Tag Archives: gethsemane

Thursday-Friday Devotional, part 4

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.
SCRIPTURE

Mark 14:32-51

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)

REFLECTION

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.

PRAYER

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.

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Gethsemane

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 http://www.studiobrien.com/ 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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