Gethsemane Reflection

Maundy Thursday 2024 – Reflection 2

Mark 14:32-46


‘They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ (33-34)

On another occasion Jesus had taken the same three with him, to the top of a mountain. There they experienced spiritual ecstasy; Jesus’s physical transfiguration, accompanied by the voice of God confirming his beloved status. (Mark 9:2-8)

Now, however in a garden rather than the mountain top, Jesus, again accompanied by Peter, James and John, experiences not ecstasy but agony. The Gospel tells us, ‘he began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death.’ (33, 34)

Agony for Jesus, but exhaustion for Peter, James and John, or at least so it seems. Whilst Jesus prays fervently this threesome sleep deeply. Jesus comes back to find them sleeping because, we’re told, ‘their eyes were very heavy.’ (14:40)

But perhaps it was more than just physical tiredness. Maybe it was to stress and/or depression. Jesus had been telling them for some time about the manner of his death, and Peter at least had been very upset by that. (Mark 8:31-33) Palm Sunday had been full of excitement, but the momentum seemed to have stalled. They must have been aware of dangerous opposition to Jesus and those who followed him. And what happens when people suffer stress and depression? Very often their sleep patterns are disturbed, and they want to spend longer in bed.

Meanwhile, Jesus is in a mental, spiritual agony, brought upon him by the prospect of the cross – the cost of his continued commitment to the will of God, and needs of the world: ‘‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ (14:36) On this occasion, though, unlike upon that mountain top, the divine voice is silent.

And to add to Jesus’s agony there is his frustration with followers who fail to follow; disciples who decline to keep his command: ‘remain here, and keep awake.’ (14:34)

So how do we respond to Jesus tonight?

We respond with awe and a heart-felt appreciation for all that is involved in Jesus’s ‘not what I want, but what you want’ to his Father, said for our sake, not his.

We respond by following Jesus in prayer. Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane in order to pray (32), as we are told that he did at several points in his ministry. Just as Jesus chose to pray at this pivotal moment in his life, so should we be doing day to day in our lives..

So, this evening, we pray; pray to God; praying with thanksgiving for Jesus and his willingness to face the cross; praying for ourselves, disciples in need, just like Peter, James and John; praying for the world in need of a Saviour; a world that depends upon the love of God.

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