LONELINESS AND FEAR
Gracious, Loving God, you are my strength, my joy, and my song. I thank you for this day and praise you for your goodness.
Read MATTHEW 26:36-46
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
May our hearts be filled with compassion and our minds with gratitude. As we read today, may we appreciate Jesus even more.
It is time for Jesus to pray. One unnamed friend had provided him with the upper room, now another gives him access to an olive garden where he retreats with Peter, James, and John – men who witnessed the transfiguration. Jesus knows he is going to die a barbaric death. He must overcome his fear and place his trust in the Father. This is not easy. He wrestles in prayer, pleading three times for some other way. We see the agony and intensity of Jesus’ praying. Luke’s gospel describes it like sweating great drops of blood.1 He empties himself of any residual self-will before finally conceding ‘your will be done’ (v 42).
We see the loneliness of Gethsemane in this passage. The three disciples are asked to keep watch with him, but they fail miserably. When Jesus finds them sleeping he characteristically asks them now not to pray for him, but for themselves. Their lack of commitment to him in his hour of greatest need makes them more vulnerable to attacks from the evil one. The impact on Jesus is to increase his sense of isolation. He has to face the terror in the loneliness of his own soul. So, they sleep on, and Jesus disturbs them only when the time for his betrayal has come.
The disciples arise from their sleep; Jesus arises from his knees. They go on to an ordeal with which Jesus has wrestled, but for which the three others are completely unprepared. Jesus is ready, having been in deep prayer. This speaks to us of its great importance. Jesus has subordinated his own human will to God’s higher authority and found the peace that will enable him to face death. For us to be able to stand in defiant courage before evil, we too need first to have knelt in fervent prayer before God.
Let us pray today for all those who are wrestling with evil and injustice, and ask God to draw them close to the courage of Christ.
Lord Jesus, you are my High Priest and you are, even now, interceding for me. I ask for alertness and vigilance, so that I do not miss an opportunity you present to me.
1 Luke 22:44
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