Luke said Jesus’s sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Whenever I read the account of Gethsemane, I think of my grandma. She was wonderful. She was kind and fun-loving and smart. I admired her because she did not gossip. She had better things to do. She was adventurous and physically and mentally fit well into old age. She took a flying lesson on her eightieth birthday because it was something she had always wanted to try and she actually flew a plane. She made her last visit back to her home state when she was in her nineties. I had the privilege of hosting her for a few days and I invited her to join me for church.
As we walked through the parking lot after the service she said, “I do not believe in that fire and brimstone stuff. I just think it is enough to be a good person.” I was surprised by her statement because there had been absolutely no fire or brimstone in the message that morning. I think Grandma’s preconceived notions filled in what her hearing aid had missed. I just smiled and let the comment go.
But it troubled me.
So about a month after she returned to Florida, I wrote her a letter. I enclosed pictures of our time together. I told her how much I enjoyed her company. And then I wrote, “Grandma, I love you so much that heaven wouldn’t be heaven without you. That is why I have to share this: When we went to church you said that you believe it is enough to be a good person. If that were true, Jesus would not have had to die on the cross. He did not want to do it. He pleaded, “Father, if there is any other way, pleeaase take this cup from me.” But there was no other way, Grandma. We cannot get to heaven by being good. If we could, Jesus certainly would have let us try.”
We can not get to heaven by being good because it is not a matter of goodness. To the rich young man who wanted to know how to inherit eternal life Jesus replied, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” There is no goodness when it comes to salvation, there is only humble obedience to this one thing: Bow down and ask for it.
Jesus’ submission was poignant and powerful: “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Jesus submitted to the point of death, not because His Father was the boss, not for the sake of submission itself, not because submission is the godly thing to do, but because He and His Father had a mission.
His submission was to His mission.
We were given a mission back in Genesis 1 and 2, remember? Work shoulder to shoulder to subdue God’s enemy. Submit to one another as necessary in order to accomplish it. I think of it as a sort of dance – or even a pressure cooker. Moving, swaying, yielding and adjusting the pressure as we work together.
Our submission, like Jesus’s, ought to be to our mission, not to the whim or will of a person.
Do you want to know how my grandma’s story ended? I did not receive a response to my letter and I began to fear that I had offended her. Then, a month or so later, I was having dinner at the Woods restaurant on Mackinac Island. A waiter came to my table to tell me I had a phone call. It was from my father, who also lived in Florida. I raced upstairs to my brother-in-law’s apartment to take the call, heart pounding, panicked that something had happened to Grandma. My dad shared that he had breakfast with her that morning and she wanted to know if she could ask him some questions. She showed him my letter. I gulped. I waited for my dad to gently tell me that I had offended her.
Instead he told me that he had had the glorious privilege of partnering with me in leading her to the Lord that morning. She was saved at the age of 93. She stepped onto the shores of heaven just prior to her 102nd birthday.
© 2015, The Reluctant Baptist