‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’ Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’ (Mark 14:34-36)
Alone, abandoned and betrayed, and yet willing to take the cup for me. What kind of love is this?
Three Course Meal
Reading: Mark 14:32-52
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Simon,’ he said to Peter, ‘are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’
43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
48 ‘Am I leading a rebellion,’ said Jesus, ‘that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.’ 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.
51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
A little while ago we went as a family to see the West End musical Spamalot – the Monty Python inspired take on the legend of King Arthur. Tremendous fun! One of the highlights is when King Arthur bursts into the song ‘I’m All Alone, All By Myself’, totally overlooking his faithful man-servant Patsy and the whole array of friends around him. He is anything but alone.
What a contrast to this horrible sequence of events. Jesus is truly alone. His friends fall asleep, unable or unwilling to stay up and watch over him while he prays. When the armed crowd arrive to take him, they are led by one of his trusted and closest companions, Judas. The irony of the secret sign that points out which one Jesus is is harsh. How could a kiss, that act of closeness, be used by someone so far away? Once he is ‘arrested’ everyone deserts him, so desperate to get away that one even runs naked, not stopping to cover himself. Even Peter flees. He’s all alone.
The true horror of this passage is what is hinted at, not yet realised. In anguish Jesus prays that God might take this cup away from him. What cup? Perhaps we could think back to the prophets who used the symbol of a cup to talk of God’s judgement, like a cup of wine poisoned by an assassin and given to a King? Is Jesus in some way about to receive God’s judgement? Why? What would that mean? Or is he referring back to the cup of the Passover which he said contained his blood poured out for many? Maybe it’s the same thing. The wonder of this passage is that Jesus somehow manages despite his being abandoned and being under the stress of an impending terrible event, still manages to say, ‘Yet not what I will, but what you will.’
Forgive us Jesus for when we fall asleep, run away or betray you. How can we express our gratitude that despite this you still took that cup for us. What kind of love is this?