But Deliver Us from Evil
We live in an age in which, for many, the existence of Satan and evil angels is not taken seriously. For some, however, the power of the demonic is actually sought after and believed to be the greatest power. The Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer explicitly makes reference not merely to the presence of generic evil in the world, but also to the existence and influence of Satan in our lives. Both the Morning and Evening Prayers in the Catechism include the petition: “Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.” By praying this petition twice daily, we are not only made aware of the unseen forces of darkness, but we are also protected from the devil’s assaults upon us when we are awake and when we are asleep.
The Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer is also echoed in the Morning Prayer with the words, “You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You.” In the Evening Prayer, we give thanks for the deliverance we prayed for in the Morning Prayer with the words, “I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day.” Both prayers underscore the great truth that all deliverance from evil and from the evil one is “through Jesus Christ, the Father’s dear Son” and this is the greatest power on earth.
In Christ, Pastor Bender
The Garden of Gethsemane
The following is a portion of an interview by Todd Wilken (TW), from Issues, Etc. with the Rev. Peter Bender (PB), Pastor of Peace Lutheran and Director of the Concordia Catechetical Academy, Sussex, Wis. The full interview aired April 15, 2014 and is available for download at issuesetc.org.
TW: In the Garden of Gethsemane account in the Gospels, is Jesus having second thoughts about suffering and death?
PB: Absolutely not. What is expressed in that prayer, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:39) is what it means to be a man, what we were created to be in the first place. Adam so blithely threw away this relationship with God, but Jesus shows Himself to be that man, that True Man, the Second Adam, that the first was not—the man of faith and the man of love for the Father. Todd, it is the natural desire to be united to God, and that’s what we see in Jesus, what man was created to be. Faith that is born in us according to the Gospel desires never to be separated from our Lord. The thought of being severed from that is what Jesus is expressing in His prayer. He desires to be with and remain in the Father’s love and life forever. And so, that’s what He is expressing there. It further shows the nature of His passion (which means “suffering”), the nature of His grief. It’s not just the pain that He endured on the wood cross outside the gates of Jerusalem; it is the spiritual and emotional pain of being ripped away from the Father. That’s what He’s expressing there. He’s expressing what we all should desire: to remain in the abiding love and life that comes only from Him, something that Adam so quickly threw away.
TW: Your explanation there is key to getting to the struggle of the incarnation. It is not the physical struggle nor death that causes the sorrow “even to death” (Matt. 26:38; Mark 14:34), but the “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Matt. 26:46; Mark 15:34, cf. Ps. 22:1) prospect that drives Him to sorrow.
PB: There is a mystery that a lot of Christians miss in the suffering of Jesus. It’s something to be believed, not to be explained. In that I mean, there is one God in three Persons: the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet, there are not three Gods, but one God. This eternal relationship between the Persons of the Trinity, this relationship of love, shares fully in the divine nature. And yet, Jesus prays Psalm 22 from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Who can understand this? How is it possible for the Son of God, the only-begotten from eternity, to be separated from the Father? How is this possible? It is a mystery to be believed not to be explained. On the one hand, Jesus’ faith never lets go of the Father; on the other hand, that faith exists under the total darkness of abandonment, under the wrath of God and the judgment of the Law, and the condemnation of hell being poured out upon Him. Who can understand this? It is to be believed, and it describes the nature of Jesus’ suffering which begins with the wrath of God being poured out upon Him. He is the sin bearer, and that’s what the cup is all about of which Jesus is speaking, “Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it” (Jer. 25:15). But He must drink it. He must die alone. He must make atonement for sin. No one else can suffer this judgment and death. That is what is being expressed in those words. It is a mystery to be believed.
TW: Set the context for us. What has just happened to Jesus and His disciples and what is about to happen, which the disciples seem oblivious to?
PB: What has just happened before Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples is that He has just celebrated the Passover with His disciples in the Upper Room. It is evening, after sundown on Thursday, which means in Biblical times, it is part of Friday, for the day begins in the darkness and ends in the light. On that night He is in the Upper Room celebrating the Passover, that great Feast of freedom from the bondage to Egypt and to Pharaoh. But Jesus, taking over the role of the pater familias, taking over the role of the head of the table, He radically redefines those words of the Passover, showing that He’s the true Passover lamb. He takes of that unleavened bread and says, “This is My body,” and He takes of that cup of redemption and says, “This is My blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins,” the blood that brings about true freedom, not just from Egyptian slavery and from an ancient pharaoh, but freedom from the judgment of the law, freedom from the condemnation of hell, freedom from sin, freedom from Satan, and freedom from death. And all of that is in that cup of blessing. He washes His disciples’ feet. There’s a lot of catechesis which He gives on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit to bring us to faith in Christ and to preserve us in that faith. Then, He goes out to the Garden of Gethsemane with all of the disciples, except Judas. He takes Peter, James, and John deeper into the garden with Him.
That cup of blessing, that cup of redemption that He defined as His blood shed for the forgiveness of sins, in the Upper Room, now has its counterpart as a cup of woe, a cup of wrath, a cup of fury from the Lord’s hand, that only He can drink down for us. So, Jesus in the Upper Room with His disciples is fully cognizant that He is the Passover lamb, He is the Father’s beloved Son, and He must do this, for He shares fully in the Father’s loving nature, His self-giving, sacrificial love. So Jesus goes into the Garden, resolutely fixed upon the Father’s word, the Father’s good and gracious will to redeem fallen humanity. Though there is that resolve, it doesn’t take away the fact that this is real suffering. It is not phantom suffering. As one might say, “Oh well, this is really no big deal because I know the outcome of it.” It is the suffering and death that actually brings about the freedom. The reason that the cup in the supper has forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation and that every spiritual blessing is given in the sacrament is precisely because Jesus drank in the cup of our death, for us. And that’s what makes the cup in the Lord’s Supper the cup of redemption and the cup of salvation, but He is compelled to do this. I love that in the Catechism questions and answers, it asks, “What motivated Christ to die and make full payment for your sins?” It is His great love for His Father and for us. We always place the emphasis upon us, but what moved Jesus was His great love for the Father to lay down his life willingly and freely. But it was real suffering, and it really hurt, and only He could do this, to pay the ultimate price.
A Simple Way to Pray
Concerning prayer, in a letter to his barber, Master Peter Beskendorf, Martin Luther taught a simple way to pray according to a “four-strand wreath” or outline of praying the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Creed as well as other prayers of the Church. The method may be of help, if you, like Martin Luther confessed in his letter, “have become cool and joyless in prayer.” Each commandment, article of the Creed or portion of the Lord’s Prayer can be used in meditation and prayer. Taking up a portion, the specific text is to be prayed: first, as a teaching from the Lord; second, as an occasion or thanksgiving; third, as an occasion for confession; and fourth, as a prayer for the grace, mercy, or forgiveness needed to keep this word in faith and love. In summary:
A Teaching—Speak back to God what He teaches you.
A Thanksgiving—Give thanks to God for what He teaches you.
A Confession—Confess your sins to God on the basis of this teaching.
A Prayer—Ask God for His grace and help to keep this teaching.
Luther desired that the heart be stirred and guided concerning the thoughts of the text. In his example on the Lord’s Prayer, on the fifth petition, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” Luther would pray:
O dear Lord, God and Father, enter not into judgment against us because no man living is justified before thee. Do not count it against us as a sin that we are so unthankful for thine ineffable goodness, spiritual and physical, or that we stray into sin many times every day, more often than we can know or recognize.
Luther urged that one make room for thoughts that were abundant upon the text being prayed, not to obstruct them. “It is enough” writes Luther, “to consider one section or half a section which kindles a fire in the heart. This the Spirit will grant us and continually instruct us in when, by God’s word, our hearts have been cleared and freed of outside thoughts and concerns.”
The Cup of Loneliness
Jesus can be found in the most odd places, such as when episode twelve of season two of the television show Mad Men ended with verses of George Jones’ “Cup of Loneliness”:
“Oh my friends ’tis bitter sweet while here on earthly sod
To follow in the footsteps that our dear Savior trod
To suffer with the Savior and when the way is dark and dim
To drink of the bitter cup of loneliness with Him.”
Jones’ lyrics captures in part, Jesus in Gethsemane, praying that, if possible, the cup of suffering may pass, a suffering which included loneliness, illustrated by the sleepy disciples who were not able to pray for even one hour. We can empathize with Christ’s loneliness in the Garden, in part: despondency in the heart, the taste of salt, the nagging nearness of emotion which lies just below the surface, unconsciously present, tender to touch. Loneliness craves to be filled, like a hunger for food or a desire to be comforted with only the memory of an embrace for consolation. It’s the feeling of broken-heartedness, the precipice of emotion upon which one slippery thought, treading a narrow path of the mind, could easily undo the emotional origami which has been folded and creased to conceal the raw lump that brings weeping, the lament of loss.
Christians are not immune to feeling separated, alienated, or estranged. Loneliness may feel more like aimlessness or boredom. Emotionally, it can be expressed as anxiety, desolation or insecurity. Loneliness is not confined to single-ness nor is it vanquished by marriage, for even in that most intimate relationship, the discrepancy between the ideal and the reality may exacerbate the distress. The brokenness of relationships may promote behavior that reinforces the loneliness, creating a downward spiral of negative expectations and interactions. Further, the lonely may try to fill the emotional hole with more emptiness: illicit sexuality, indulgent drinking, or illegitimate drug use.
While our suffering may be the result of chastening for our sin, Christ’s isolation and separation resulted from exaltation, from the extraordinary work of offering up Himself for sin and from God’s judgment for sin placed upon Him for others. In this, loneliness becomes a beautiful thing, and it is the place of fellowship with Christ that can be found in no other way (Phil. 3:811). Christ’s solitude in the night in the Garden continues a path of separation from the Father inaugurated at conception and carried through the Cross. Yet, at Gethsemane, Jesus is also at the place of greatest intimacy, as the Spirit is poured forth from Father to Son, from Son to Father, in the community of the Trinity in prayer. God is no more beautiful and no more fully present than entering into His sin offering, Christ, transcending all separation.
Nowhere is God more fully known than in His outpouring into His Son, lifting Him up, accomplishing our redemption. No longer, then, must the depths of our suffering be banished or approached with resignation. But now, suffering, even the suffering of loneliness, is an occasion to receive the gratuitous gift of Christ who, in the moment, avails Himself to us and for us. Joined to Christ, as baptized Christians, we are alone no longer; in the moment of our cry that our cup of loneliness may also pass, Christ is there to give us all that the Father has, His infinite peace.
The Humiliation of Christ
And being found in appearance as a man, He [Christ Jesus] humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.—Phil. 2:8
Regarding Christ’s humiliation, Luther writes, “Here Paul with one word opens heaven to us and permits us to gaze into the unfathomable abyss of the Divine Majesty and behold the ineffably gracious will and love of the fatherly heart toward us, that we may feel that it pleased God from eternity what Christ, that glorious Person, should do, and now has done, for us? Whose heart will not melt here for joy? Who can refrain from loving, praising, and giving thanks and from becoming on his part, too, not only a servant of all the world, but gladly becoming meaner and lowlier than anything, when he sees that God Himself regarded him so dearly and so richly pours out and exhibits His fatherly will in His Son’s obedience?” (F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 2:291-2.)
Reception of New Members
The Easter Vigil, Saturday, April 19, marked the reception of new members:
Profession of Faith:
Rev. Dr. Wolf Knappe
Additional new members will be received at the Divine Services on the Feast of Pentecost, Sunday, June 8.