Day 1 (Sunday, March 18)
There are three occasions in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus prayed. Once at the beginning, when Jesus sought solitude after a hectic day of healing and teaching (1:35). A second time, in the middle, when, after feeding the five thousand, Jesus went alone up the mountain to pray (6:46). The third time, near the end, is our focus for reflection this morning. It is the only time that we’re given Jesus’ prayer words. Each time he prayed, he went to an isolated place at either an early or a late hour.
PREPARE TO LISTEN. Be still and silent and pray: With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments. (Psalm 119:10)
READ: Mark 14:32-42 Station 2: Mt of Olives (Gethsemane) ‘Stay Awake’
32They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ 33He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ 35And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want. 37He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ 39And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41He 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. 42Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’
Gethsemane, as it turned out, was Jesus’ last opportunity to be alone with his disciples. He wouldn’t be alone with them again until after his resurrection. And yet, he only took three, Peter, James and John, with him to pray, commanding the others to sit and wait for his return. Mark uses strong language to describe Jesus—distressed and agitated. One commentator suggests this could be translated as “the utmost degree of unbounded horror and suffering” (quoted in Meyers, Binding the Strong Man. 1991, p. 366). Jesus described his feelings with honest and vulnerable words: “deeply grieved, even to death.” He didn’t go to the cross with a beatific smile on his face. He was fully aware of what he would experience. It horrified and terrified him to such an extent that he prayed, three times for God to find another way: “remove this cup from me;” always adding, “yet, not what I want, but what you want.” The cross isn’t the neutral ornamental symbol we hang around our necks or on our walls, as helpful as that may be for some of us. Jesus knew the cross was the most cruel and painful form of execution ever invented by man.
What did Jesus want from the three disciples he brought with him to his hour of deep need and anguish? Just one thing: Stay awake! He wanted someone to stay awake with him in his grief and suffering. And they couldn’t do it.
What always gets my attention in this story is its ending. After such anguished praying, expressing his desire for another, less painful way, the story ends with Jesus walking confidently and willingly to the cross. His prayer wasn’t answered as he desired, yet his willingness remained sure. He didn’t get what he asked for, neither did he get the support from his closest friends, instead he got courage to do what he came for.
Who are the suffering around you? What needs to change so you can you stay awake and watch with Jesus in their suffering?
RESPOND TO JESUS IN PRAYER
Lord Christ, grant me patience and courage to stay awake and be with you in the suffering of those around me. May I take courage from your example of accepting the Father’s will despite what you wanted. Amen.
GO AND LIVE IN OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST who lived in obedience to his Father.