Welcome to Wednesday’s podcast. I’m Clarissa Finnemore, and I’m married to Tom. Todays passage is Matthew 26:36-56. I’m going to read verses 38-40, but I’d encourage you to read the whole passage.
‘Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.’
I don’t know about you but I have found 2020 a challenge. The constant unknowns, unable to plan, unable to see family and friends. It is challenged me physically with things like juggling home school, as a community nurse I’ve had to adapt to changing procedures like wearing PPE. We all this year have had to adapt in some way. I wonder if this year has revealed to you where your roots are? Or consider this; where do you get your strength when life is hard?
This year has also been a challenge emotionally for me, and so in an even more poignant way has revealed to me where I get my strength, what makes me strong and where my roots are. In December last year I had a miscarriage. Many of you may know Tom and I have journeyed for many years with infertility and now by the grace of God and the provision of medical science we have 3 beautiful children; even so this experience was still very painful. So as we came into 2020 I was already emotionally weary and then in March the pandemic hit. After a few weeks of home school, I realised that what made me look forward to the weekend – what kept me going – was the thought of that glass of wine or gin and tonic on a Thursday night. Now I don’t think alcohol is a bad thing! But I realised that I was watering my roots in the wrong place. So for a season I stopped drinking alcohol and I refocused on God’s truth in my life.
I wonder, when storms come in your life, what makes you strong? What do you rely on? Do you rely on others? Do you pour yourself another glass of wine? Do you stick your fingers in your ears and hope it will go away? Or do you reach for your Bible? If not, why not? Have you been hurt? Lost hope? Have you experienced loss or unanswered prayer and don’t feel God is there anymore? Have you become cynical? The thing about plant roots is they don’t grow overnight, they grow gradually; and they grow where they are watered the most.
Whatever reason we may not at times rely on God, todays passage I think reveals why we can trust him, and why its often in those times of unanswered prayers and pain and tiredness or whatever situation you are in today that we actually realise once we turn to him that we find he was there all along.
In this passage in Matthew today we see Jesus in Gethsemane. His friends are asleep, he is alone, betrayed, and his Father is asking him to give up his life and take on the sins of the world. What comes out? Faithfulness, trust in God and surrender. We see that Jesus is so rooted and guided by scripture that this gives him the strength to deal with: emotional pain, betrayal and abandonment and ultimately say “not as I will, but as you will” (v39). He says “Your way Lord”.
The other night I was watching a documentary and learnt about a women called Marianne Cohn. Marianne was born in 1922 in Germany into a Jewish family. In 1942 she began to smuggle Jewish children into Switzerland across the heavily guarded French border. In 1944 after smuggling nearly 200 children safely into Switzerland her truck containing her and 28 children were stopped by the German Police near the Swiss Border and were all arrested. Due to the bravery of a local Mayor the younger children were released. Marianne was interrogated, but never talked of what she had been doing. Her friends in the resistance movement wanted to plan a rescue attempt, but fearing reprisals Marianne refused. Two months later, aged just 21 Marianne was taken from the prison with 5 others and were brutally murdered. I don’t know for sure what kept Marianne strong, but I can only imagine that her Jewish faith and her love and commitment to the lives of the children and passion for truth and justice had something to do with it.
We can read in today’s passage that Jesus was feeling sorrowful and anxious. “My soul” he says “is overwhelmed to the point of death”. It’s good to know that when we go through emotional pain that Jesus has been there. He didn’t want to do it; he didn’t want to be alone. Tom Wright says ‘Jesus at this point was no hero-figure…he was a man’ (p160 Matthew for Everyone T. Wright).
Betrayed and Abandoned
Three times Jesus went off to pray and asked his friends to stay and “keep watch with me” (v38), and all three times when he returned they had fallen asleep. Here his closest friends had failed him, and then when he was arrested they all desert him and ran away. Yet we see that even as Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss that Jesus calls him “friend” (v50). So we can be encouraged that even if we fail or are disloyal to God that he stays loyal to us. We can also be encouraged here to ensure we support friends that are going through hard times. Jesus longed for the support of his friends so how much more should we support those that are going through difficult times.
Your way Lord
And then despite the loneliness and the betrayal, Jesus not in resignation but with courage says after pleading to his Father “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (v39). Jesus was so grounded in the scriptures that he says to the crowd “this has all taken place that the writings of the Prophets might be fulfilled” (v56).
Let me end with a prayer:
Lord today, would you begin to reveal to me where my roots are. Lord we are sorry for where we may have neglected to water them and we ask that today you would give me the resolve to not just ‘ getthrough the day’, but to intentionally seek you with all my heart, soul and strength. So whatever lies ahead today or this week my roots would stand firm and I’m able to say “Not my way, but your way Lord”.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 26:36-56
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him.
Jesus replied, ‘Do what you came for, friend.’
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’
In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.