Luke 22:44 — The Hardest Day of Jesus’ life: Muscle Memory in Action
What have been some of the hardest days of your life? I do not mean to bring up painful memories, but let me ask a question. Do you have any memories where, although the day or situation was hard, now in hindsight, you can see how God prepared you for it?
For me, I will be honest, for some of the situations I have been through I can see God’s hand was preparing me—and for others situations, the pain is still too present, and the emotion too strong.
I have written here about how following Jesus is not about having an easy life. No, whether we follow Jesus, or not, we all will face challenges. The question is more: how will we face those challenges—and who will be with us?
I wrote here that the goal of every spiritual discipline is being connected to God the Father. The phrase that Jesus often uses is doing the Father’s will.
Consider what may have been the hardest moment is Jesus’ life—Luke 22:41-44:
41 And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Jesus is wrestling in his humanity. We can relate to this position. First, there is the situation. We pray to God to remove it. Then there is what I would call “the turn”. Jesus turns from his own earthly desires and gives voice to the ultimate desire—doing the Father’s will. This is the goal of every spiritual discipline. These disciplines give us the muscle memory, so that in those tough moments, we turn to God.
Consider, Jesus has been praying, he has been struggling. He is with God. We see not only Jesus’ position before his Father, here we are given a glimpse of how God is involved in prayer. He sends an angel. The result is not deliverance, but strength to pray more, to be strengthened more in order to do the Father’s will.
I expect most of us read this bit of Luke and, while we intellectually understand it was agonizing, we think that this is Jesus, he is God, of course he can do it. But that is to miss the point. This is Jesus, fully human, united to God—and that is how he can do it.
We will never reach this level of perfect union with God while on earth, but nonetheless, we are called to strive towards it. Elsewhere we see the analogy of the Christian walk as a sport. We train for it. We train our muscles for it. Why? So that we might participate with God in his reconciling work of love, here on earth.