This week I met with a couple of 14-year-old confirmation students and we discussed how they made decisions. After a couple of seconds and blank stares one student answered me in a very adult manner. She explained that she studied both sides of the argument and made her decisions based on what would be in her best interest. I told her that she sounded very adult for her age, however she told me that her parents wanted her to practice on her decision-making skills because she had not made good decisions in the past. She is fourteen! How many bad choices could she have made in her short life? All I can say is good for her and her parents for working together on how to think about her choices but also the consequences of them.
This week we will finish the Lenten season and move on to Holy Week. These past weeks have given us an opportunity to think about our decisions regarding how are lives are changed by the death and resurrection of Christ. Did you give up something like chocolate or coffee for Lent? Or did you choose to do something good for others? Did you spend some time reading the Bible stories that describe the last week of Jesus’ life before his arrest, trial, conviction, death, and resurrection? Has the study provided you with a better understanding of the grace that God extended to all believers by the death of his Son on the cross?
One of the scriptures that stood out to me this week was of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying for deliverance. After the supper, shared between Jesus and his disciples, he took them to the garden to pray. He asked the disciples to stay awake and wait for him while he prayed. He specifically stated that he was “deeply grieved even to death” (Mk 14:34) He then went off by himself to spend time with God the Father to ask if he could be delivered from what was to come. Sometimes I think that we look at Jesus in a one-dimensional way. We see Jesus, the human being as the teacher who worked with his clueless disciples roaming the countryside healing, teaching and upsetting the Scribes and Pharisees. I believe with a focus on the human side of Jesus including the power of his words and actions, that we can miss the divine side of Jesus. The gospels mention that Jesus often went off alone, away from his followers, to commune with his Father. Just like the times we need to be with our family, he also desired to be with God in order to be refreshed by his family’s love. His Father understood him and by communing together with his Father and the Spirit he gained the strength to go on and fulfill his purpose. Jesus is God and God is Jesus. God would suffer the same pain, agony and betrayal as the Son. The Spirit abides within him to give him the courage to face the agony of the cross. This is the three-dimensional view of the man who was God in the flesh.
When reading this text, I have spent time trying to put myself into the garden with Jesus and his disciples. Would I have fallen asleep and failed to remain watchful? Like the disciples, would I have been confused by the confusing words that Jesus had spoken about being betrayed, denied, and abandoned by all who loved him. “Surely not me, Lord” runs through my mind as I sit with the others watching and waiting for Jesus to tell us everything will be fine. Jesus returned to his disciples three times and found them sleeping each time. At one point, as he looked as the drowsy disciples he said, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. (Mk 14:38b). I have always thought that Jesus was telling his disciples their flesh was weak because they could not stay awake even though their desire to do so was real but their eyes just wouldn’t allow it. But now when I read it again, I think that Jesus was talking about himself. He asked them to stay awake and pray with him and I think for him because he was feeling weak. This was the human side of Jesus. Even knowing the horrible events that loomed before him, it reassures me that Jesus felt weak, weary and filled with anxiety just like we do in our struggles. He was like us. God is like us.
After spending some time with his Father, Jesus returned from his final prayer and a decision had been made. This is the part of the text that stood out to me, he said, “Enough! The hour has come; the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Mk 14:41b). He had reached the point of acceptance. His time with God, the Father, had given him the courage and the power that would not be denied to fulfill his purpose. In my mind, as I continue to imagine sitting with the disciples looking up into his face, I see determination, peace and trust. The Father, the Son and the Spirit would get through this together. He had come to a place of complete trust that we, you and me, were worth his impending death. Even as he bore the weight of everyone’s sin on his shoulders, he stood straight and tall waiting for his betrayer.
What is the takeaway for me in this text? How do I make my decisions? Like the confirmation student, do I weigh all of my options and choose what is just, right and true? Yes, however, like Jesus, decisions need to be made on my knees with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in order to be able to stand up straight with determination and complete trust and say “Enough! The decision has been made.”