On the Corner
The cup and the will
by Bob Docter –
C’mon – don’t go building several scenarios built on doubt about this young man, Jesus, praying to be excused, if at all possible, from the horrors he knew lay before him. His prayer parallels ours on the occasions that we face difficult suffering.
He knew, you see, exactly what was to come – the violent culmination of a ministry, the excruciating pain of human torture, the agony of crucifixion, the suffering and humiliation of public punishment, the unbearable weight of the sins of humanity and, most of all, the anguish of being separated from his Father.
Let’s just get the facts.
He had gathered with his disciples in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover meal on the Thursday of Passover week. During the meal, he told them of his impending betrayal and how to remember him when they took food and drink. He passed the bread and said it symbolized his body. He raised the cup of wine and said it symbolized a new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you. They sang some hymns and left for a usual gathering place, in a garden called Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives.
Located across the Kidron Valley which runs down the entire east side of the plateau on which Jerusalem sits in all her radiance, the Mount of Olives rises slightly higher than Jerusalem and affords a wonderful view of the entire city. Here, that night, they sat together and Jesus spoke with them words of warning and advice:
This very night, he said, you will fall away … and be scattered.
But, after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee. (Matthew 26:31, 32)
There were, of course, many denials, not the least of which, was Peter’s: “Even if everyone else falls to pieces, I won’t.” Jesus replied:
Don’t be too sure of that. Before the rooster crows up the dawn
you will deny me three times
Then, he told them to remain there while he went a short distance away to pray. He took Peter, James and John with him. He was deeply distressed and troubled. He said: My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch.
He stepped away a few paces, fell to the ground, and prayed for a lengthy period. Addressing his Father as a son would speak to a parent, he prayed:
Father, if you are willing, may this cup be taken from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.
He returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.
Could you not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray
so that you will not fall into temptation. Then, with what must have been a small shake of his head, he said: The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
He went away a second time and prayed:
My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it,
may your will be done.
He returned to his disciples and found them asleep once again. Again he prayed the same prayer. This time when he returned, he said:
Are you still sleeping and resting? Look! The hour is near and the
Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners – wake up – let’s go – here comes my betrayer.
Judas, one of the twelve but now a captive of Satan, arriving with an armed crowd enlisted by the chief priests and elders, greeted him … and then betrayed him … with a kiss.
This account of Jesus’ final evening with his disciples is replete with lessons for Christians who seek to walk with him more confidently. Let’s look at three.
To be willing
This requires an act of the will to surrender what we have identified as necessities in order to undertake actions involving love for God and for others. Sometimes we are so immersed in our own sleepy habit patterns and self-ordained demands that we yield to the temptation of continually being self—centered God knows all about the weakness of our flesh. He made us that way as a measure of our love for him. We need to be willing to grow – to stretch – to become more than we are at the present time. We need to “wake up – and go.”
To seize the moment
Jesus speaks of his “time” having arrived – of the hour being at hand. Each of us has our moments of opportunity, mini-crises in our lives during which we are challenged to behave in an uncommon manner – when we are tested as to the dimensions of our actions in relation to the depth of our .faith. We need to practice a little carpe deum so that when the test time comes we’ve had some experience.
To drink the cup
The cup of old testament scripture is the cup of suffering. Jesus spoke of such a cup several times. He spoke of it in his Gethsemane prayer, he spoke of it when asking ambitious disciples if they were willing to drink the cup he would be required to drink. He spoke of a cup at the Passover meal, the “last supper,” and identified it as symbolic of his blood – a new covenant, a fresh promise available to humanity.
Any “unpleasant” or difficult responsibilities at the corps waiting for you? He passed his test. How about you?