And Jesus went away a second (and third) time to pray, saying, "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me except I drink it, then thy will be done... Then He said to His disciples, "Arise, let us be going.
- Matthew 26:42-46
I often wonder what would have happened to the Easter story and the whole process of salvation if God had granted His Sons request.
Jesus, who was both human and divine, was exercising His human nature when He prayed, Please, Father, do I have to go through with this?
Yes, Son. This was the plan.
OK, Father. Ill do as you ask.
Not long before Jesus asked if He could be spared from the ordeal of the cross, His friend Lazarus became very ill (John, chapter 11).
Well send for Jesus, his sister, Martha, said. Hes healed others. Surely Hell want to heal His friend.
But Jesus was away, teaching and healing those others Martha mentioned, and He didnt hurry to His friends side. By the time He arrived, Lazarus had been dead four days.
Lord, the disheartened sister cried, Why didnt you come?
We understand why Martha was perplexed. Sometimes, when we lose a loved one, or experience a heartbreak of another kind, we, too, wonder why our Lord wasnt there for us.
But, Martha, I am the resurrection and the life, and whoever believes in me will never die. Dont you believe that?
Yes, Lord, I believe that, but you are talking about the last days of the earth. I want my brother alive now.
Again we identify with Martha; we dont like deferred prayers any better than she did. We want our brothers, jobs, health, and finances restored quickly, too.
But what if we knew a deferred answer to our prayer would not only benefit us but alter the lives of many, many people? How would we react to the delay then?
When Jesus learned that Lazarus was sick He said something very strange: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God (John 11:4). Another way to excuse His unconcern, Martha must have thought when she heard what He said. But what she felt, and we may think when our prayers seem to go unanswered, is this: What good is prayer - what good is God? He doesnt care what happens to me.
But look what happened to Lazarus four days after his death! Jesus approached his tomb and made a statement everyone could understand: Lazarus, come forth!
His friends sickness hadnt been unto death, nor would a simple healing in a private bedroom have drawn as much glory to God as did the sight of a dead man walking out of a public grave.
Look what happened three days after Jesus died on that horrible cross!
Because the cup He had asked God to remove had been endured, He defeated mans greatest enemy - death - and a whole world now has access to eternal life. Without a no answer to Jesus prayer there would have been no resurrection.
Today, as we celebrate Easter, we also send this message to a praying world:
Often that immediate answer to prayer we seek is far less important than the larger answer God wants us to have. Just as the Father chose the Son to be the channel for His blessings on all mankind, sometimes He chooses us to exercise patience because we are part of His greater plan to bless someone else.
What an answer to prayer!
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
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