May 3, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Mark 14:32-42.
Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him, Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.” He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Withdrawing again, he prayed saying the same thing. Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him. He returned a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
This is Jesus in his most human aspect, the man with whom I can most identify. This seems to me the whole reason God took material form in the person of Jesus. To live with us as us with all the joys and agonies that life presents us and to show that despite troubling, seemingly unbearable difficulties we can still submit our wills to God’s will. We can do it because Jesus did even though intensely distressed and sorrowful at the prospect of giving up life as we know it. Jesus didn’t pray just once that his impending suffering and death pass him by, though; he asked his Father three times before finally coming to acceptance.
It is sad, yes, but also inspiring. Unburdening himself in prayer with his Father, Jesus laid bare his soul and shared his fear, his sorrow, his disappointment, his longing to carry on. He pleaded with God to make things different, to change the course of his destiny. Maybe he even bargained with God. In that intimate communing with his Father whom he called “Abba” — the only time this term of affection is used in any of the gospels, he found peace, clarity, and fortitude. He trusted in his Father’s love for him as if he were saying, “I am your son; I will do as you ask knowing that you only want what is best for me.”
Through his prayer, his communing, with his Father, Jesus was empowered to carry on, to do his Father’s will. That’s the lesson for me here. Though my spirit may be willing, my flesh is weak as Jesus noted. It can only be strengthened, empowered to resist temptation and submit to God’s will if I spend time communing with God in prayer and coming to the peace of understanding that He only wants what is best for me. It is His love, His desire for my well being that inspires me to want to please Him, to do His will, to be part of His kingdom.
It may be strange since this is the beginning of his passion, but this is one of my favorite passages. It is so full of everything that makes me human and also a son of God. In this passage it seems to me that Jesus fulfilled his Father’s mission — if only I am convinced of both His love and His desire for the best for me by submitting my will to His.