When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “Today– yes, tonight– before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same (Mark 14:26-31).
After singing a final hymn , Jesus leads his disciples to the Mount of Olives just outside Jerusalem. There, under the night sky, he tells them they will all desert him and be scattered like sheep (in fulfillment of Zechariah 13:7). But, he promises, he will rise and gather them again in Galilee.
Peter (the one whose foot seems permanently planted in his mouth) declares he’ll stay, even if he’s the last man standing. Jesus, however, predicts Peter will deny knowing him three times. Peter found room for his second foot when he insisted no way that would happen. All the rest shouted “Amen!”
How often I’ve prayed prayers of devotion and sung songs of allegiance to Jesus. (” . . . and nothing I desire compares with you.”) With shame, I’m reminded how often I’ve chosen something other than Jesus or been silent when I should have spoken his name or withdrew because he didn’t do what I wanted. How firm my faith before the test! When the fearful, the unexpected, the irrational hits, only then I realize how like Peter I am.
But What You Want.
Gethsemane was a tree-grove on the Mount of Olives. There, Jesus prayed alone.
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “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.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. 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 betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mark 14:32-42).
Mark has reported Jesus healing the incurable, stopping a killer storm, driving out fierce demons, and out-debating his public enemies. Here he shows Jesus in a different light: terrorized (“deeply distressed”) and tormented (“troubled”). Jesus, admits he feels as if his soul is drowning to death in grief.
When he walks further into the darkness, he leaves the three disciples to stand guard and pray. Instead, with hour late and stomachs full, they fall asleep. Jesus is alone.
He prays like a child: “Abba (“Daddy”), Father, you can do anything. Take this cup from me.” Three times. Lying prostrate on the ground. Pleading that his destiny of suffering might by taken away. The cross’ shame and pain. The weight of the world’s sin. The separation from the Father. Devastating, drowning distress.
I understand why Jesus would pray, “Take this cup from me.” But I can’t comprehend what he prayed next: “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Such love for the Father and us—it’s beyond me. I can’t say, “It’s like
__________”, because there is no ‘like’.”
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. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him.
Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled. A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind (Mark 14:43-52).
A dark comedy. The Sanhedrin commissions an armed mob of temple police, maybe with a few rented Roman soldiers added. Like sending the National Guard to arrest a handful of book readers protesting a library’s shut-down. But they didn’t succeed due to the size of the mob. It was because ” . . . the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” And that fulfillment included ” . . . everyone deserted him and fled.” Jesus alone.
Oh, the young man who ran off naked? Probably Mark. Either too humble or too ashamed to name himself. (I would have omitted me entirely.)
For Us. My disability often leaves me feeling weak and vulnerable, especially when I’m by myself around even a handful of other people. So I’m always glad when Lois comes with me. I don’t know if Jesus felt weak and vulnerable on the Mount of Olives that night. But I do know this . . .
Jesus was alone so, no matter how I feel, I never have to be.