In yesterday’s reading, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin plot to bring about the death of Jesus. The results of their planning will be on full display today in the Gospel account of Mark. Though long, these verses are well worth the time and effort to read (cf. Mark 11:1-10, 14:1-15:47).
The scene from the Passion account that I would like to reflect upon is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:32-42). Jesus invited Peter, James, and John, the same three apostles that witnessed the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mt. Tabor to be with him again, this time in his hour of dire need. As Jesus entered the garden, he expressed to them that he felt “sorrowful even unto death”, reflecting the full weight of what was about to transpire. Jesus asked the closest of his inner circle to watch and pray while he went off at a distance. Through Mark’s account we are able to read the fullness of Jesus’ humanity and divinity on display.
The most primal of our human instincts is the preservation of our life. Jesus, faced with his imminent death, acknowledged this primal urge by requesting, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me”. The agony is palpable. Jesus has done all that the Father asked of him, he has preached, taught, healed, exorcised demons, followed his Father’s will, and now finds himself on death’s door. He can probably sense Judas and the Temple guards drawing close. He will be turned over to those who have turned their back on his Father. All appeared to be hopeless.
Yet, Jesus was not done, he continued, “but not what I will but what you will.” With these words of surrender Jesus echoed the verse from Psalms 42 and 43: “Hope in God, I will praise him still, my savior and my God.” Even faced with his death, Jesus accepted the will of his Father, his Abba. He trusted that there would be a greater good to transpire through his death, through the giving of his life. With those words, Jesus surrendered his human will to that of his divine will. With each and every yes to his Father’s will through his life, his human nature was more and more conformed to his divine nature. What is on full display for us in the garden is that Jesus is one divine person, the Son of God, while at the same time having two natures and two wills, the human and divine.
As Jesus arose, he came to Peter, James, and John. He found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Jesus returned to prayer and returned two more times to find his three closest disciples asleep each time. Jesus was ready to face the cross even if they were not. As with the apostles, Jesus commands us to watch and pray this Holy Week. How will we do?
Though our flesh too is weak, and we too have sinned, Jesus has faith in us that we will actualize who his Father calls us to be, as he still had faith in his apostles who persisted despite their failures and fulfilled their role in God’s plan. No matter what trial or tribulation arises before us, may we meet it head on, placing our trust in God, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. We are to follow the lead of Jesus to give over our will to God the Father in participation with his Son through the Love of the Holy Spirit. Let us hope in God, let us praise him still, our savior and our God!
Painting: Heinrich Hoffman, Christ in Gethsemane, 1886