By Chuck Alley
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 22:39-53
39 He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” 41Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42”Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” 43Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. 45When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, 46and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”
47 While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; 48but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” 49When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” 50Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? 53When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”
Jesus could not do what he knew he had to do — and we cannot live as we are called to live — without God’s help. Throughout St. Luke’s Gospel, prayer has a prominent place in the life and ministry of Jesus. In this passage we receive a picture of Jesus as seeking guidance and strength from the Father. His prayer in Gethsemane is the most intense, as the path before him is the most difficult he has faced or ever will face. It is also a model for all who would be his disciples: “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”
Our natural instinct in our sorrow is to hide or to escape from forces that oppress us. Like the disciples that night, we are emotionally exhausted by our burdens and seek to escape them by going to sleep. Perhaps, if we can only ignore them, they will go away.
To the contrary, Jesus faces his trial open-eyed and face-on. There are no attempts to minimize what lies ahead or any manifestation of over-confidence and bravado. Jesus knows that what is about to happen is horrible — so terrible that he even petitions God to change his will if there is any other way to accomplish his purpose. But after his honest expression of dread, Jesus places his life in the hands of the One whose plan he is fulfilling — God. “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”
The answer that Jesus receives to his prayer is not deliverance from the trial by the divine provision of an alternate path. Rather, God responds by giving Jesus the strength to fulfill the role he has in God’s plan. When we submit ourselves to God, God gives us the assurance and strength we need to divinely succeed, to accomplish all he asks.
Chuck Alley is a retired Episcopal priest and an adjunct associate professor of anatomy on the medical faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University. He and his wife, Scottie, have three children and nine grandchildren.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of Sodor & Man (England) and the Rt. Rev. Peter Eagles
Diocese of El Camino Real (The Episcopal Church) and the Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves
Saint Francis Ministries, Salina, Kan.