Summary: This is part II in the series 24. It is a first person narrative from the perspective of Mark. The preaching idea: Prayer isn’t always a garden of serenity; sometimes it’s a wrestling mat.
In case you weren’t with us last week, we’ve begun a brand new series of sermons entitled 24, based on the last 24 hours of Jesus Christ. What makes this particular series of sermons so unique is that I will be sharing from the perspective of characters present during the events. These story-like sermons will hopefully be both inspiring and educational as we move toward the cross during this season of Lent.
Today’s story will draw both from the Scripture passage we are about to read along with tradition and speculation. In particular a tradition has existed for many centuries that gives an identity to a character in today’s story who is not identified within the passage and ties that character together very closely with our story from last week. In addition to that tradition I will be drawing from both my own speculation along with that of historians and commentators as to how the events of the night may have unfolded and in particular how it is that we have the words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when his disciples were supposed to have been asleep while he was speaking them. Please keep in mind that the majority of what I will share with you this morning is either Biblically or historically accurate. There are only a few bridges which have needed to be built in order to bring the story to life.
Would you now turn with me in your Bibles to Mark 14:27-52 for our reading from the Word of God…
Let us pray…
God we cry for out for the lives of the eight teenagers and twelve others across the south that were taken in the storms that hit the south last week. Surely it pains our hearts to see people suffer such as this. Why did you allow that tornado to hit that high school head on? Sometimes we wonder if you care at all. We know you love us, but why is it that at times you seem to be silent?
Why did you make such storms? Did we cause the weather that separated families permanently and snuffed out young lives?
We know our understanding is limited, and we know you have the truth, and who can we turn to but you? But we can’t help but wonder why you allow such things to happen? Forgive us for our questioning – we question because we love you and we’re looking for an explanation for the terrible things that happened. Amen.
While all of us sympathize with the pain that is being experienced this morning by the family members of those high school students who were killed, the fact is, a prayer such as this makes most of us uncomfortable. Such a prayer is a bit too audacious. Perhaps a little too bold for our liking. We’re much more comfortable with prayers that are characterized by timidity. “God,” we pray, “if it’s your will, and we understand if it’s not, if you wouldn’t mind, and please don’t be offended by our asking, would you give us this day our daily bread.” We like to leave a means of escape for ourselves and for God (as if he needs it). We like to leave a way out, a back door if you will, ultimately because when it comes down to it we’re either afraid that God won’t answer our prayers or we really don’t believe in prayer.
If you were to do a search of the Scriptures, you’d have a hard time finding any such faint or timid prayers. The Psalmist prayed “O God, why have you rejected us for so long? Remember that we are the people you chose long ago. Don’t forget your suffering people forever.” Job, a man who had lost everything he had, including his family and his health said, “God, you don’t answer me when I cry. I stand before you, but you don’t even look. You’ve used your power to persecute me!”
Over and over again what we find in the words of Scripture are prayers of passion, intensity, boldness, and tenaciousness. We find prayers that reflect a kind of real, authentic, vulnerable faith in God, the kind of genuine, non-varnished faith we find recorded by the author of the Gospel of Mark in today’s reading.
Let me introduce him to you.
I’m humbled to be with you this morning. To be honest, I’d rather not be here, up front that is, I don’t like to be in the limelight. I’d rather be assisting someone else. I’d rather be behind the scenes serving. That’s what I spent most of my life doing.
I grew up in a God fearing home. More than that, I grew up around the pioneers of Christianity learning from those who laid the very foundations of our faith. They used our home and our garden as a refuge and a place of prayer.