The next few posts are going to be a running devotional, reading through the Gospel of Mark, with short commentary and prayer. I will post several of these over the next few days, leading up to the Easter.
Jesus and his disciples came to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John along with him. He began to feel despair and was anxious. He said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert.” Then he went a short distance farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if possible, he might be spared the time of suffering. He said, “ Abba, Father, for you all things are possible. Take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”
He came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “ Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you stay alert for one hour? stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.”
Again, he left them and prayed, repeating the same words. And, again, when he came back, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open, and they didn’t know how to respond to him. He came a third time and said to them, “ Will you sleep and rest all night? That’s enough! The time has come for the Human One to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let’s go! Look, here comes my betrayer.”
Suddenly, while Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came with a mob carrying swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests, legal experts, and elders. His betrayer had given them a sign: “Arrest the man I kiss, and take him away under guard.”
As soon as he got there, Judas said to Jesus, “Rabbi!” Then he kissed him. Then they came and grabbed Jesus and arrested him. One of the bystanders drew a sword and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his ear. Jesus responded, “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me, like an outlaw? Day after day, I was with you, teaching in the temple, but you didn’t arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” And all his disciples left him and ran away. One young man, a disciple, was wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They grabbed him, but he left the linen cloth behind and ran away naked. (Common English Bible)
I’ve written before on this blog that Gethsemane is the most important part of the gospel story to me. It is the linchpin of the gospels. It is the moment that starts the passion. If you enter the story for the first time, then the ending is still up in the air until Gethsemane. While in the garden, Jesus still has options. He could run. He could go into hiding. He could gather arms. He could resist the mob coming to get him. The men that he was with might not have been able to stay awake, but they probably would have been willing to fight. The options for Jesus are open while he prays in the garden, but he also knows clearly which path is the way of God.
He wishes there to be another way. He wants to avoid the pain, humiliation, and torture that comes with the cross. He was a man. He was a man that could suffer. He knows that his mission lies not in running away. His mission lies not in fighting. His mission is that of standing up and facing what the crowd would throw at him. It is in the garden that he stands up for what he had lived for. He stands up, and chooses the will of God. The rest of the story is decided when Jesus stands in the garden and faces his betrayer.
It is not an easy story to hear, but it is one we must face if we are to truly understand the extent of humanity’s ability to do evil. It is one we must face if we are to see the extent God is willing to go for love. It is one we must face if we are to catch a glimpse of just how amazing grace really is.
Holy and Gracious God, it is easy to become weary. We seem to live in a constant state of tiredness. The world presses in on us. Fears and doubts wear us out. It would be so welcome to lie down and sleep. You remind us though, to stay awake. Strengthen us to stand up when it is needed. Help us to stand up for justice. Help us to stand up for grace. And when we fall asleep, wake us up, and help us rise again. Amen.