Tuesday in the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 26:36-36; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1

Watch and Pray

Jesus has now finished speaking with the disciples.  The hour has come.  Now he must pray, now he must commune with his Father and find strength for the suffering which will soon be his.  He knows Judas will be arriving soon with a band of men.  There is no more time for talk; there is only time for prayer.

This is as downcast as Jesus ever gets: “My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death.”  He begs the disciples to watch with him, meaning, stay awake.  He doesn’t want to be alone.  But these men who said they were willing to die with him only a few moments before, now can’t even stay awake to pray with him.  But Jesus was never alone; his Father was nearer than those men ever could be, and even sent an angel to strengthen him.  Our Lord was looking down the throat of sheer hell.  Yes, the torture would be bad enough, but it was the bearing of sin and separation from his Father that really shook him (Mark 15:34), and in his real and true human nature which he took for our sake, he genuinely felt terror.

Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you.  Remove this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  I have heard people say that praying, “Thy will be done,” is a copout.  Really?  Our Lord was trying to copout before the cross, if only Papa would let him?  Jesus knew the answer, which is why he prayed the way he did.  And here is a hard lesson for us to learn: Sometimes the answer is, “No.”  Sometimes we must endure the struggle; sometimes we must walk through hell.  God’s greatest promise to us is not that He will deliver us from the flames (though sometimes He does), but that He will be with us (Exodus 3:12; Hebrews 13:5).  All things are possible for God, but that doesn’t mean that God does the impossible for us every time.  And if He even said “No” to His only Son…

Instead, God says to us, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  These are words that we need to hear in our day.  Are you struggling with a particular temptation in your life?  Stay awake and pray.  Drive sleep from your body, pray, and sweat, if not drops of blood, then at least tears from your eyes.  The Christian life is no cakewalk; it was never meant to be.  Our Lord suffered, and if we will be his disciples, we shall have to “arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1).  And suffering does not require persecution; it happens when we deny ourselves and follow him.

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