Good Morning! A word about these devotion times – for me, this starts my day immersed in scripture. And that is a very good thing! I hope that it is useful for you as well.
Mark 14:32 – 42
32They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” 37He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41He 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. 42Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
Gethsemane means a place for pressing olives – there are still ancient olive groves in the area known today as the Garden of Gethsemane, on the side of the Mount of Olives. There is a chapel there today, built around an area of natural stone, said to be the place where Jesus prayed. There are people on the street outside the walls of the garden hawking their wares, and the area inside is crowded; the trees themselves are fenced off; so many tourists come through that they would soon be denuded of leaves and bark if they were not. The garden is tended by monks who live in the attached monastery, behind the walls. And yet, in spite of all this, there is a sense of peace there. We walked around the garden, prayed in the chapel – perhaps, at the very place where Jesus prayed – and then we gathered on the steps of the chapel and read this scripture and sang a hymn.
Jesus went to the garden that night – his heart was troubled and this was the place where he met with God when he came from Jerusalem every evening. On this night he left behind the other disciples, and brought with him his dearest friends, Peter, James, and John. He told them to watch and wait – and he went on a little further – and there he threw himself on the ground and poured out his heart to his Father! Jesus knew that what was coming would be hard, would be painful – his soul was grieved, even to death. He asked the Father to remove this cup from him – three times he prayed this prayer. And yet, three times he also closed with “Yet, not what I want, but what you want.” This is one place where I prefer the King James translation, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” Jesus included the “nevertheless” – here’s what I want God, but nevertheless, I want to do what you will. Do we include the “nevertheless” in our prayers? Do we try to follow God’s will rather than our own? even when it is far from what we wanted?
After he prayed, Jesus went back to Peter, James, and John – and he found them sleeping! These, who had said they would be with him, even to death, could not even stay awake and pray with him for one hour! Throughout Mark’s gospel the disciples have been stubborn, misunderstanding, failing followers of Jesus; this last night is no exception. Now, I don’t know about you, but I actually find this encouraging – these saints who became the foundation of the church were as stumbling, as human, as broken, as I am, and they failed as often! It would later be the power of the Spirit working through them that made the difference. And so, we all pray for that power, that God will somehow use us!
Three times Jesus prayed, and three times he found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. Finally, Jesus said, “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.” The time had come; the scripture would be fulfilled. Jesus had prayed for the cup to be removed – it had not been. And yet, Jesus had been strengthened, given the resolve to continue on the path he had to take. Sometimes, our prayers are not answered with what we wish, but they are always answered.