The cold and rain swept down the street on that Tuesday night that we attended the prayer service at the Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, New York. Pastor Jim Cymbala welcomed us into his office and gave us an hour of his time. We talked about ministry, prayer, and even a little about Lutheran theology. He was a fan of C.F.W. Walther no less!
The service that night was alive with prayer, praise, and God’s word. 2500 people were on their feet singing praise, on their knees praying to God for the intercessory needs that were requested, and listening to God’s word being preached. It was an edifying and inspiring experience.
One overwhelming impression has stayed with me about that night. God was honored. We were personally encouraged. Pastor Jim Cymbala even invited Pastor Schultz and me to come forward and had the congregation come and pray over us. Rows of people ten-deep strained forward to pray for us. We listened as Jim prayed, accompanied by the whispers, together with softly and more loudly-spoken prayers. That was touching. But that God was honored by all the people there, through their prayers and earnest intercessions left an indelible imprint on my heart. God was honored.
When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked three times for God to remove the cup of his that Jesus was going to drink (cf. Jeremiah 25:15-27). He knew what he was in for. He realized that he would face the most cruel abuse, torture, suffering, and death imaginable. He knew, also, that the suffering was not merely physical – as horrific as that would be. He knew that he would be facing the wrath of God. God would forsake him in his darkest hour and he would die alone. He was consuming the bitter cup of God’s wrath and judgment on account of our sins – no his own.
Some people struggle with the idea that Jesus is self-proclaimed as the only means of salvation. No one can come to the Father apart from him (cf. John 14:6). The witness of the Apostles is consistent with that: “There is no other name given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “There are so many people who do not know of Jesus, but live good lives,” they say. “How could God not save them?”
I consider Jesus in the Garden. If there is any other way that one can be saved, then Jesus’ prayer is in vain. His conversation with the Father in the Garden is an opportunity for God to reveal way other than through Jesus’ death. He does not. If there is another way, we must conclude that God is a vile and sadistic, evil and callous fiend.
Jesus never even hinted at that when he went to the cross. He remained faithful to the end. And now God has exalted him to his right hand, where he now receives the honor and glory that he deserves.
Confessing Jesus Christ at the way, truth and life honors him. People of the truth will do that gladly, and honor Jesus by doing so.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 1:5-11