Updated: Aug 30, 2019
So I'm sure by now, most of you have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether you grew up in church, studied it in school, ran across a stray bible verse one day, or heard it from a friend, you've probably heard a little something like Jesus loves you so much that He died for your sins, that Jesus is God's Son, that He rose again three days later, that Jesus performed many miracles. And if you don't have a relationship with Him personally, you probably read that as boring as I wrote it. Some of you have heard it so much that it's almost like a cliche. It's almost like a "Jesus loves me and blah blah blah." But, the truth is, no matter how many times you've heard it, or even if you've never heard this at all, it's a really big deal. This Perfect Man took a look at our messy, sinful lives and actually died for it before we could even get it together. That's love, and I mean real love. This is something that makes Jesus far more than just a "nice guy." But, even in my amazement, some of you are still waiting for me to tell you something you don't know, something that most of our traditional Sunday school lessons probably don't focus a lot on. While we've been taught all about the day of Jesus' death, we very rarely talk about the night before His death. I'm not talking about the miracles - lepers cleansed, the lame walking, the dead living. That's too far back. No, I'm talking about the very night before Jesus did what He came to do. The very night before His purpose on earth here was fulfilled.
Before we continue, I pinky swear this isn't a bible lesson. I know that you know the story. I know that you think you've heard it all before. But, by the end of this post, I hope you'll realize what 'the night before' means for all of us - what 'the night before' actually symbolizes.
Do you know that Jesus actually lived to die? YES. It's true! His purpose was actually to save us from our sins. This then means that we weren't sent to save us from our sins. (Do you recall reading: "It is finished"?) So, the question then becomes, what exactly were we sent for? If it is finished and our sins are paid for, why are we here? If we weren't born to die, what were we born to do?
For me, I was born to write. While I've known that since I was eight years old, I started to believe it my freshman year of high school when I began writing a book I had no idea would be published earlier this year. It took me four challenging years to transfer that book from a ten-year-old computer to an actual novel, with pages I can actually turn through instead of scroll past. There's no guessing that four years can test a girl's patience, grind your girl's gears, and stress a sis out. All types of fear were stirring within me. I ate doubt every day for dinner and snacked on every temptation to quit. And I often became very frustrated at the timing of my sudden worrying and anguish. Here I was about to take a huge dive into the very thing I was born to do, and everything in my body was pushing me backwards, begging me to give into my own, powerless will. Feeling sick to my stomach, I told God I was in no position to publish a book. I was crying tears I didn't even know I had in me. But in a desperate attempt to remind myself what He did for me on the cross, hoping that reading the story of Jesus' death will bring me to some sort of peace, I accidentally came across something Jesus wanted me to understand from the beginning: You always have to go through the night in order to see the morning.
"He [Jesus] took Peter and Zebedee's two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, 'My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." - Matthew 26:37-38 NLT
This passage of scripture documents the emotions of Jesus the night before He did the very thing He was sent to do. If you notice, He wasn't joyful. He wasn't excited. In fact, The Bible records Him saying that His spirit was willing, but His flesh was weak. This means He wanted to do what God called him to, but being a human being, His emotions troubled Him. My Jesus knew what it was like to have anxiety in a moment where He needed to feel triumphant. And, it's in this passage of scripture where I relate to Jesus the most.
Can't we all, though? Don't we all feel that same trouble, that same anguish the night before we do what we were born to do? I'm talking about the night before our big game, the night before our album drops, the night before our movie premieres, the night before our book is published, the night before our dream, our purpose, becomes a striking reality.
I haven't heard a testimony yet where someone was about to step into their destiny and they actually felt good about it. No musician I follow had high spirits the night before they released their music. No director I'm a fan of felt confident before their movie premiered worldwide. Though I can't say I care too much about sports, no player I've listened to have said that they sat in their locker room without feeling any pre-game defeat. If they have, they had to do something to lead up to their confidence - i.e., listening to music, stretching, going through the plays. But because I'm not an athlete, and many of you may not be as well, I had to find a routine for myself to survive the dark night before my big game - which was a published book. By God's grace, I did. And this routine not only works for me and will not only work for you, but it worked for Jesus.
Each gospel - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - gives their own account of what Jesus did the night before He died. Matthew and Mark record His emotions - His anguish and trouble. Luke and John highlight what He did to survive the night. And what did He do? He prayed. In fact, Luke says that He prayed so vigorously that His sweat began to drop on the ground like blood. Mind you, Jesus' soul was so grieved to the point of death that this is how He had to pray. Though He felt weak and at the end of His rope, He prayed so hard, without ceasing, until His body was drenched in sweat. Doesn't that say something about the night before our fulfillment of purpose? Isn't that suggesting how we should survive the night?
Because if He can pray at His point of death, we can pray at our point of destiny. If He can face the cross the next morning, we can face the game. And Christ even shows us how to pray in John 17 when the night gets darker and the morning seems farther away. He first prayed for Himself. (What does that say about how WE should pray?) He then prayed for His closest friends. (In fact, He asked them to stay and pray with Him. You don't think Jesus is saying we should pray with our friends too, do you?) He then prays for all the people who did and will believe in Him, for the people who His death will save.
So, when you're in the night before the plan for your life is fulfilled, do what Jesus did. Pray for yourself. You need it. Pray for your friends, even if they aren't praying for you. (Did you know the disciples fell asleep when Christ asked them to pray?) And lastly, pray for the people your purpose will touch. I'm referring to the little boy in the stands at your football game watching you, wearing your jersey, hoping to be like you. I'm referring to the quiet girl who - little does she know - is waiting for you to publish your book, not knowing that it's your book that will make her confident. I'm talking about the kid, an aspiring musician, who always has headphones on, who needs to hear your music to kickoff their destiny. Pray for them like Jesus prayed for us. After all, His purpose was for our victory. His night was for our morning. Do you think that the anxiety we feel the night before may be for someone else's peace?
And when Christ prayed, Luke 22:43 NIV says, "An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him." Don't you think God wants to send us our angel now? Don't you think that God knows the morning we each have ahead of us? Because God knew that Jesus' next morning consisted of His friends sleeping on Him while He prayed, His friends deserting Him once He was captured by His enemies, betraying Him, denying Him, strangers mocking Him, spitting on Him, crucifying Him, and finally bringing Him to His death. And even then, it took three days before Christ was glorified and seated at the right hand of God. So yeah, it may take a few lost games before you win your trophy. It may take a few bad reviews on your movie until it's rated the #1 movie worldwide. Yeah, it could take a few SoundCloud mixtapes before a record company takes you seriously. Even when the morning comes, you may still have to wait for the sun. But it'll come. Jesus Himself will tell you, as He sits at the right hand of God, it'll come.
So, if you're feeling anything like how Jesus felt the night before He died, anything like how I felt the night (did I mention my night was a figurative term for a year?) before my book was available on Amazon, you're probably just moments away from watching your purpose unfold. And, it will be great. It will be as promising as God said. It will bring significance to your long night.