Sunday, March 08, 2015


Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. (Luke 22:43-44a)

The Gospels reveal a close connection between the mission of Jesus and the ministry of angels.  Before His birth, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would miraculously conceive the Son of God.  Joseph—betrothed to her—only believed it when  the angel explained it.  At His birth, a host of angels flooded Bethlehem’s skies proclaiming the event to shepherds.  Later, wicked King Herod got wind of it and moved to kill the Child and an angel warned Joseph and Mary to escape to Egypt.  Likewise, when Herod died, and the threat removed, the angel told the holy family it was time to return.  Jesus went into the wilderness at the outset of His ministry to do battle with the Devil, and we read how angels attended Him after the conflict.  At His resurrection, an angel rolled away the stone, sat on it, and declared to the good news to the disciples.  One other occasion of angelic ministry to the Son of God is that found in Luke 22, as Jesus prays in agony in Gethsemane.

An angel came to offer Christ HELP.  Jesus fell on His face under the old olive trees, pressed to the point of being crushed by the load of humanity’s sins that He is taking upon Himself.  Human help fails, as the disciples snore rather than support Him.  One of them is coming with a bloodthirsty mob to betray Him.  Heavenly help arrives even as human help abandons Him.  Soon, Jesus will be forsaken by all—even by His Father—as He hangs on the cross, but that time has not yet come and until then He has this celestial being to aid Him.  On Golgotha, He will experience Hell for us and be without comfort; preceding that, in Gethsemane, He receives a last comfort from Heaven, brought by the angel.  Doubtless, as He prayed, Christ offered praise for angels that had attended to Him throughout His earthly sojourn.  His heart must have raced with joy in the midst of this cosmic sorrow, that when His mission was accomplished, He would be welcomed into glory by angels.  He looked beyond the cross to the crown—returning to reign in power and glory, leading angel armies as reward for His obedience unto death (Phil.2:5-11).

Yet, this was also a reminder of Christ’s HUMILIATION.  We marvel that the Creator was helped by a creature, until we recall that the Son of God has become the Son of Man.  He was fully God and merited the service of angels, but also totally man and needed the support of them.  When He was born, there was a host of angels, but now only one.  They lit up the skies at His arrival in Bethlehem, but this one is present while the darkness only deepens.  The skies were filled with angels singing in joy at His birth, and if there were a song in the olive grove it would have been a dirge for His death.  The angel was not there to take His suffering from Him, but to strengthen Him to suffer even more.  The agony in Gethsemane was so great that He might have died then had not the angel attended Him.  Never forget that this great suffering would be for you and me—paying our sin debt—so angels can care for us as saints, rather than condemn us as sinners!  Hallelujah!  What a Savior!

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