By Michael Smith
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 26:36-46
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to be grieved and agitated. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” 39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not what I want but what you want.” 40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Now the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus personifies parts of the prayer he has taught his disciples: “Our Father in heaven … your will be done … do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:9-10, 13). Jesus knows that he is about to be overtaken by abandonment, pain, and suffering. In this moment of agony, Jesus cries out to God to be delivered but in the end acquiesces to the divine will in his life.
Jesus models for us a holy response to the physical and emotional pain we often encounter in this world. We do not look for it or desire it. In fact, we pray that these cups pass from us. In the end, however, it is the acceptance of God’s will that is the path to inner peace.
We pray in this spirit on Fridays at Morning Prayer:
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen. (BCP 99)
Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
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