Scripture: Mark 14:32-46
Title: Jesus Prays
Our first reading today comes from Mark 14, verses 32-46…
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 want, but what you want.”
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.
May God bless the reading of His word
One of the things that strikes me about Mark’s account of Gethsemane is the importance of prayer to Jesus
– But what is prayer?
Well, sometimes we understand what something is by its opposite
– The opposite of light is darkness
– The opposite of vision is blindness
– The opposite of reality is fantasy
– The opposite of facing something is avoiding it
– The opposite of awareness is ignorance
– And, in Mark 14, the opposite of prayer is sleep
– While Jesus goes off to pray, the disciples fall asleep
When we sleep we are unconscious, unaware of reality
– If the opposite of prayer is sleep then prayer is waking up to reality (to truth), becoming more conscious of God’s presence and will
– (After all God is the ultimate reality)
Prayer also includes becoming more aware of what is going on inside us
– When we pray we get our head and heart together
– We get organized, we get mentally & emotionally ready
– A good prayer time gives us both the God awareness and the self-awareness to better help others
Jesus’ prayer in the garden reveals his full awareness of the situation
In Mark 14 Jesus’ prayer time begins with profound emotional awareness
– Jesus began to be deeply distressed and troubled, saying “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,”
– This reminds us of the refrain from Psalms 42 & 43…
– Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed with emotional distress and we are not sure why
– It takes time & effort to pray – to become conscious of what God wants and to come to terms with how we feel about that
– Jesus had known for some time that it was God’s will for him to go to the cross
– Now he was having to deal with the intense pressure and tension this created within him
Jesus didn’t want to suffer this separation from God his Father and so he says…
– “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want.”
– This prayer is the fruit of intimate agony – it is beautifully honest, revealing a love stronger than death
In contrast to Jesus who is fully awake, fully conscious, fully aware of what is happening, the disciples keep falling asleep
– They are unconscious – unaware of what is about to happen
If you are a test batsman about to face a fast bowler
– You don’t go to sleep or let your mind wander off in a daydream
– You make sure you are ready
– You look at the field placements to see what your options are
– You make sure you know where your middle stump is
– You keep your eye on the ball
– A small lapse of concentration and you could get out
Jesus is about to be arrested and crucified – a terrible thing is about to happen and the disciples aren’t ready
– Jesus asks them to stay awake – to keep watch and pray so that they will not fall into temptation
– Jesus doesn’t ask his disciples to pray for him
– He asks his disciples to pray for themselves – that is, to become aware of the reality before them and within them
– Prayer is how Jesus’ followers keep their eye on the ball
Interestingly Jesus says to the disciples…
– The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
– I’m pretty sure Jesus isn’t talking about the human spirit here
– I think he means the Holy Spirit is willing to give us strength to pray and resist temptation when our bodies are tired & weak
– So prayer is not something we do in our own strength
– Like Paul says in his letter to the Romans…
– The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
Now in saying that the opposite of prayer is sleep, I’m not suggesting that sleep is bad
– Sleep is good – in many ways sleep is like a foundation – we need our rest
– It’s really more a case of timing – sometimes prayer is even more important than sleep and Gethsemane was one of those times
When Judas turns up with temple guards to arrest Jesus – the Lord is not surprised – he is fully aware of what is going on, he sees it coming
– (Look, here comes my betrayer)
– Jesus is mentally and emotionally ready to face his ordeal because he has worked through the tensions within himself
– The disciples on the other hand are quite unprepared
As Christians we are to have an attitude of prayerful awareness
– This might mean starting your day with the question: ‘What do you want to do today Lord?’
– It could mean looking for God’s presence throughout your day – both in the ordinary routine and the unexpected interruptions
– It means being in touch with what you are feeling and giving your soul the time it needs to catch up – not pressing your feelings down or putting them aside for too long
– So if you are angry or hurt or happy or sad, take time to sit with that feeling – be still before God, give Him room to show you what He wants to reveal
– Feelings are the messengers of the soul – deep calls to deep
We could go on but you get the point
– Prayer is about facing reality – not avoiding it
What realities are you facing this Easter?
– What weighs your soul down in sorrow?
– What does God want in your situation?
– And how does this make you feel?
Let’s face reality by praying the Lord’s Prayer together now…
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.