests. What’s more, is that Judas would rise from the place of fellowship and communion in order that He might transition to the place of betrayal and controversy. There is a vast difference between leaving the table of our own accord and by ourselves, and leaving the table with Jesus. There is something drastically different between rising from the table and leaving the place of communion and fellowship without Jesus, and rising from the table with Jesus and leaving with Him. What a tremendously tragic picture it is to think about and consider the fact that Judas would and even could partake of and enjoy the Passover meal with Jesus and His disciples, and yet still rise from that place of fellowship and communion to enact and carry out his diabolical plan to betray Jesus the Christ into the hands of His adversaries. RISING FROM THE TABLE BEFOFE THE TIME! RISING FROM THE TABLE TOO SOON! RISING FROM THE TABLE TOO EARLY! It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to Judas’ departure—not only from the table where the meal was present, but also from the upper room where communion and fellowship took place. I am convinced that before we get into that which took place within this passage of scrutinize it is worth noting the tremendous danger that lies behind rising too soon and rising too early from the table of the Lord.

As I sit here this morning I can’t help but be struck with and by the fact that when we find Jesus and His disciples leaving the upper room and leaving the table where the Passover meal took place, we find Jesus leaving with eleven of His disciples rather than all twelve of His disciples. When we begin reading this passage of Scripture we find one of the disciples having already risen from the table and having already left the upper room and the place of communion and fellowship. What’s interesting and worth noting concerning this twelfth disciple is the nature of his departure and the nature of his removing himself from the table and from the upper room. Though Mark doesn’t specifically write and describe that which took place with this twelfth disciple we know from Scripture that Judas would partake of the Passover meal with Jesus and His disciples, and yet despite the fact that He partook of the Passover meal with Jesus and the disciples, he would still choose to rise from the table and choose to go his own way. What’s more, is that not only would Judas rise from the table and go his own way, but he would also rise from the table in order that he might enact the conspiracy which he plotted together with the scribes and the chief priests which were present within Jerusalem. I have to admit that this particular reality is incredibly challenging within my own heart and mind, for there is something incredibly convicting about the reality and concept of rising from the table—rising from the place of the cup and the bread—and doing so in order that we might carry out our own diabolical schemes and plots. The more I read and the more I consider this particular night within the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, the more I can’t help but consider the fact that there is something incredibly dangerous about rising from the table prematurely in order that we might carry out and enact our own plans, our own schemes, and our own desires. There is something incredibly dangerous and tragic about being unable to remain in the place of fellowship and communion and choosing instead to rise from the table where the cup and the bread are found in order that we might carry out and fulfill that which is present within our hearts and minds. LEAVING THE CUP FOR OUR OWN PLANS! LEAVING THE BREAD FOR OUR OWN SCHEMES! I am sitting here this morning and I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with the and by the fact that Judas chose to partake of the cup and chose to partake of the bread, thus giving the appearance of fellowship, and giving the appearance of communion, and yet after he had partaken of both the cup and the bread, he chose to rise from that place to carry out his own schemes and his own devices. If you turn and direct your attention to the New Testament gospel of John, you will find the account of Judas in the upper room with Jesus and the disciples, and his departure from that place of communion and fellowship in order to carry out his own schemes and devices. Consider if you will that which is found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the twenty-first verse of the thirteenth chapter:

“When Jesus had thus said, He was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto Him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake thus unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night” (John 13:21-30).

That which we find within this passage of Scripture located within the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as recorded by the apostle John is actually quite interesting and intriguing, for within this passage we find it written and recorded how Jesus not only declared unto the disciples that one from among them would betray Him, but He also indicated which one of them would actually be the one to carry out the act. As you read the words which are found in this particular chapter within the gospel of John you will find Jesus not only declaring unto all the disciples—including Judas—that one from among them would betray Him, but He also gave a clear sign as to which one from among them would be the one to carry out the act of betraying Him on this particular night. As you read this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus declaring unto the disciples that the one to whom he would give the sop—or the one he would give the morsel—to would be the one who would betray him. What’s interesting about the way the apostle John writes and records this is that the apostle John writes how Jesus would give the sop to Judas Iscariot, thus indicating that Judas was not only present among the disciples, but Judas would also partake of the meal with Jesus and the disciples. The fact that Jesus would give the sop to Judas suggests that Judas was in fact at the table with Jesus and the other disciples, and that Judas would have partaken of the bread and the cup before rising from that place in order that he might carry out the scheme which he plotted together with the scribes and the chief priests. Oh, I can’t help but be absolutely and incredibly convicted and challenged when I think about and consider the fact that Judas not only partook of the bread, but also partook of the cup, and yet still deliberately and intentionally chose to rise form the table—to rise from the place of fellowship and communion—in order that he might leave the disciples and Jesus in order that he might carry out that which was put into his heart by Satan. Scripture writes and records concerning Judas that as soon as he had taken the sop from Jesus Satan would enter him, and that after Satan entered him he would rise from the table, depart from the upper room, and move to carry out that which he conspired together with the scribes and the chief priests. Oh, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for if we don’t have an understanding of this, we cannot truly understand that which takes place after Jesus and the disciples rise from the table and depart from the upper room. It’s worth noting that twelve disciples entered into the upper room with Jesus, and yet when it came to rising from the table and departing from the upper room, eleven of the disciples would rise from the table and leave with Jesus, while one single disciple would rise from the table and leave by himself.

RISING FROM THE TABLE ALONE! LEAVING THE UPPER ROOM ALONE! It’s worth noting and point out that when Judas rose from the table on this particular night when the disciples would partake of the Passover meal with Jesus, he would do so alone. When Judas left the upper room after partaking of the cup and the bread, he would do so completely and utterly alone. We dare not miss and lose sight of this particular reality, for it brings us face to face with something that I will hands down admit is challenging within my own heart and life. It’s worth noting and pointing out that when Judas rose from the table and when Judas left the up[per room he did so completely alone and by himself, for none of the other disciples would rise from the table and leave with him. When Judas rose from the table and left the upper room he would do so completely and utterly alone, for none of the other disciples had any clue or any indication what was in his heart to do. In fact, at the beginning of the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John you will find that “after the supper was ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him” (John 13:2). Pause for a moment and consider the words “supper being ended” and the words “the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him,” for these words and phrases clearly indicate that not only was Judas present within the upper room when the Passover meal took place, but Judas also partook of the Passover meal with the disciples, as well as Jesus. Scripture clearly indicates that not only was Judas in the upper room with Jesus and the disciples, not only did Judas partake of the Passover meal with Jesus and the disciples, but Judas also had his feet washed by Jesus the Christ. Oh, please don’t miss and lose sight of this reality, for while Judas partook of the Passover meal with Jesus and the disciples, and although Judas experienced that fellowship and communion which the other disciples experienced, he still chose to rise from the table alone, and to leave the upper room alone. I can’t help but find within this particular event within the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ an incredibly convicting and challenging reality concerning countless men and women who themselves may choose to partake of the cup and of the bread, and yet they deliberately and intentionally choose to rise from the table alone in order that they might carry out their own schemes, their own plans, and their own devices. I can’t help but think of how many men and women choose to enter into the place of fellowship and communion with Jesus, as well as with the other disciples and saints of God, and yet they choose to rise from the table alone, they choose to leave the room alone, and they choose to depart prematurely and before the time has come. It’s worth noting and pointing out that the disciples wanted to send the crowds away before they were fed and had the chance to receive provision and sustenance, and yet Jesus was not willing that the crowds depart and make the journey to their homes without first feeding them. What we find concerning Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son is that he initially chose to partake of the Passover meal, and even to allow Jesus to wash his feet, and yet he still deliberately and intentionally chose to rise from the table prematurely and alone in order that he might carry out that which was put into his heart by the devil.

I can’t help but get the strong sense within my heart and spirit that there are countless men and women who much like Judas may enter into the upper room with Jesus and the other disciples, and may even partake of a meal with Jesus and the disciples, and yet instead of remaining and abiding with Jesus and the disciples, they choose to leave before it’s time in order that they might carry out their own plans and their own devices. There are men and women among us who may enter into the house of the Lord, may come to the table of the Lord in order that they might partake of that which is provided and afforded unto them, and yet once the meal is over, and perhaps even once they have been served by Jesus Christ, they choose to depart alone and before the time is actually come. You might be sitting there and reading these words and wonder how and why I could make such a statement. There might be some who would read the words contained and found within this writing and wonder how in the world I could make such a statement, and perhaps even think that such a statement is false and unfounded. I would dare submit and present unto you that such a statement is neither wrong nor unfounded, for I myself am one of those individuals who rise from the table before the time. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I myself am one of those who enter into the house of the Lord, and instead of remaining and abiding in the place of fellowship and communion, I choose to rise early from the table, and to leave completely and totally alone. There are ways that I am much like Judas, for just as Judas would rise from the table alone, and just as Judas would leave the upper room alone, so also I rise from the table on Sunday mornings and leave completely and utterly alone, and I leave the house of the Lord before the time and do so completely and totally alone. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there have been countless times within my own life and my experience with the church and the body of Christ that I have left the table and have left the place of fellowship and communion before the time. There have been countless times when I have been called to remain in the place of fellowship and to remain in the place of communion, and to enjoy fellowship with Jesus and the disciples, and yet instead of choosing to remain in that place, I have chosen to leave alone in order that I might go my own way and do my own desires, passions, and pleasures. If I am being honest with you who would read these words, I am without a doubt guilty of rising from the table prematurely and too early, and I myself am guilty of leaving the house prematurely and too early, and have done so in order that I might satisfy my own desires, my own passions, and my own wants. After partaking of the cup and the bread, and after receiving of the Lord that type of ministry which Judas and the other disciples received, I chose to depart from the house alone in order that I might carry out my own desires, my own plans, and perhaps even to fulfill and gratify my own lusts, desires and passions.

With all of this being said, it’s interesting and worth noting that while it is true that Judas chose to rise from the table alone, and while Judas chose to leave and depart from the upper room alone, the remaining eleven disciples left the upper room together with Jesus. What’s more, is that not only did the remaining eleven disciples choose to leave the upper room with Jesus, but they also chose to accompany and follow Him to the place of prayer and communion with the Father. If you begin reading with and from the thirty-second verse of the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark you will find that when Jesus and the disciples departed from the upper room, and departed from the mount of Olives, they came to a place which was named Gethsemane. It was there at Gethsemane where Jesus would instruct His disciples to sit and remain where they were in order that He might pray. Mark—as well as the three other gospel writers—all write conclusively that after instructing His disciples to sit while He went further into the garden to pray, he took Peter, James and John with Him further into the garden. Mark would go on to write how Jesus would begin to be sore amazed, and to be heavy, and spoke unto the disciples, saying, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death; tarry ye here, and watch.” I have to admit that the words which Jesus spoke unto the disciples is actually quite interesting, for not only did His words speak of vulnerability before them, but His words seem to indicate a tremendous conflict and struggle that was present within soul. The words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto the disciples concerning his soul being exceedingly sorrowful unto death speak to the tremendous reality that He was in the midst of the most intense conflict and struggle He had ever experienced in the flesh while walking upon the earth. It’s worth noting that it was only unto these three disciples—Peter, James and John—that Jesus showed and allowed Himself to be vulnerable, and it was only unto these three disciples that Jesus allowed Himself to express the tremendous conflict and struggle that was present within His heart and soul. Jesus would invite and bring the eleven disciples with Him to the garden, yet only unto these three would He express that which was truly take place within His heart and soul. The remaining eleven disciples would be invited to join Jesus at the garden, yet only Peter, James and John would be invited to accompany Jesus as He moved further into the garden. What’s more, is that it was only unto these three disciples that Jesus would express His sorrow, thus indicating the tremendous inter conflict and turmoil that was taking place within his heart and soul. It would only be with these disciples whom Jesus would be incredibly vulnerable, as Jesus would show Himself as being full of sorrow, as Jesus would show Himself to be heavy, and would even show Himself to be sore amazed. It would only be unto and before these three disciples that Jesus would allow Himself to be vulnerable in that He would allow Himself to express the sorrow that was present within His soul.

What I find to be incredibly interesting and intriguing about this particular passage of Scripture is that while it is true that Jesus allowed Himself to be vulnerable before these three disciples—Peter, James and John—His vulnerability would only go so far. As you read this passage of Scripture you will find that Jesus allowed Himself to express the sorrow that was present within His soul before and unto the disciples, however, it wasn’t until He was alone with and alone before His Father that He would truly allow Himself to be completely and utterly vulnerable and exposed. I can’t help but be gripped and captivated by what we find in the garden of Gethsemane, for within he garden we are directly confronted with what I would classify as varying degrees of vulnerability. There are those whom we invite with us to the garden—to the place of prayer before and pray with the Father who is in heaven—and there are those whom we invite with us further into the garden as we begin to unburden our souls and that which we are truly facing and experiencing. Despite the fact that we invite some to the garden, and some further into the garden with us as we pray before and seek the face of the living God, it is only before the Father in heaven whom we are truly vulnerable and truly exposed. I absolutely love how Jesus invited the disciples to the garden with Him, yet how when it came to actually enter into the garden and move further into it, Jesus only invited with Him Peter, James and John. Though accompanied by eleven disciples into the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus would only invite three disciples with Him further into the garden. Though accompanied by eleven disciples to the garden, only three of those disciples would be permitted to accompany Jesus further into the garden and actually see Jesus in a vulnerable place as His soul was exceeding sorrowful. It would only be Peter, James and John whom Jesus would invite further into the garden with Him, and it would only be these three whom Jesus would allow to see in a more vulnerable place on this particular night. I am convinced that this actually brings us face to face with how we oftentimes interact with those around us, for there are those whom we might invite to accompany us as we journey to the garden, and yet despite the fact that we might invite certain individuals to accompany us to the garden, when it comes to entering into and moving further into the garden, there are only a select number of individuals whom we invited further into the garden. Though accompanied by however many individuals to the garden, there are only a select few whom we invite further into the garden, and only a select few who we allow to see us vulnerable and exposed. With that being said, it is only before the Father in heaven whom we can be truly vulnerable, truly exposed, and truly revealed within and from the depths of our heart and soul. I am convinced that it is necessary to have individuals accompany us to the garden—to accompany us to the place of prayer, to the place of conflict, to the place of struggle—and it is necessary to have a select number of individuals accompany us further into the garden and into the place where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and somewhat exposed, but it is only before the Father who sits upon the throne whom we allow ourselves to be truly revealed, truly exposed and truly vulnerable.

The more I sit here and consider this, the more I am completely gripped with the fact that Jesus deliberately chose to invite these three disciples with Him into the place of conflict and struggle. As you read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find that it was only these three disciples—Peter, James and John—whom Jesus invited with Him into the garden, and into the placed of conflict and struggle. I happen to find this to be incredible challenging and intriguing, for these same three disciples were invited by Jesus atop the mountain where He was transfigured before their faces and appeared to be speaking with Moses and Elijah. I am completely and utterly convinced that there is something truly remarkable and incredible about this particular reality, for the same three disciples whom Jesus would invite to see Him in a measure and appearance of His glory would be the same three disciples whom He invited with Him into the garden and into the place of conflict and struggle. The same three disciples whom Jesus invited atop the mountain were the same three disciples whom He invited into the garden and into the place of conflict and struggle. This is actually quite remarkable and astonishing when I think about and consider it, for while it might be easy to accompany Jesus to the mountaintop where we encounter His glory and splendor, and even the voice of the Father who is in heaven, it is something else entirely to accompany Jesus into the garden and into the place of conflict and struggle. There are many of us who are comfortable with Jesus atop the mountain in the place of glory, and in the place of presence, but we become uncomfortable in the place of conflict and struggle. There are some among us who are okay building tabernacles atop the mountain for Jesus, Moses and Elijah in the presence of the glory and majesty of Jesus the Christ, and yet when it comes to accompanying Jesus into the garden and into the place of vulnerability and conflict, we tend to shy away from and avoid such a place. We are okay accompanying Jesus up the mountain and we are okay accompanying Jesus into the place of glory and presence, but when it comes to accompanying Jesus into the place of conflict and struggle, we tend to shy away from and avoid such realities. There are some among us who are comfortable inviting others with us into the place of glory and presence, and to the top of the mountain, yet when it comes to inviting others into the place of conflict, and into the place of struggle, we tend to shy away from such realities within our lives. We are willing to invite men and women with us into the place of glory, into the place of presence, and into the place where we experience the majesty of the living God, yet when it comes to inviting others with us into the place of conflict and struggle, we avoid it at all costs.

One of the questions I can’t help but find myself asking when considering this particular passage found within the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark is whether or not we can be trusted to accompany men and women into the place of conflict and struggle. Oh, we might be able to accompany men and women up the mountain and into the place of glory and presence, and yet when it comes to accompanying men and women into the garden where conflict and struggle take place, we tend to shy away from and avoid such realities. I can’t help but find an incredibly powerful prophetic word contained within this garden experience—namely, whether or not we can be trusted in the garden as certainly and as much as we can be trusted atop the mountain. It’s worth noting that Jesus entrusted Peter, James and John with Him up the mountain and into the place where He would be transfigured before their faces, and these three disciples He would also entrust to accompany Him into the garden—and not only accompany into the garden, but also to be vulnerable and exposed before them. It would be before and unto Peter, James and John that Jesus would allow Himself to be vulnerable and to reveal the fact that His soul was exceedingly sorrowful. What I can’t help but find to be incredibly intriguing and captivating within this passage of Scripture is whether or not we are willing to invite others into the struggle and into the conflict we are experiencing within our hearts and lives. I can’t help but wonder within my heart and soul whether or not we are willing to invite others into the place of conflict and into the place of struggle, and to allow others to see us in a vulnerable state. Are we willing to invite others to accompany us to the place of conflict and struggle, and are we willing even more so to invite others to accompany us into the place of conflict, into the place of struggle, and into the place of warfare? The garden of Gethsemane is for all intents and purposes a place of spiritual warfare, a place of conflict and a place of struggle, and the question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to allow others to accompany us into the place of conflict and struggle. Are we willing to invite others into the place of conflict and struggle where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and exposed before them and in their presence? There is something to be said about inviting others to the place of conflict and struggle, and inviting others into the place of conflict and struggle that is incredibly captivating and intriguing. The question that I can’t help but ask myself as I read this passage of Scripture is whether or not I am willing to invite others to join and accompany me to the place of conflict and struggle, and whether or not I am willing to allow myself to invite others into the place of struggle and conflict and warfare with me? What we must recognize and understand is that suffering and conflict never takes place in a vacuum and was never meant to be faced and experienced alone, but with others who are willing to join and accompany us into that place of struggle, into that place of conflict, and into that place of warfare. OH that we would be men and women who would be willing to invite others into the place of conflict and struggle with us, and that we would allow ourselves to become truly vulnerable before them, while knowing and understanding that it is truly and ultimately before the Father in heaven with whom we can be truly exposed, naked, revealed, vulnerable and manifested to the very depths and core of our being.

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