Jesus on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39-46)
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."
I'm struck by the contrast between how Jesus and his disciples handle the sorrow of what is to come. We're told that "being in anguish, [Jesus] prayed more earnestly" as opposed to the disciples, who being "exhausted by sorrow" and in spite of Jesus exhortation to pray, fall asleep. I cannot even begin to fathom the weight that was on Jesus's heart and mind. When faced with the certain prospect of his own death, Jesus doesn't pull himself up by his bootstraps and march confidently into the fray. Instead, he brings his fears and questions to his father in prayer and in so doing is strengthened to face the humiliation and agony of betrayal, loneliness, ridicule, rejection, shame, and the cross. Jesus's question to his disciples rings through to the present to awaken me and you from our attempts to ignore the horrors of betrayal, loneliness, ridicule, rejection, and shame that are part and parcel of taking up our crosses and following after Jesus.
O'Brian's painting captures well the weight of what lay ahead of our Lord in the three seemingly tiny trees silhouetted on the hillside against the moonlit sky foreshadowing his imminent death.
Help us, merciful Savior, to respond to the prospects of a life of cruciformity with the courage to bring our fears and questions to the ears of our loving Father in order to be strengthened so that we do not fall into temptation.
Jesus betrayed by Judas, is arrested (Luke 22:47-48)
47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"
A kiss was a sign of love and loyalty in the culture of that day. It would not have been unusual or distasteful for a disciple to kiss his teacher as a sign of affection and devotion much like a son would his father. This fact makes Judas's action that much more horrific and shocking. Why a kiss? Why not some other sign or verbal designation? The force of Judas's kiss is overwhelming. Just imagine it: Judas betrayed Jesus with a sign of affectionate loyalty! It can be easy to reflect upon this scene of Jesus last hours and condemn Judas. However, we should not miss the opportunity to expose the Judas in each of us. How often do we betray Jesus in some way while maintaining a facade of love and loyalty?
Confront, O Spirit, the Judas in each of us and empower us to love Jesus with constant loyalty and without pretense.
Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:66-71)
66 At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 "If you are the Messiah," they said, "tell us." Jesus answered, "If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God." 70 They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You say that I am." 71 Then they said, "Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips."
There is worth in reflecting on this scene in two very different ways. First, we stand as members of the Sanhedrin in the daily course of our lives when we stand in judgment of others in the body of Christ who are engaged in kingdom work that chaffs our traditional modus operandi. Who are we to erect walls around the kingdom of God in order to control what God is doing? Second and what I think is most striking, Jesus never once seeks to defend his messiahship. If it were us, we would be quick to point out that we indeed fit the requirements of the messiah. "Go check my birth certificate. It'll tell you I'm a son of David." "Oh, and don't forget to talk to those people who were born blind, lame, and mute that I miraculously caused to see, walk, and speak." "Check it all out; I fit the bill." "I am who I say I am." We would do well to our Savior in this regard.
Help us, gracious Jesus, not to be so limited in our vision that we would erect false edifices around what you are doing to bring about your kingdom. Help us to see beyond our narrow expectations and see you as you are; one whose power lays in humility.
Peter denies Jesus (Luke 22:54-62)
54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with him." 57 But he denied it. "Woman, I don't know him," he said. 58 A little later someone else saw him and said, "You also are one of them." "Man, I am not!" Peter replied. 59 About an hour later another asserted, "Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean." 60 Peter replied, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about!" Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times." 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
I think we can all agree that we identify more easily with Peter's denial of Jesus than Judas's betrayal. I imagine we do this to conjure up some sense of hope that we may, like Peter, turn out alright in the end and in a certain way this is true. There is still hope for Peter in the story and perhaps for us as well. Peter may have needed to deny Jesus those three times in order for him to live for Jesus and his kingdom. Notice the last sentence: "And he went outside and wept bitterly." Peter was at the lowest point in his life and just maybe this is exactly where he needed to be in order for him to start living and working for the kingdom in a new way, no longer relying upon his own strength, but rather on the humble power of God in Jesus.
O Jesus, we set out to follow you but then quickly turn, going our own way and under own power. We are afraid to acknowledge you in front of others, but you speak to us in the midst of our denial. Keep us, we pray, faithful to you.
Jesus is judged by Pilate (Luke 23:13-25)
13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him." 17 18 But the whole crowd shouted, "Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!" 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) 20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" 22 For the third time he spoke to them: "Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him." 23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
Who is this man Pilate? He stood as the provincial ruler over Palestine for the Roman Empire. He was a man, no doubt, of power, yet he caves into the whims of the crowd. It is amazing how weak such power can make a person. Jesus stood before Pilate as a marginalized outcast being exploited because in some way he posed a threat to the Jewish leaders. Pilate sites his innocence, yet is unable to withstand the prospect of jeopardizing his power or station. In all of this, there is no mention of Jesus. He is silent. However, it is in this silence that true power is displayed.
Forgive us, O Father, when we allow the voice of the crowd to silence the voice your Spirit within us.