Gethsemane and the Dilemma of Prayer 5

[Number 5 of 6 reflections on Mark 14:32-42]

The time for sitting is over.

This next point moves deeper into a more midrashic reading, but I wonder about Jesus instruction to the disciples to watch. Imagine the scene.

Part of the way into the garden he drops off a number of his disciples. Taking three of them, he moves deeper in and tells them to keep watch – note he doesn’t tell them to pray.

Then he moves deeper into the garden by himself and prays for a way of escape. Had he already made preparations for this, by leaving two ranks of disciples through which betrayers would need to battle before getting to him, thereby giving his time to flee?

Is the instruction to the disciples to watch, actually an instruction to warn him of the mob’s approach.

Instead they fall asleep, and by the time Jesus is aware of them it is too late for escape. ‘Look!’ he says, ‘Here comes my betrayer, for whom you were meant to watch.’

And this is what explains Jesus’ change of attitude after the third time of prayer. He now realizes he must embrace what God has for him, for the only escape is resurrection. But to get there he must go through the cross.

Again there is something deeply human in this. The cycle of gathered courage then despair, evidenced by Jesus’ to-ing and fro-ing in prayer, could be endless. And it could be an endlessly dis-spiriting and disabling thing. Jesus would never know if he had the courage to go ahead with it all, until he is faced with the inevitability of the mob. And he finds, as we so often do, that he was ready.

In a partial sense then, we can say that our salvation was wrought at this moment. The moment when Jesus embraced the will of God rather than force his own.

He Qi’s ‘Praying at Gethsemane’ here

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