Many had shared the table of our Lord, but who will help him
shoulder the burden of his suffering?                                                    


 

Then Jesus came with the disciples to a place called
Gethsemane, and said, "Sit here while I go and pray over
there." He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee,
and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. He said
to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.
Stay here and watch with me."

He went a little farther and fell on His face and prayed,
saying, "O
My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from
Me; nevertheless,
not as I will, but as You will."

Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping,
and said
to Peter, "What!  Could you not watch with Me
one hour?  Watch
and pray, lest you enter into temptation.
The spirit indeed is willing,
but the flesh is weak."

Again, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if
this cup
cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your
will be done." And
He came and found them asleep again,
for their eyes were heavy. 
So He went and prayed the
third time, saying the same words. 

Then He came to His disciples and said to them, "Are you
still
sleeping? Behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of
Man is being
betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let
us be going. See,
My betrayer is at hand."  

                                                   Matthew 26:36-46 NKJV, condensed


                                      Sorrow's Cup

Passover began at sundown. It was the holy day when families
gathered together to share a meal and retell the timeless story
of how God delivered their ancestors from slavery in Egypt,
parted the Red Sea, and sent them on their way to freedom in
"the land of promise". This year, on this night, the disciples could
not concentrate on those traditional thoughts. The immediate
situation was too troublesome. Jesus was telling them he was
going to be killed, Judas would betray him and the rest of them
would flee in fear. Before the sun sets again, Jesus would be dead.

Everything that needed to be said was said and all that remained
was the waiting. Gethsemane was a olive grove. For Jesus it was
a last refuge before his arrest, the final opportunity to get his
mind, heart and soul in order. Talking about his death from a
distance was one thing. Now, in the garden, he confronted
the harsh realities.

As we watch and listen, we see how agonizing it was, also how
imperative for Jesus to make his will one with his Father's.
Jesus fell to the ground facedown to plead his case. "My Father,
can't you think of another way! But what am I saying? This is
why I was born!" There was but one way to resolve the inner
conflict. "Not my will, but thy will, be done." Had there been
another option, he would have welcomed it.

The disciples fell asleep; body triumphed over will. In contrast,
Jesus got it right the first time. He didn't have to live it again
and again like we do with mistake after mistake before we
wise up. The "cup" he must drink will require the last full measure
of devotion. There was something odious and foul in that vessel.
Just the thought of it horrified and overwhelmed him. He begged,
he pleaded, he cried out in anguish. The dread Jesus felt that
night was more than fear of death

This text is a difficult one for me. I struggle much as I read and
reread the words, and like the disciples I escape into sleep more
times than I want to admit. The circumstances, the mood, the
impending doom, and the meaning of it all--I have no adequate
response. The theology of the cross is a labyrinth and I find
myself retreating from every path I take.

What is it, O Lord, that you want to say to the people who read
this? First and foremost, the answer is always, "I love you, my
child." But in this text, that love is clothed in mystery. The cup
is gross and undesirable, yet he must drink it. Some call it a cup
of wrath, God's wrath. Could that be? Not in the sense of an
angry vengeful God, but anger at sin itself because it binds and
steals and kills the good which God creates. I would call it the
cup of God's sorrow.

Our sin, yours and mine--collectively and individually we
recognize it--all those destructive things we do to ourselves and
each other. When God created the world, he hovered over the
chaos and gave it order. Again and again in the creation story
we are told, "And it was good." But our sin takes the benefits of
that order and turns it back into chaos. Sin is a wall of
separation. It nullifies the works of God and blocks the dreams
God has for us.

Jesus came to earth to tear down that wall and bring us into
joyful fellowship with our Father in heaven. But how was he
going to do that? Calvary is the answer. The cross of Jesus is a
bridge over those troubled waters; it is a gift of grace, ours to
accept and use to get ourselves to the other side.

Jesus bowed voluntarily to the directives of his Father. He was
not coerced. He made the decision to love the world as his
heavenly Father did, and give up his life so that those who believe
and turn from their sinful ways may walk in newness of life. How
shall we approach this amazing story of our Savior's passion?
How about on bended knees in deep humility and grateful love.

Jesus, when my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow, please keep
watch and pray with me. Perhaps the better petition from a heart
of love is that I may pause and keep watch with You.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: Describe your favorite retreat spot, or where you
                      would prefer to spend your final hours.

 

Many of us have seen Gethsemane in works of art showing Jesus
in a colorful robe praying with hands atop a large rock.
            Do you have any memories associated with such a picture?
            Are these pictures an accurate depiction?  
                    If not, what is missing?

 

Jesus moved back and forth between solitude and community,
praying alone to God and then returning again to his disciples.
            Is this a good pattern for us to follow?   Why or why not?
            What did he want and need from his disciples as he prayed?
When have you prayed the "Gethsemane prayer"?
            Did you have friends who stayed close by as you prayed?
The emotion Jesus expressed was not fear, but sorrow.
            How do you explain that?

 

What is the temptation which concerned Jesus so much regarding Peter?
            Do you think had Peter prayed the same prayer as Jesus he still
                        would have denied knowing Jesus later in this chapter?
Watch and pray--these words have been called the sentinels.
            What does "watch" mean in this text?
How do watching and prayer stand guard and protect you?

 

The disciples were napping on the job. Are you able to sympathize
with that?
            How common is it to fall asleep when we pray?   
                    Is there a remedy?

 

Submission, surrender, sacrifice, obedience--these sound like
negative words to most people, but not to Jesus. Explain why these
words are used in Christian teaching and what they mean to
people of faith?

 

Do you have a clear understanding of the will of God for your life?
Do you believe there is such a thing as God's will for every individual?
Are God's dreams for you general or specific?
How well are you fulfilling the plan your heavenly Father has for you?
When do you feel most in tune with what God wants from you?

 

Think of an example of a time when you misused or abused the
good which God created and you ended up with chaos.
            Picture that sin being nailed to the cross with Jesus.
            Ask for forgiveness and watch as God's grace flows into your being.
            Then picture God hovering over the chaos and bringing forth
                    something of value again.

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