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

The best stories are the ones that draw you in, won’t let you go, and never run out of meanings. You read them – you feel like you are right there – you ponder them – and you keep seeing something new.

Jesus takes his friends to a garden. Today, it is a fenced in grove of olive trees. Ancient olive trees. The trees give you a sense…that you are THERE where it happened. Your mind reaches back to the very beginning. To another garden where all was well. But all is no longer well.

The olive branch is a symbol of peace. From this garden the Prince of Peace will soon be cast out to get a dying lesson in what peace looks like in the land ruled by the Roman army.

Jesus prays. His prayer, the intimacy in how he addresses God, reveals his humanity. He is torn, distraught, full of grief. Then he says it, the words which echo through history, “yet, not what I want, but what you want.

This is the prayer of a leader. This is what leaders look like. Self-giving, servant-hearted, love.

But leaders cannot be leaders without followers. And this is not the finest hour for those following Jesus. They can’t stop falling asleep. They’ve been told “stay awake” but they just can’t pull it off.

Their slumber is part of what draws us into the story. Wanting better from them turns inward and suggests that we ought to want better from ourselves. To stay awake, alert, prepared. But we know how we are – the burdens and cares of life, the times of trial – overwhelm us and we just want to sleep in. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is still weak.

Meanwhile, the Roman SWAT team assembles, every soldier grabbing their precious instruments of war, preparing to march smartly into the garden of peace, to assert their dominance over a single Jewish peasant who wishes no one harm.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, penetrate our spirits with the prayer of Jesus. Not our wills but your will be done, in our lives, in our world, despite the cost. Rouse us from our slumber that we might stay awake. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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