Today we embark upon Holy Week. Over the course of the week ahead, Christian churches around the world commemorate the final days of Jesus’ life, as well as his betrayal, arrest, trial, death, and resurrection.
I mentioned last week that I led a retreat day entitled Preparing for Holy Week. As part of the experience, I led everyone out into a garden after lunch. We sat in the spring sun and reflected on a very challenging evening in the life of Jesus, and his disciples.
After Jesus and his disciples shared the Last Supper, Jesus took them out to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, at the base of the Mount of Olives. What follows is some of that meditation. May it help you go deeper in connecting with the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion.
Scripture tells us that Jesus came to the garden to pray. We know that his disciples came along, and that the hour was late. The Passover celebration couldn’t begin until three stars were seen in the sky, and everyone drank four cups of wine over the course of the evening. Everyone’s tired, and full, and not exactly sober.
Jesus leaves most of the disciples in a group, and takes along Peter, James, and John. Modern disciples of Jesus, or readers of the Bible, know why he has gone off to pray. He’s struggling about the events that his forthright teaching has set in motion. He senses his arrest is coming soon. Scripture tells us he prayed that he might somehow avoid the bitter cup he’s about to drink. Remember a time when you also have prayed to avoid something that’s about to happen. What was the situation? What was your prayer? Was it answered?
What about today? Is there something God has been asking you to do, some path that you are being called, or invited, to follow? As fearful humans, we tend to resist God’s call in ways both large and small. We fear the unknown. What is your resistance to this invitation from God? What do you fear? Like Jesus, can you admit that you do not want to drink this cup?
Also, like Jesus, can you ask God for the courage to let go of your resistance? Right now, ask God for the courage to trust, even in the midst of your fear. God loves you, and is aware of what you need, and will provide you with the strength for the journey. Gently let go of your resistance. In the light of God’s love, let your fear melt away. Do you have a sense of how Jesus might have felt, as he let go of fear and accepted what was coming next for him?
Now, consider what happens next. Jesus returns to Peter, James, and John, wakes them up, and returns to the larger group of disciples. At this point, Judas appears, with temple soldiers carrying swords and torches. He comes right up to Jesus and kisses him on the cheek, saying “Greetings, Rabbi!” This is the sign for the soldiers, who step in to arrest Jesus, right in front of the disciples.
When have you experienced betrayal in your life? What happened? How did you respond? Have you been able to forgive the person who betrayed you? How did that betrayal impact you?
Scripture tells us that when Jesus was arrested, the disciples deserted him and fled. When in your life have you deserted someone you loved, in some way? What happened? How did the other person respond? Have you been able to forgive yourself? How did that desertion impact your relationship? Have they forgiven you?
In what ways, over the course of your life, have you betrayed or deserted Jesus? What happened? What brought you back together—or has that not yet happened? Has anything changed in your relationship because of these events?
I have shared a lot of intense questions with you. Take a moment now to sit in stillness and let one question or idea float to the top. Trust that this is the one idea that the Spirit wants you to remember and ponder today. Gently let the rest go for now.
As you make your way through the coming days of Holy Week, let that one question or idea remain in the forefront of your mind. Ponder what God might be bringing to your attention, and why.