There is an apparent contradiction in verses 45 and 46 of Matthew 26. In the same breath the Lord bids his disciples sleep and rise, rest and journey.
What is the explanation? How can the commands be reconciled?
Is it not that underneath the apparent physical meaning there lay a spiritual meaning which the Lord desired them and ourselves to apprehend?
Our Lord was about to suffer. He had taken from His Father’s hand the cup of sorrow which could not pass from Him if the will of God were to be done, or if sinners were to be saved. From that cup He had shrunk. In His perfection He drew back from its awfulness. In His perfection He accepted it and carrying it to the cross drained it there. Then anguish must be His if the blessing were to be ours. The storm must be His if the calm were to be ours. In view of the work He was about to accomplish He could say—even to those who could not watch with Him one hour,
“Sleep on now and take your rest.”
Blessed Master! Gracious Saviour! Thou wouldst endure the judgment that we might repose in the love of God, in righteousness,
And we rejoice that
“The storm that bowed Thy blessed head,
Is hushed for ever now;
And rest divine is ours instead,
Whilst glory crowns thy brow.”
Unending rest is ours now in the knowledge of eternal redemption effected, of ever-lasting righteousness introduced and of unchanging relationship established. The Father’s will has been fulfilled and we are placed before Himself in the company of His Son. The Son of God has found His delight in declaring the Father’s name to His brethren and in surrounding Himself with those who can join the singing which He leads now that redemption is accomplished and that He is risen from the dead.
The hour when all this should be brought to pass being about to strike, the Lord said “Behold the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” That was the hour towards which eternity had looked forward in that the Lamb had been “foreordained before the foundation of the world.” That was the hour on which eternity shall look back wonderingly as “the Lamb as it had been slain” is seen in the midst of the throne while worshippers cast their crowns at His feet.
But we, who rest now in conscience because of the one sacrifice of Calvary, we, who have peace with God “through our Lord Jesus Christ,” are called to follow the steps of the Rejected One. We listen as He says
“Rise, let us be going,”
and again we find reference to His being betrayed, “Behold he is at hand that doth betray me.”
Judas—foul Judas, was near with his band. One who had been privileged to be associated with Him during the years of His ministry and who had been honoured in being numbered among his servants was about to give Him up into the hands of His foes. “One of you shall betray Me” had been the sorrowful utterance of the Son of God. Little did the apostles know who that one would be proved to be. Each asked “Is it I?” Did they fear that in some way they knew not of that dastardly act might be done by them? We know not. But let us remember that the “flesh” in them then and the “flesh” in us now is just the same evil “flesh” in its nature as it was in Judas the betrayer. But for grace any one of them or anyone of us might have done the darksome deed. And which of us has not found that “the flesh profiteth nothing” and that “the mind of the flesh is enmity against God.”
The Lord has not forgotten that this is the world of His refusal. In giving through His servant Paul, directions as to His holy Supper of remembrance we hear Him say “I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread.”
Let us not forget that that night of the world, the night of His betrayal is still running its course, though the last sand grains are falling in the glass. But we are not “of the night,” we are “of the day.”
Let us rise then and be going. Let us shake off all lethargy and go, in His company, apart from the world to which we do not belong even as He does not belong to it. And we may mark His words “Let us be going.” We have not to tread the way in strength of our own, He will be with us in every step of the path. We hear Him say “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” So taking courage we may face every foe.
We need the word of exhortation, do we not? The world around us would attract us, the flesh within would deceive us, the devil behind would beguile us; but in His presence known and enjoyed, we shalt be safe and able to serve Him who has called us to be for Him here, as He has called us to be with Him in the Father’s house to which He has gone.
And soon the world of hatred where He has been betrayed will be exchanged for the world of love where He has been welcomed. He Himself will come and His words will sound in our ears, “Rise up my love my fair one and come away” and we shall be “caught up” and be for ever with the Lord. Can we say from our hearts:—
“We welcome still Thy faithful word—
The cross shall meet its sure reward.
For soon must pass the little while,
Then joy shall crown Thy servant’s toil:
And we shall hear Thee, Saviour, say:
‘Arise my love and come away;
Look up, for thou shalt weep no more,
But rest on heaven’s eternal shore.’”