First off, before we go any further—we are the disciples. Their place in the story is not to amuse or affirm us but to be a mirror showing us ourselves: foolish, forgetful, and faithless. We fail and need forgiveness. We already heard their declarations of devotion: “I will never leave you, Jesus.” Now we see them doze off in the garden (twice). We see them panic and abandon Jesus. If at any point in our reading we smugly assume that we would have done differently, we ironically find ourselves right in their shoes, saying “Surely not me, Lord.”
Consider the contrast as we turn to observe Jesus. While the disciples are confident and conflict-free about their faithfulness, Jesus agonizes “even to death.” Doubt and struggle are not symptoms of weakness but the way of strength. Doubt does not have to destroy; it is not the opposite of faith but rather a movement within faith. Without it, faith is likely as flimsy and naive as the disciples.
- Read Mark 14:26–52.
- Ask God to keep you awake and faithful.
- Feel the dark night settling heavy around you. See the grief in Jesus’ face; hear the distress in his voice. Follow him into his solitude in the garden, and watch him fall to the ground. Hear his anguish. Find the disciples asleep. Feel their drowsiness and Jesus’ disappointment. Do this all over again. Then watch as Jesus allows his betrayer to kiss him, stops the disciples from fighting back, and is led off abandoned and alone. Spend a few moments in the deserted garden, in the silence left behind by betrayal.
- Reflect on Jesus’ inner struggle and his humble obedience. He wrestles with God and remains peaceable toward his enemies. Consider how the temptations he experienced at the beginning of his ministry return to him here in Gethsemane. Lastly, as Ignatius puts it, “consider how the divinity hides itself.” Jesus could show his power, conquer his accusers, and establish his authority in another way. Instead he submits to the Father’s will and sacrifices his own.
- Talk with Jesus in the garden about what he suffers and what he is about to do.
About the Author
Nick Chambers is the Associate Minister at Peachtree Christian Church in Atlanta, GA and the former Director of Spiritual Formation at Calvary UMC.