Strength Follows Surrender

Strength Follows Surrender

On the eve of his execution, Jesus wrestles with his Father. He fully understands his mission has led him to this moment. He has both hinted at and explicitly predicted his death. Yet, hours before he is to be arrested, he’s struggling. This is how Luke describes Jesus’s prayer marathon in the Garden of Gethsemane:

“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly…” (Luke 22:41-44a).

Note the sequence of events. Jesus fully surrenders to the Father. He says, “I have a preference here. I’d like to opt out of this next scene, but I will submit my desires to yours.” It’s only after Jesus says this that an angel appears to strengthen him. An angel, a messenger of God, comes to encourage and empower the Savior.

Angels seems to make multiple appearances in the early part of Jesus’s story. Zechariah gets a visit from an angel. As does Mary. The shepherds outside of Bethlehem get a whole swarm of angels. But Jesus himself? How many angel moments does he get? He teaches about angels repeatedly throughout his public ministry, so he obviously affirms their existence. That said, it seems like Jesus only has two personal encounters with angels who arrive to serve him. Once after his battle with temptation in the wilderness and now here, in the Garden.

In both instances, Jesus fully resists temptation. He transcends the part of him that would abandon his Father’s will and opt for an escape, an alternate route, a quick fix. And when he does, angels arrive to assist in his recovery from the battle. They appear to help him recover, refocus and go again.

I’m not saying, “God helps those who help themselves,” that we’re responsible for the heavy lifting and God comes in at the end. It’s not like a visit to the pediatrician, where it’s your job to be brave for those shots, and if you are, you get to pick up a sticker or a sucker on your way out.

But I do find it interesting that the angels reveal themselves after Jesus chooses to align himself with the Father’s will. I’ve been guilty of asking for angels, miracles and material heavenly support when I’m still on the fence, still deliberating about whether I will trust and follow God or not. In fact, they seem to show up with a first aid kit and an IV bag after the battle is over. Once we decide to surrender, we have access to invisible back up. After our resolve is clear, God mobilizes the help we need to take the next step. In Jesus's story, the next step is to gear up for another round of prayer and soul searching. May God grant us grace to do the same.

Craig Custance