Holy Week: Meditation 4

William Blake's The Agony in the Garden

I’ve got here a bit early in the week, I know.

You will, rightly, point out that today is Wednesday and that Gethsemane is on Thursday, and you would be right. But then I’m not trying to go through the last week in that way. If I did I would have been running around about the parables of judgement and the description of the Apocalypse.

But today I want to look at Agony in the Garden.

It takes place at night in the garden of Gethsemane.

Over the road from the Temple Mount at the feet of the Mount of Olives.

Jesus has just held the last Supper with His disciples.

Given what will happen later there is a deep irony in that to get from the Old City to the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus and his disciples would have had to pass the traditional site of the House of Caiaphas, the High Priest who finds him guilty of blasphemy.

We read in Luke’s Gospel that this was the place that we see that Jesus would retreat to and 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!” (Mk 14:33-42, NIV)

I feel for the disciples. I know Jesus was  in great torment. He saw clearly what was going to happen to Him.

He knew that what He had done on the Temple Mount was not going to be ignored. He had gone too far.

But the disciples? Are you serious? How many times in His ministry had they misunderstood? Greatest brain ever vs ordinary guys (probably late teens/ early 20’s).

Not really a match is it?

So they probably thought. Well what did they think?

They were tired. It had been a difficult week. The whole entering Jerusalem, cleansing the temple, disputes with the religious leaders type of thing. It must have been totally emotionally exhausting.

I would have been. Wouldn’t you have been?

So Jesus asks them to stay and keep watch and goes to pray.

He comes back and finds them asleep.

Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.

In the picture above by William Blake its all a bit unclear. Jesus being ministered to by an angel whilst the disciples are sleeping in the dark background.

But that is what so much of life is like. Its dark and unclear. We don’t know what is going to happen next.

So, we don’t have a sense of urgency that we need to pray now and here.

That when we pray that we are keeping watch with Jesus.

That there could be a time of trial for us just round the corner and that prayer is vital to keep us in that time of trial.

In Jesus’ greatest need for support and help from his disciples they fail him miserably. Not just once. But several times in a row until they are totally stumped:

They did not know what to say to him.

Holy Week reminds us both of our frailty and the needs of the world around us. The suffering, the hurt, those in need spiritually, mentally and physically.

Often we fail. Often we aren’t there when we are needed. Often we don’t realise how much we are needed.

That’s why prayer is vital. By doing so we support Jesus in His concern and care and love for all.

It becomes the means by which we are enabled to overcome. The means by which we can face stuff. It doesn’t mean that we don’t go through trials. It doesn’t mean that we won’t face problems.

It means that as we face them in our garden of agony that we are cared for and supported.

As we do this more then we start to see more clearly what is going on – just as we do in the El Greco picture below.

El Greco's The Agony in the Garden

El Grecos The Agony in the Garden

Other Holy Week Meditations:

Holy Week: Meditation 1

Holy Week: Meditation 2

Holy Week: Meditation 3

Holy Week: Meditation 5

Good Friday Holy Week: Meditation 6

Holy Week Holy Saturday: Meditation 7

Holy Week 2012 Meditation series


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