Monthly Archives: February 2010


The Garden of Gethsemane has always been one of my favorite passages of Scripture.  The most vivid description of it is found in the Gospel of Mark.

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’

Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ All of them deserted him and fled.

A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

Mark 14:32-52 (New Revised Standard Version)

It is interesting to me that in later Gospels, this story gets truncated.  In Luke, which most scholars agree was written after Mark, Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane was much briefer, and the sorrow and agony he experienced was not as graphic.  The Gospel of John, which most scholars agree was the last of the four Biblical gospels, does not include the agony in Gethsemane at all.

“Christ in Gethsemane” by Michael O’Brien. Go to for more from the artist.

I think this reflects an emotional response that is still common to people when they first read about Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane.  Here we have Jesus tormented and upset.  We have him begging his Father to let him pass from the cross.  It makes us uneasy.  It seems strange to think of Jesus having fears and doubts.  It makes us wonder how close he was to turning.  What would have happened if Jesus decided, “Not your will, but mine,” and left.  What if there had been no cross for Jesus?  In this moment of Jesus in Gethsemane, we can imagine it for a moment.  We wonder, with bated breath, what he will do.  This is unsettling.

Yet at the same time, this story of Jesus in Gethsemane may be the most important passage in all of the gospels.  It is here that Jesus is most human.  It is here that Jesus is most vulnerable.  And it is here that Jesus is most courageous.  What makes this passage so powerful is the idea that it could have gone either way.  We have the luxury of reading the gospels knowing the end of the story.  We know his decision.  We know how the story ends, but if we allow ourselves to enter the drama of the moment, we can see Jesus making the decision to go forward.

Jesus spent his ministry teaching about love.  Through word and deed Jesus showed us how to love God and to love one another.  He fed the hungry.  He healed the sick.  He invited the women and the children and the tax collectors and the sinners to come to his table.  He broke bread with the least and the lost and shared the cup of redemption with them all.  He crossed boundaries of race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, and class.  He challenged religious authority, and he scoffed at the pomposity and self-absorbed granduer.  He called out the hypocrites.  He admonished the scribes and the pharisees for their hardened hearts.  He brought a simple message: Love God, and love one another.

And for all of that – for the criticism and the invitiation and the healing and the challenge he represented to the comfortable and powerful – he knew he was going to the cross.  He knew if he stood up for all that he lived for, for all that he believed, for all that he held dear, he would be killed.  He knew that if he followed God’s will it would lead to a cross.  Not because God needed him to die, but because men could not allow him to live.  We would not allow him to live.

So he sat there in Gethsemane and he prayed.  He prayed for another way out.  He prayed in anguish.  He prayed as a man who could feel pain, who would be hurt by betrayal, who would be scarred by the scourge, and would bleed when nails were driven into his arms and legs.  He prayed as a man who knew that if he would follow God’s will, he would be charged, convicted, mocked, humiliated, abandoned, and nailed to a cross.  Knowing all of this full well he prayed, “Not my will, but yours.”  Then he rose and stood up for all that he had lived for.

Stengthened by his prayer and with the power of the Holy Spirit he stood, and he went to the cross.  He did not go as a lamb to the slaughter, for a lamb knows not where it is going.  He went as a man who had decided to follow God.  He went as a man that would endure a punishment he did not deserve.  He went as a man that would heal and forgive and love even to the very end.

Gethsemane reminds us that Jesus chose his fate, but more importantly, it reminds us that we choose our own as well.  When we see Jesus in agony in the garden, we know that we will face our own Gethsemane, but we will never do so alone.  Every day we have the choice.

We can follow the way of the world – we can be selfish, we can look out for number one, we can work hard to get what we deserve, we can acquire more stuff, we can ignore the outcast, we can condemn the poor, we can tread on the orphan and the widow, we can judge the sinner, and we can build our nice comfy walls which no one will breach accept those we deem worthy.

Or we can follow Jesus.  We can pray to God, “Not my will, but yours,” and mean it.  We can fail from time to time, but we can know that we are always struggling, like Jesus in the Garden, to do God’s will.  And we can do it knowing that as we struggle, as we are mocked, as we are belittled, as we fail, as we triumph, as we suffer and as we celebrate, Jesus is with us.

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Facebook Friends

So, as a middle-aged man living in rural Illinois, my days are not exactly filled with thrilling adventures. One of the most exciting moments of my day comes when I get on facebook and read the replies to all the witty comments and statusses (stati?) I wrote.  Nothing compares, however, to seeing that I have a Friend Request. 

Seriously, getting a friend request is the best.  It means that someone, somewhere saw my name and picture and thought, “Yeah, I want to be friends with that guy.”  The best part is the anticipation of the moment after clicking on the link, but before it is revealed who my new friend is.  Could this be some long-lost friend, some dear part of my past that will bring back a flood of memories, somebody I will exchange dozens of emails talking about old times, and possibly even meet for a beer on a coming Friday night?  Is it a youth from a church I used to serve, seeking my advice or coming to tell me how I was a positive influence in their life?  Or is it some guy I went to grade school with, but have not talked to in 20 years, and was really doing just fine not talking to him. 

Right now, I have 319 facebook friends (after reading this, I might have fewer).  They can be roughly categorized like this:

“Who?”  These are the people that you have to check “mutual friends” to narrow things down a little.  This is the guy you had a class with your junior year, but never really talked to.  This is the girl that was your roommate’s girlfriend’s friend that came over one time.  This is the fraternity brother that was a freshman when you were a senior and you didn’t live in the house, or it might actually be someone’s little brother who you partied with once.  Basically, this is the worst friend request.  You feel obligated to accept, because ignoring friend requests is just rude, but you haven’t seen this guy in 15 years, and you’re not exactly sure you want him to see pictures of your family.  These don’t happen too much.  Of my 319 friends, I’d estimate that I didn’t have any idea who about a dozen of them were at first request.  I think a couple of them have actually removed me since then.  How funny would it be if you got an update everytime someone removed you as a friend.  How’d you like to have “Josh Smith has removed you as a friend” on your live feed. 

“I remember that guy”  These are the people that you once were friends with, but honestly had not thought about this person in years.  You were on a team together.  You had a few classes together.  You worked in the same office for a year or two.  You said “hi” to each other in the hall, but you knew nothing personal about the person.  The last time you talked, it was when they signed your yearbook, and it said “It was nice knowing you.  Have a fun summer.  Good luck in college.”  And it says “college” because they didn’t know where you were going to school. 

This is someone you add because if you bumped into them at Easy Street Pub or the Village Tavern, you would want to be able to look them in the eye.  And you have about 30 mutual friends and they might post pictures from HS of friends you had that will make you laugh.  You might right on their wall once after becoming friends.  You might make a comment or two on their status if you can think of something clever.  You do not exchange messages or comment on pictures.  You might be in their mafia.  Of my 319 friends, I would roughly estimate that 50 of them fall into this category.

“Casual Friends.”  This the person that, when you shared something in common, you were pretty good friends.  When you were in the same office, or in the same fraternity, or on the same team, you hung out some.  You went out after work a few times.  You ran in the same circle.  But when life changed, you drifted apart.  You graduated and went to college.  You graduated and got jobs in different cities.  You moved.  She moved.  You have her email, but it ends in .edu, and you doubt it still works.  Your first comment after accepting the request is, “It’s great to see you on facebook.  We should catch up.”  But you don’t.  Well, maybe you do a little, but you don’t really say anything more than is already on your profile.  “I live in —–, I’ve been married for ——, I work for ——-”  That’s about it.  I probably have another 100 of these friends.

“Family.”  You have to add these people.  If you are related in any way, you have to be their friend.  Even if you only see them at funerals and weddings.  Even if you see them less then that.  When a relative – and marriage counts – adds you, you must accept.  You will probably get a dozen invitations from them to join “My Family,” or “We’re related” or some stupid application like that.  I ignore all of those.  Upon becoming friends, your first post was “Hey Aunt —–, so you finally joined Facebook.  How’s cousin ——–?  Tell Uncle —— I said ‘hi.'”

“Historic Friends”  These are the friend requests we are all waiting for.  These are the guys that stood up at your wedding.  This is the guy that slept over at your house when you were kids.  This is the girl that you kind of liked, but never asked out.  These are the people we write on their wall, “It’s great to see you on facebook.  We should catch up.”  And then you actually do with a few exchanged messages, and maybe a chat or two.  If they’re not online, you look at the profile and find out if they are a Democrat, or if they turned into an a-hole (I think I just lost a few friends).  You check out their pictures, especially the album titled “Old School.”  You form a carefully crafted comment on their status, and hope to God that they respond with LOL or a funny emoticon. 

“Uncomfortable Friends”  These are the friends that you kind of lost on purpose.  This is your ex-girlfriend that crushed you, or the one that you crushed.  This is the your roommate that stole your CDs, or you stole his.  This is the guy you were with when you did that thing that you have been trying to forget for years.  You add them, but hope to God they never comment on anything.  They don’t.

“Current Aquaintances” – This is the guy you work with.  This is the one that you think about before you post a link or tell a joke.  This person is the reason you removed the tag of yourself on that picture from college of you and the bra and the boa and the cigarette and the wig and the girl that is definately not your wife (and the garbage can full of “Jungle Juice”).  These are people you don’t know that well, but you don’t want them to think you’re a perv or a drunk or a jerk.  You know that if post something insensitive or stupid, you are guaranteed to bump into this person at the store or in the hall, and you don’t want to deal with his condescending voice or her Judgy McHolierthanthou look. 

“Actual Friends” – These are people you are currently actually friends with.  You communicate with them in ways other than facebook.  You have actual conversations on the phone or face-to-face.  If facebook ceased to exist, your relationship would probably not change much.

These are the main sets – every one of your friends probably fits into one of these categories.  There is little overlap.  Below are some subsets.  People can belong to one, more, or none of these groups.  Feel free to add some in the comments section.


The Political Guy: Every status, link and group they invite you to is called either “Obama is an idiot” or “Healthcare reform now”

The Religious Guy: Bible verses for status, groups called “I bet I can find one million people that love Jesus.”

The Networking Guy: Invitations to join his company’s page.  Updates regularly about his company.

The Funny Guy: Every status is funny.  Subsets of this subset may include Pun Guy, Movie Quote Guy, Deep Thoughts Guy

The Mom: 375 posted pictures of the kids. Status updates are about kids.  Groups include “I bet I can find a billion Mommies that love their kids.”

The Drunk College Guy/Girl: 575 pictures of self at various parties, occasionally on boat, sometimes in swimsuit, always with cup.

Blogger Guy: Constantly pushing his website on people.  Has 100 networked blogs followers, and thinks he’s a syndicated columnist.

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