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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, August 30, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 14:27–42

And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,

    ‘I will strike the shepherd,
    and the sheep will be scattered.’

But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same.

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.” (NRSV)

The story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is unsettling. Read it over a few times. It’s almost more disturbing to read it now, rather than when we usually hear it in the days leading up to Good Friday.

On one hand, I’m comforted, knowing that Jesus, the one I name as my savior and the one I hope to follow, knows the kind of human despair we face when we are called to live through a life event that is terrifying. “Abba Father, remove this cup from me”: Jesus was suffering and offered his suffering to God, his Creator. It appears that Jesus was suffering and dreading what was to come. I am comforted because this story reminds me that my God knows what human suffering and dread and fear is—and feels it.

On the other hand, the disciples and their disengagement unnerves me. Jesus was so alone in his despair. I wonder if they knew the suffering Jesus was feeling way down deep but couldn’t handle it because it scared them. So they tuned out. And stepped away.

I suspect that you have had both experiences. Despair that scared you so much you wondered how you would take the next step. A feeling as though absolutely no one else was there for you. I also suspect that you have done what I’ve done so many times: tuned out because I couldn’t handle the suffering—of the world, or of one of my friends, or of one of my family members. Couldn’t even remember to pray for and with them.

So this passage is unsettling, because it brings up all sorts of reminders of the human condition. But it is comforting too, because it reminds me that sometimes prayer is all I can do, that the God I know in Jesus Christ has experienced suffering and knows my suffering, and that despite my tuning out over and over again, Jesus comes to me and still invites me along, saying, “Are you still sleeping? Get up and let’s go.”

Dear Jesus, take my hand and lead me on. Give me courage and open my eyes. Help me stay with you. Thank you for staying with me. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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