Lingering in Gethsemane
He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”
In our Lent group last week we were thinking about how it is that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is good news. One of the things which we talked about was how in some strands of Christianity it is the incarnation which is seen as hugely significant. That what saves humanity is that God chooses to inhabit and redeem the experience of being a human, by undergoing the very worst of human experience.
At Gethsemane we see Jesus, God, at his most vulnerable. Waiting, helplessly, knowing the worst is about to happen. Stuck with only his own thoughts, anxieties and worries as the cogs of history grind around him. The Luke passage is particularly graphic:
In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.
The human experience is blighted not only by physical pains and hurts, but also by the mental anguish which accompanies it. Knowing what is going to happen, or being in the midst of it and not knowing when or if it will end. How many of us can think of those waiting times, when all we have to occupy ourselves is our worries, anxieties.
Victoria Wood said anyone who’s ever lived with any form of anxiety or depression knows that 4am moment when our minds go crazy with all the fears and ‘what ifs’. Those moments when our mental state threatens to overwhelm us.
This year of all years there has been so much waiting, so much time to think. So few other things to divert our minds.
For those who have suffered badly with Covid, the parallels with Gethsemane are striking.
The anguish, mental turmoil, loss of agency, wracked with pain and gripped by forces which are out of your control. And loneliness - in it on your own, with no family to be with at your time of greatest need.
For Jesus, the disciples were the people who could have at least been present to support. But they weren’t.
This Holy Week let’s hold before God those who we know are currently living their own Gethsemane. And let’s pray God will show us the way to be there, to be present and awake for them.