In Mark 14 we see Jesus—in the fullness of his humanity—suffer. In fact his soul is laid bare for us. The wrath of God will be poured out on him on the cross and, in anticipation of it in the garden, we see how he responds to his, “soul…troubled even to death.”
We see Jesus responding to his suffering in five ways:
“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”—Mark 14:26
Jesus and his disciples just finished the Passover Meal. Typically at the end of a Passover Meal they would sing one of the Hallell Psalms (Psalms 114-118).
Why is congregational singing something Jesus does in suffering? And why should we? Singing truths about God and worshiping God with our brothers and sisters helps and comforts us in suffering because:
It turns our focus on God. Instead of sinking deeper into our suffering and anguish it turns us out to what our gaze should be fixed on.
It reminds us of the truths about God. That he is mighty, he is gracious, he is sovereign over all things including suffering, he is a refuge, he loves us.
It corrects our feelings and keeps us from believing lies. Our feelings and emotions in suffering may be true in that we are truly feeling them, but often they are not truth; we need to be reminded of truth. We can’t believe the lies that we are not loved, or that we are condemned, or that God has abandoned us; we need to be reminded of truth.
Congregational singing is warfare. We fight together as we sing. The battle drum plays, with loud voices, with true words and turned hearts, we go to war against the lies in our heart and the Enemy who assails us.
Sometimes in the midst of suffering we don’t believe these truths about God. We need to see and hear our brothers and sisters singing; we need their witness; we need their reminder. We need to be able to look around and think, “I know what she has been through and she is singing.” “I know what he has suffered, it was a lot like what I am going through, and he is singing.” God will deliver me. He will strengthen me. He is true!
Jesus Confesses His Suffering
“And he took with him Peter and James and John. . .and he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.’”—Mark 14:34-35
Jesus is honest about his suffering with his friends. He takes his three closest friends, and he is honest about what he is feeling! So often we withdraw from community in suffering. Ever have the friend that’s only around when things are going well for them?
Or we don’t withdraw, but we’re not honest—”I’m good, I’m fine.” But then nobody knows you; nobody can pray for you about it; no one can bear your burdens as we are called to as the church.
“And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed. . .”—Mark 14:36a
Prayer, like singing, turns our focus on God. In suffering we have tendency to turn inward. We get really self-focused and self-obsessed. We withdraw from community, from serving, from others in general, we give ourselves excuses; we become very self-involved. But prayer is God-focused. Prayer is not humiliation, but humility saying, I need God for this. (If you don’t pray about something or for something you’re basically saying, “I don’t need you, God, for this; I got it.”)
And Jesus’ prayer is honest, but God-honoring. He doesn’t cloud his desires in religious ambiguity, He asks if the cup can pass from him. But it is also God-honoring and focused. He calls him “Abba, Father,” he acknowledges that “all things are possible” for God, he aligns his will up with the Father’s. Even David’s very honest prayers in the Psalms will always end with something like, “But I know you’re good!” “I know you’re faithful. I know you’ll save. Even though I doubt you right now, and I don’t see why you allow this to happen, and I don’t like it—I trust you!”
Jesus Submits His Will to the Father
“Yet not what I will, but what you will.”—Mark 14:36b
When our gaze is turned toward God, when we remember who he is and what he is like, we can submit to him. Even if we don’t understand, even if we can’t see why, our will aligns with his.
We ask a lot of questions in the midst of suffering: “Why is this happening?” “How can this be for my good?” “What did I do to deserve this?” And many of our questions won’t be answered. But when we have turned our focus to God in song and prayer, and have been reminded of the truths about God from our community, we can know what our suffering doesn’t mean! We know it doesn’t mean he has abandoned us. We know it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love us! The cross, too, makes us assured of that.
Jesus Trusts in the Father
“But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”—Mark 14:49
So Jesus sings, and he confesses his suffering, and he prays—his heart is turned toward the Father, and then he aligns his will with the Father’s will, and then he trusts the Father. Jesus is saying here: let the Scriptures be fulfilled, I trust God’s plan, He is good, and he knows more, and he has wisdom, I can trust him.