An All Sufficient Grace
"You don't know what it's like to be me right now!"
If we haven’t said it, we’ve certainly thought it. We even think, at times, we could shout that to God. Our great longing is for a Creator who understands the pain of living in a fallen world. Of course He understands, but we want reassurances. Even the great apostle, Paul, couldn’t understand why he had to bear some things, particularly this thing he calls his "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12). Paul states: "So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud" (v 6-8). He goes on to say that he pleaded with Lord three times to take this suffering away, whatever it was. And that has always been the issue. Scholars have spent tons of time trying to figure out what this "thorn," this "messenger of Satan" was—so much so that we miss a great parallel from the life of Jesus.
In Mark 14, we read:
32 They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, "Sit here while I go and pray." 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. 34 He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." 35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 "Abba, Father," he cried out, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine." 37 Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Couldn't you watch with me even one hour? 38 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak." 39 Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. 40 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn't keep their eyes open. And they didn't know what to say. 41 When he returned to them the third time, he said, "Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Up, let's be going. Look, my betrayer is here!" (NLT)
Did you see it? The unusually strong language indicates that Mark understood Gethsemane to be the place in Jesus’ life when the full meaning of His submission to the Father confronted Him acutely. When facing the cross, Jesus appeals to His Father three final times for another route to redemption. It was a common discipline of prayer in Jewish tradition to pray three times per day (Daniel 6:10). Jesus is praying about His approaching fulfillment to the Passover sacrifice. The Passover cup of wrath is now to be poured out not on Egyptian first-borns, but on the Son of God nailed to a Roman cross. Drinking that cup would take Him to Golgotha, a dark and lonely path which would end with His Father nowhere in sight. Could there be another way? What did Jesus hear from heaven in that specific moment to give Him strength to rise even more resolute and fulfill this mission?
I believe we have the answer to that question in the answer He gives to the three questions Paul asked: "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." His grace is all we need. When the thorns won't come out. When we scream at heaven with the injustices of the world. When we shake our fists and say, "You don't know what it's like to be me right now." It is then we find ourselves with Him in the garden. He does know what it's like to be us—in every way. He knows. And the same thing He says to us, is the same thing He said to that great apostle. It is, I believe, what Jesus heard from His own Father in that hour of deep despair. "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." It may not be the answer we are looking for, but it is usually what we get. I am trying to trust that it's also what we need.