A Selfless Love – Lenten Devotion 1 by Beth Mann

Matthew 26:31-46 & 47-56

31 Then Jesus told them, ‘This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:

‘“I will strike the shepherd,
    and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”[a]

32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’

33 Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.’

34 ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times.’

35 But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.


36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. 41 ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’

42 He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’

Jesus arrested

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him.

50 Jesus replied, ‘Do what you came for, friend.’ Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

52 ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’

55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

The idea for these lent services came up during an office staff meeting, dwelling in the Word, looking at this year’s theme text. Pastor Adrian had mentioned that he introduces the theme for the church year, however, the year quickly rolls into lent and the theme gets left alone for a while. I thought to myself, however, why not use this theme of ‘let love live’ carry on through lent. Moreover, what better time and place to talk about love then when we reflect and unpack the passion story? This is captured wonderfully in a couple verses following this year’s theme text in 1 John 4:9-11 which says,

“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another”.

I don’t know about you, but for me, it is something I heard time and time again about God’s love for me, whether it be at Sunday School, at home or even if you were to walk down Rundle Street in Adelaide. It has become something more of an autopilot thought than actually spending time reflecting on what is this love. As we heard in tonight’s reading, Christ’s love was a selfless love. And this idea of selfless love is what I want to reflect on tonight. That is, we are saved not by our love for God, but by God’s love for us.

In our first reading, Jesus is in the garden with his friends, and he says to them, “my soul is very sorrowful, even to death”. The NLT describes Jesus being overcome by anguish and distress and his soul was crushed with grief. It is such deep and emotive language, that you can’t help but feel your heart strings being pulled as you may recall a time when you yourself have felt such sorrow. I think it is of great comfort to know that our saviour has been through deepest of valleys himself. Like Jesus, we may find ourselves in a situation where all we can do is pray. I couldn’t begin to imagine the weight he must have felt from knowing the suffering that he was about to endure, or the weight of the entire worlds, past present and future sin resting on Him. He truly and deeply felt the pain in His soul. Jesus gets on His knees and pleads with His father, asking that the suffering be taken away. What always intrigues me is how Jesus asks for the suffering to be taken away not once, or twice but three times. We know its not a matter of God not hearing Him or that Christ is getting ready to bail on us. Rather, I think Christ is setting an example, demonstrating that repetition in prayer is okay. God wants us to come to Him when we are in pain and in the lowest moments of our life. In this prayer, Christ demonstrates his human nature along with His selfless love. Part of him, his human nature, is tempted not to go through with the suffering to save his own life. He asks His father to take this cup away from him. I don’t think that is surprising and who can blame Him? Who here would volunteer to die such a gruesome death? However, this is not all he prays. He says, “may your will be done”. Here is where he displays his divine and perfect love. He goes ahead with something that he knows is going to be painful physically, emotionally and spiritually. Yet, he over comes this temptation and choses to be sacrificed for us and our salvation. He chose to love us selflessly.

Later in these readings Jesus demonstrates further examples of His selfless love toward both his friends and enemies. Jesus predicted Peter would betray him and knew that His followers would run away in fear even though all of the disciples said they would not. Like the disciples, we may have the best intentions, even sometimes become overconfident, but also like the disciples, we get scared. In Australia, we are lucky to live in a place where we can freely worship and may not publicly deny Christ, but we might be embarrassed to mention we go to church or forget to genuinely express the importance of Christ in our life. Take comfort though. Peter, James and John, Jesus’ closest friends, couldn’t stay awake for an hour at Jesus’ request in the garden. Yet, Jesus still loved and cared for them, encouraging them to pray so that they do not fall into temptation. Even to Judas, Jesus continued to show His selfless love. When Judas approached Jesus and betrayed him with a kiss, Jesus doesn’t get upset, He calls him ‘friend’ and tells him to do what he came to do.

Even when we have turned our backs on God, he doesn’t turn His back on us.  God knows our weaknesses. For we are like the disciples, we don’t know what is to come, or how we will be challenged, and we can get caught up in thinking that we can do it on our own. We don’t keep our watch, we get ourselves into trouble. But what amazing proof of Christ selfless love. He loves us when we fall asleep, he loves us even when we fall into temptation, he loves us despite our weaknesses, he loves us even if we run away in fear. He loved us throughout this entire passion journey, as he walked to Golgotha, as he hung on that cross. Take a minuet to reflect on this selfless love Christ has gifted each of us as I read from Romans 5:6-7

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Jesus died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows His love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

What does this means for us? Well,

“since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

It is never meant to be an easy calling when we are dealing with each other in our human condition, full of weaknesses. However, we must remember, that the strength and ability to love does not come from us, it comes from God (1 John 4:7) God’s word has even given us directions on how to let love live. Jesus gave us a new command in John 13:34, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Paul further encourages us in this love in his letter to the Galatians-

“if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself lest you be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ!”

(Gal 6:1-2)

What is the law of Christ? Love.