Maundy Thursday – April 9, 2020
Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”
Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.
So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”Matthew 26:36-46 (NLT)
I think Jesus praying in the garden this is one of the most harrowing passages in the Bible. His emotional turmoil is so visible. It is like watching an accident in slow motion. Until this time he knew in the abstract that his mission was to accept ridicule, abuse, and death as a ransom for us. But in the garden the abstract became real.
Peter also would go through a harrowing time in the courtyard while Jesus was being questioned by the Sanhedrim. He was repeatedly accused of being one of Jesus’ followers. Emotionally, he was clearly torn. He wanted to be close to Jesus, but he did not want to get arrested. His plan was to watch from a place of safety. But the courtyard was not safe. Suddenly the danger became real.
Both men confronted peril. One faced his. The other did not.
One theory about Jesus was that he had no personal fear. Rather, his distress was due to his taking on himself the tremendous burden of human sin. In part, yes. But I think the account is better explained as that of a person confronting a nightmare and going forward regardless. I think the power of Jesus’ example comes from the fact that he had a choice. He could easily have slipped away before Judas came with a crowd. But he did not. A choice. Driven by love.
Peter also had a choice. A get out of jail free card. Just deny that he knew Jesus. Deny it with an oath. What follower denies his leader with an oath? He made that choice and it worked. Peter walked away from the courtyard free. A choice. Driven by fear.
Fortunately for us, Peter grew beyond his fear and led the start of the Christianity.
We also are facing danger. We also have choices. We can deny the danger and move about like there is no viral threat. Or we can face it head-on and do the one thing that works, shelter-in-place. We can be selfish and have no regard for others. Or we can embrace the time at home and reach out to others. We can call one another and pray for one another and sew masks and wear them. This is a harrowing time for us. But as a church, we are facing this time and finding ways to make the best of it. We have an example. Jesus, our Lord.
Stay in touch. Share your needs. Let us help. Amen.