Luke 22:39-46

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.

When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Luke 22:39-46

Our congregation sits right next door to a conservative synagogue, Brith Shalom. We share our parking lots. The last time we resurfaced our lot we set aside two handicapped spaces as close to the front doors of the synagogue as they could go. So, unlike the days before I came to Faith Lutheran Church, I am well aware of the arrival of the high holy days. The parking lot is packed.

Still, even as October rolls around and I know they are coming, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur kind of sneak up on me. And every time they do I am reminded again of how it must feel to live as a minority in a dominant culture. No one forgets that Christmas and Easter are coming!

I thought about the high holy days when I was surprised to see Jesus’ prayer with his disciples at the Mount of Olives. They were of the dominant culture in Israel. The religious calendar was aligned with their body clocks. They knew that Passover was coming. They knew what it meant. They knew it was an honor to celebrate it in Jerusalem. They expected the crowds. They just didn’t expect the crowds to turn on them or Jesus to redefine the Passover meal.

Tourists in Jerusalem today often stop their bus at the top of the Mount of Olives. They stand in a parking lot, looking across the valley to the old city on a hill. There will probably be a man there with a donkey trying to sell them photographs. And then they start walking down the hill. They stop at a garden full of ancient olive trees. They stop where Jesus and his disciples gathered to pray. I’ve been there. I helped lead a prayer service there. Of all the places in Israel, that is the place that I chose to help lead the worship service. More than anywhere else, that is the place that defines my understanding, my challenges, and my struggles as a pastor.

Jesus, human, earthly, fleshy Jesus, is terrified about what might happen next. In that garden he is not seen as a spiritual superstar, floating six inches above terra firma in a gown of white. He is a man and he is afraid. Yet he prays that God’s will be done, as difficult at that might prove to be. He doesn’t whisper the memorized words of a rhyming childhood prayer, he pours his guts out to God. And as he prays, his disciples sleep. Not because they are tired, Luke tells us, but because they too are aware that bad things could soon happen. They sleep because of their grief. Unlike Jesus, who takes his struggles directly to God’s heart, the disciples numb out in slumber.

This is the challenge in following Jesus. We read this story as the disciples. We read this story wanting, in our discipleship, to be more like Jesus and less like Peter. The temptation is to sleep and to deny, the challenge is to embrace the struggle and to pray for God’s help, that God’s will might be done.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, short cuts, easy ways out, the road most often traveled – these are the temptations of our lives. To keep our heads down, to stay out of trouble, to stay quiet in the face of injustice, to get along as we go along – these are the temptations of our lives. To lock you away behind the doors of our own high holy days and then to leave you behind as we skim the surface of life. These trials and temptations come. Lead us through them, that we might have the courage to follow. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Luke 22:39-46”

  1. Florence Says:

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