Reading for Wednesday of Holy Week
Peace be with you!
After Jesus has the Passover dinner with his disciples, he goes and prays in Gethsemane. In his human nature, his nerves are beginning to get the best of him. He is distressed and agitated about the coming days, plus he knows Judas Iscariot is about to arrive with a mob ready to arrest him. Jesus prays, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36 NRSV). Jesus, in his human nature, would like to avoid the coming suffering, but, in his divine nature, he knows it is God’s will for him to suffer so much pain on our behalf. Jesus loves God the Father with his whole being, and so he will do what he is instructed to do. Jesus prepares for the suffering ahead by asking for endurance and strength to go through the crucifixion and dying process. Jesus knows God the Father will raise him again, but that will not take away the potent pain of the cross.
When Jesus prays, he tells his disciples to stay awake and keep watch (Mark 14:34). Jesus seems to be telling Peter, James, and John, who follow him to Gethsemane, to pray for their own courage and strength so they do not run away in fear. Jesus comes back three times to his three disciples, only to find them asleep. Each time, Jesus tells the three disciples to keep awake and to pray for their own safety in this time of need (Mark 14:38). The third time Jesus returns, he wakes his three disciples up saying it is time for him to be betrayed into the hands of sinners (Mark 14:41).
As sinners, we are the ones who betray Jesus and have him crucified. We are joined to both the Jewish people and the Roman people who together nailed him to the cross, united in our guilt because of our sin nature which takes us away from God. We are the ones he dies for in the name of forgiveness of sins. We are the ones Jesus comes for, the ones he saves on the cross.
Judas comes with the mob sent by the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders and tells them he will kiss Jesus on the cheek. When he does, Jesus is arrested. Jesus questions why the crowd comes armed with swords and clubs since he was accessible—not hidden—in the temple daily. He points out that they didn’t arrest him then when they had easy access (Mark 14:48-49). Yet Jesus knows the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders arrest him now to fulfill the scriptures (Mark 14:49b) in order to carry out God’s plan. We know the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders believe they are punishing a false prophet since they do not believe he is God in human flesh. We also know that they feel threatened by Jesus’ growing popularity and power among the people. Despite both well-meaning and selfish motives, God uses the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders to carry out his plan.
Out of fear, the disciples scatter and desert Jesus just as he predicted (Mark 14:50). We can relate to their fear so well. Surely they feared also being put to death. Running is easier—and safer—than sticking around to watch things unfold. Yet their betrayal is hard to stomach, even as we acknowledge ways we betray God daily. Even as we hate this part of the story, it has to take place to carry out God’s plan to save us from the darkness. Yet, even in the darkest hour, we can see glimmers of light on the horizon.
Continue to follow the light. The story is just unfolding. Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for continuing to unfold the Passion Story in front of us, even as we dread that it had to happen. Remind us that the Passion Story happened according to your will to bring us back into a relationship with you. Keep our eyes fixed on the unfolding light to come in the story. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the behavior covenant by commenting on it.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
- How can Jesus’s example of prayer in the midst of fear and anxiety guide you in your own struggles? How can you watch and pray?
- How does Jesus’s willingness to undergo suffering for your sake make you feel? How can knowing his love for you motivate you to follow him?
Photo Credit: Amber Sue Photography