Tuesday, July 31st. Mark 14:32-42

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.” Mark 14:32-42

 

I had the blessing of visiting the Holy Land on a pilgrimage with an ecumenical group of pastors.  We began and ended each day in worship.  And we were divided into teams of two to plan additional times for prayer and worship at the various holy sites we visited.  I was teamed up with a Baptist pastor to lead our time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

 

Like many of the holy sites, there was a little shadow of “Did what we remember really happen here or has this always been a convenient place to gather tourists?”  (It is hard for a natural skeptic to let go of his skepticism.)  But that quickly went away when we started to pray.

 

We were there.  On that spot.  Of all the places we visited, it was at the Garden of Gethsemane where I needed to pray.  For my faith needs this story of the garden.

 

The other garden story I know too well – the story of being surrounded by all of the goodness and blessing that God would graciously throw my way, only to throw it all away for one juicy bite of the one fruit I was told not to touch.  That story I know far too well.

 

Like Paul in Romans 7, I’m an expert at knowing what not to do but doing it anyway, and knowing what to do but choosing not to do it.  I understand the desire to do the good and the shock at discovering myself heading the other direction.  I know that garden story intimately.

 

So I need this other garden story to make sense of life.  I need to know that, while all of us followers of Jesus surrender not to service but to sleep, that Jesus remains awake.  I need to know that Jesus was as torn about his purpose as we are, nevertheless he took the cup that was his alone to take.

 

I don’t remember much of anything about the prayer service we led in the Garden of Gethsemane.  But I do remember saying “Thank you.”

 

Let us pray:  Lord, you encourage us to pray, command us to stay awake, and yet we fail, again and again and again.  So we pray yet again for forgiveness, seventy times seventy times seventy we pray.  And again we awake to find you standing near us, standing for us, still sending us, still entrusting us with the privilege of bearing your name to the world.  May your will be done.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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