Keller uses this chapter as a platform to describe the importance and beauty of the obedience of Christ, hence the title of the chapter, “The Obedient Master.” Keller looks at the scene just before the crucifixion of Christ, the scene at the garden of Gethsemane. Keller claims that this scene presents more information about the death of Christ than most realize and there is a clear response to the story. While at a glance, the story appears to provide context to the next seemingly more important story simply, one must recognize that every narrative in the Gospels provides insight and wisdom for the Christian life.
The first note Keller makes from the scene of the garden of Gethsemane is the amount of pain Christ felt during this time. The grief, fatigue, pain, weariness, and sorrow that Christ felt in the garden was terrible, such that no other man is capable of understanding what Christ went through. According to the Greek text, Christ experienced an intense emotion filled with perplexity and shock, yet many English versions translate the text as describing Christ as simply “deeply distressed.” As Christ caught a glimpse of the pain coming his way, he was dumbfounded. He was looking at a death that would be different than any man had ever known. While martyrs throughout history have been known for facing torture and death with grace and a surprising lack of fear, Christ began to sweat blood.
Christ prayed that the Lord would take “this cup” from him. Keller describes how “the cup” was symbolic of more than a mode of drinking. In ancient days, “the cup” was seen as the modern equivalent of the electric chair. Socrates drank from “the [poisonous] cup” as his execution. Ezekiel and Isaiah refer to the cup as God’s judicial wrath. Christ’s death was different from the rest of humanity because he was facing “the cup,” the full judicial wrath of God. Christ was separated from the perfect relationship he had with the Father for all eternity, meaning he experienced both the absence of love and the entire wrath of God. He passively received the wrath of God, the wrath that humanity deserved to face.
The second note Keller makes from the scene of the garden of Gethsemane is that Christ served a life in complete obedience to the Father. Jesus did not just passively absorb the punishment that humanity deserved, he actively lived in perfect obedience in a manner that humanity could not. Jesus died the death humanity deserved and lived the life humanity was supposed to live. Christ lived a great life of love and fidelity, the one mankind was supposed to live to be in the blessings of God.. The entirety of Christ's life embodied “Thy will be done,” in the way humanity was supposed to. Christ submitted perfectly to the Father’s will, even unto a gruesome death. Even when Christ was forsaken (Matthew 27:46), he still obeyed the Father. Belief in Christ allows the believer to be seen as righteous, meaning that believers are seen as living the perfect life that Christ lived and not just as having had the punishment for life covered.
(!) Something Helpful
Jesus not only died the death we should have died in order to take the law’s curse for us, but he also lived the great life of love and fidelity we should have lived in order to earn God’s blessing for us.
(Keller, p. 158)
Christ took on the curse of sin for us and gave God's blessing to us. Jesus lived the perfect life that we could never live. He did what we could never do. Many often talk about how Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice for the sin of man; however, he did much more. He faced every temptation we face, every pain we feel, and every feeling we know, but he lived a life in perfect obedience to the will of the Father. Because Christ is our mediator and our advocate, we are seen as living the life that Christ lived and not just dying the death that he died. We are free from the shackles of sin because Christ lived a perfect life. We are seen as holy and righteous before God because of Christ’s obedience. Remembering Christ, the God of the universe and Lord over all things, was willing to submit to the will of the Father, to become the obedient master, should spark hope and joy in our lives. We are not perfect, but Christ was. We sinned and rebelled against God, but Christ did not. Christ lived in perfect submission, so that is how the Father will see our lives.
(?) Something to Think About
Now, what difference does this make for us? How does it help us, to see Jesus suffer something we will never experience? First, Jesus in the garden is an unparalleled model of integrity. . . . Second, this is not only a great model for integrity, it is a great model for prayer. . . . Third, in the garden we have a tremendous example of patience with people.
(Keller, p. 166-167)
Keller very clearly articulates what should be considered after understanding the scene in the garden of Gethsemane. The life of Christ is more than a sacrificial one. He models integrity, prayer, and patience. Even in the dark, even when no one is looking, even when given the chance to escape, am I doing the right thing? Am I the same person in private and in public? Does my prayer life reflect a pattern of bending God’s will to my own or molding my will into his? In the most agonizing points of my life, am I still gracious, encouraging, and uplifting towards those whom the Lord has placed in my life?
(.) Something to Do
The Lord says, “I will never leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). This is the love you have been looking for all of your life. . . . And if this love of active obedience is an active reality in your life, you will be a person of integrity; you will be a person of prayer; you will be kind to people who mistreat you. If you have this love, you will be a little more like him.
(Keller, p. 169-170)
This chapter challenges readers to look beyond just the sacrifice of Christ and recognize the obedience of Christ, even unto the point of death on the cross. We are called to live in the same obedience to the Lord’s will. We should begin to look more and more like him as we draw closer and closer to him.
Daily, prayerfully thank Christ for his sacrifice and his perfect life of obedience on earth so that we may be seen as clean and righteous before the Father.
Seek an accountability partner who can correct you when you act differently in public versus how you act in private.
Spend daily time in God’s Word and silently listening to the Lord, allowing you to focus on changing your prayer life to be less demanding and more listening so you may conform your life to consistently declaring “Thy will be done!”
Seek opportunities to serve others more, showing them the love and patience of Christ, even when they mistreat you.
Questions to Ask Your Cell Group
What are some ways you often find yourself acting differently in public versus in private? Do you honor the will of the Father even when no one is watching? What temptations in your life cause you to stray from God’s will when no one is looking?
What does your prayer life look like? Do you go to God to ask him to conform to your own will or do you go to God asking that he reveal his will so that you may follow it? What parts of the Lord’s will are challenging for you to follow?
When others mistreat you in times of ease, how do you respond? When others mistreat you in times of agony, how do you respond? How does Christ respond in the garden of Gethsemane? How can you model this in your own life?