Sermon preached at Harmony and First Presbyterian Churches of Clarksville, Arkansas on 10/11/15
Text: Mark 14:32-42
They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’
I have to admit that when I read this text from Mark I find myself thinking “Jesus why are you being so rude and mean to your disciples?” But as I dig into the text I realize time and time again that in this text we do not meet the superhero Jesus we expect. We do not meet the Messiah the disciples expected Jesus to be. What we encounter in this text is a Jesus who is human. He is dirty, scared, tired, and grieving what is to come. In this encounter we cannot help but to be drawn into the story and to allow ourselves to experience and identify with the same emotions the disciples and Jesus experienced.
This passage in the Gospel of Mark is important because it is the turning point of the Gospel. Throughout the entire Gospel of Mark we find the disciples stumbling along and failing to understand who Jesus is and what Jesus is doing. Look at Peter’s declaration of Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus rebuking him, or the transfiguration when Peter wants to build a monument to remember the moment. Despite having good intentions and falling short time and time again the disciples keep following Jesus and keep trying to understand the best they can. For 14 chapters Jesus’ disciples follow him from town to town, they are rebuked by him, they stand alongside him when he is approached and questioned by religious leaders, they do tasks he asks which they think are impossible, and they stick with him through it all.
In the 14 verses just before this text Jesus makes 3 predictions:
1-Betrayal of Judas
2-Dessertion of the 12
In the 36 verses immediately after this text all 3 of the predictions come true.
And in this particular moment in the story we find Jesus and all of his disciples in Gethsemane,
Jesus is no longer making divine predictions but instead he is having a moment of humanity, a moment where the weight of what is coming down the road at him head on is weighing on him. So he takes his inner circle of friends for moral support while he has an intimate conversation with his Abba, his Father, and he tells them he is very sad and asks them to remain in a particular place and keep watch. The disciples then fall asleep. Unfortunately we are not given much clue to why they fell asleep or if they prayed at all before falling asleep. The only thing the text gives us is that their eyes were so heavily burdened, or oppressed that they could not stay awake.
This might be the one time in scripture that we see the full humanity in Jesus as his vulnerability is revealed to us. Jesus places all he has left in the hands of his disciples while he attempts to make sense for himself of what is coming.
From this mindset - from fear and shock and sorrow - he asks that God would simply take the cup from him. He asks to be spared from all that he has predicted. And in the midst of asking for all of this, he realizes that God’s will is what will carry all him down the road ahead. It is not his own understanding or doing, but the divine plan and purpose of the world. After acknowledging this, Jesus returns to his disciples to find them asleep. He is perplexed and comes across as angry.
This cycle of prayer and return continues until Jesus says that it is enough and the “time has come.” These three words set the tone for the entire passage. The reader can see Jesus going through the stages of grief (depression-I am very sad to the point of death, anger-disciples can’t stay awake, bargaining-take this cup, and finally acceptance-leaving Gethsemane and walking the road of suffering all the way to death on the cross) In the midst of this divine story of journeying towards death and resurrection we get a human Jesus, falling on his knees before God and asking human questions. It is in seeing these things we can truly understand, believe, and identify with a Jesus was truly human.
This passage from Mark is intense. It is full of raw emotions. This is not the Jesus we normally think of when we read scripture or talk about Christ and the work of Christ in the world. This Christ is…too human. Too emotional. Too messy. But isn’t that the Christ we need in a time such as this? In a time where every time we check the news we are brought to tears because the world is so broken? When headlines read 11 year old boy shoots 8 year old girl over a puppy? Where parents live in fear of sending children to school because they are not sure they will come home alive? A world where the justice system seems more like a continued cycle of injustice? A world where forgiveness is absent? A world where war, poverty, and injustice reign? Isn’t this the time and place where we need a Christ who is on his knees praying and begging us to stay awake with him while he prays? Isn’t this the world where we wish we might hear ENOUGH ALREADY, ENOUGH!! Isn’t this the world where we so desperately pray that God’s will be done and that all people learn to participate in the love, mercy, and justice of God?
In these 10 verses in Mark we are met with a very human Jesus and his human disciples. His disciples were so physically and spiritually exhausted that they could not stay awake as Jesus had asked them to. Yet Jesus still came back time and time again and asked them to wake up, to pray, to keep watch with him.
Jesus returns to us time after time and day after day and we too are invited each and every day to wake up, to keep awake to the tasks of discipleship, to follow Christ, to participate in the ongoing work of Christ in the world, and to pray. In a world such as ours it is easy to become discouraged. It is easy to feel the walls caving in and the darkness becoming overwhelming. It is easy to long for and want a superhero Jesus to return and fix everything around us. But today we met by a dirty, tired, scared, and human Jesus who reminds us that the story does not end with “enough” it does not end with “the time has come” the story does not end with the failure of the disciples, it does not end with our faults, our fears and our failures. It continued on and continues on. Jesus left Gethsemane and journeyed to the cross where he took on the sins, the brokenness, the despair of the world and died so we might know what it is to live reconciled to the God who created us and calls us by name. The good news today is that even as we often journey the road of despair, betrayal, and desertion of God like the disciples did that day, even though we journey in fear, grief, anger, and darkness we have a Savior who journeyed to the tomb which is now empty. We journey with Christ who is willing to get on his knees and pray and cry with us in this broken world so that the hope of light might shine through the darkness.
It is in this journey we are invited to participate in the ongoing work of Christ. We are invited to proclaim the good news, to reach out to those imprisoned, to welcome the stranger, to lend hand to the refugee, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to love the unloved, to be light in a dark and broken world. The good news is that Christ lives in each and every one of us. The question is: are we willing to participate? Are we willing to get dirty? Are we willing to look at the raw emotions of humanity and stare them in the face with the hope, mercy, and love of Jesus Christ? Are we willing to fall on the ground and pray with raw and honest emotions so that this world might look and be different than it is?
We may not have encountered a superhero Jesus in the text this morning. But I believe we have encountered Jesus. We encountered the Jesus who is right for this time and place in our history that is the one who challenges us to wake up, to pray without ceasing, and to participate in the work set before us. This human Jesus is someone we can identify with because we see that just as we lament the way the world is around us Jesus laments with us. But Jesus does not call us to stay in that lament, instead he calls us to find it within ourselves to say enough is enough, it is time to go from here, it is time to head towards reconciliation, towards grace, towards love, and towards a world that is very different than the one we are standing in. Are you willing to journey from Gethsemane? Are we willing to say enough is enough? Are we willing to step out in faith and find ways to do something about the way the world around us looks and acts? I do not have all the answers on how to fix this broken world but I know with God all things are possible and with one another we can begin to make a difference here in this place. So what do you say friends? Do we go home and fall asleep? Or do we wake up and walk with Jesus?