January 17, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking today’s good news from Matthew 26:42-46.
Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”
Back and forth, back and forth. It seems that Jesus was acutely divided between his human and divine natures each tugging in opposing directions. One that wished to cling to life on earth and one that looked forward to becoming one with his Father again in heaven. I think that’s how we all are. I’ve been with people who realize they are nearing the end of their lives. Some speak of their readiness for death and entry into eternal life, but yet they have a difficult time letting go of life. Our will to live is extraordinary and given to us by God. So, too, is our will to be reunited with Him. It seems that fear is the barrier between the two. Fear seems to govern much of our lives even to the very end. It seems that even Jesus felt fear as the hour of his apprehension, torture, and death was at hand. He asked God to deliver him from his fate, to forestall his death a while longer, but always in the context of his desire to do God’s will.
After the third time of praying, Jesus was able to penetrate the barrier of fear and accept God’s will. He surely prayed for strength and fortitude and courage in order to fulfill God’s will. At any rate, he was ready for what lay ahead and told his disciples to rouse themselves. At the end of his commentary on this passage Barclay writes, “In prayer a man enters heaven that he may face the battles of earth.” For me that well captures this moment when Jesus’ human and divine natures joined forces.
John Sanford in The Kingdom Within adds that prayer “opens up the way for the individual to reach the kingdom of God.” Jesus had spent his ministry preaching that the good news, the kingdom of God, was at hand. Now, in prayer, he chose the way to reach God’s eternal kingdom.
I hope that when the hour of my death approaches that I will have the presence of mind to pray for acceptance of God’s will, for eager readiness to reach the kingdom of God. Mainly I hope that through my prayer God will grant me the power to defeat the fear of dying that I may enjoy peace in my final moments.
That’s all well and good and appropriate. However, Jesus is saying to me today, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?” I should be praying like this every day because I don’t know when the hour of my death will come. More importantly, though, I should be always praying for acceptance of and submission to God’s will. I should always be embracing an eagerness to reach His heavenly kingdom. And in prayer, in communion with God, I will be rewarded with peace just as Jesus was every day in the years leading to his death.