Summary: Sermon Objective: To show God’s people the connection between an intimate prayer life and the ability to follow God’s will.
EAVESDROPPING IN GETHSEMANE
Sermon Objective: To show God’s people the connection between an intimate prayer life and the ability to follow God’s will.
NOTE: This sermon included a vocalist who sings the hymn “Where he Leads I’ll Follow” at various placed throughout the message. Afterwards the congregation can sing the hymn in its entirety.
Statuary Hall is a chamber in the United States Capitol devoted to sculptures of prominent Americans. The hall, also known as the Old Hall of the House, is a large, two-story, semicircular room with a second story gallery along the curved perimeter. It was the meeting place of the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly 50 years before the civil war.
It was here that President Barak Obama had his first meal after being sworn in as president last Tuesday as he lunched with congress.
The hall has a rather unique (and strategic) claim to fame. It is also known as “The whisper chamber”. The room’s architecture is such that when someone is whispering at one of the foci’s of the room (known as “whisper spots”), a person near the other foci (and completely across on the other side of the hall) can hear them. This phenomena was discovered (and used) by John Quincy Adams to eavesdrop on other members of the House.
Eavesdropping is the act of surreptitiously listening to a private conversation. This is commonly understood to be unethical and there is an old adage that eavesdroppers seldom hear anything good of themselves.
Early telephone systems shared party lines which would allow the sharing subscribers to listen to each others conversations. This was a common practice in rural America which resulted in many a feud.
The story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane reads like eavesdropping. I am not sure how the Gospel writers found out about Jesus’ prayers in the Garden unless they could hear him. The passage almost intrudes on the private agony of Jesus. It seems hard to read it.
32They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." 33He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."
35Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36"Abba. Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
39Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
As I said, I am not sure how the Gospel writers knew about the prayer of Jesus except by overhearing it; but I am certainly glad they did. I am glad that the Holy Spirit made sure the church was given this painful insight into the life and prayer-life of our Savior.
The 17th century Frenchman Francois Fénelon gives us a description of prayer (see his work titled, “The Inner Life.”) that is as relevant today as it was then:
Tell God all what is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and pains, to a dear friend. Tell him your troubles that he may comfort you; tell him your joys, that that he may sober them; tell him your longings, that he may purify them; tell him your dislikes, that he may help you conquer them; tell him your temptations, that he may shield you from them; show him the wounds of your heart, that he may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and to others.
Notice the honesty with God. And isn’t that what prayer should be anyway – honesty to God?
The account of Jesus in Gethsemane is a significant and essential element in the passion narrative. It is here that Jesus settles some significant concerns. Coming to grips with the “cup” – the imminent torture, death, abandonment, and divine judgment is a hard thing – even for Jesus. One might say the atoning suffering even began here, prior to the arrest. Mark uses words that express the strongest possible anguish for Jesus. The violence of the cross began in the garden.