Summary: To prepare for Easter we must not go straight to the cross and the resurrection but remember that the battle for Easter was fought and won in the Garden of Gethsemane

Preparing for Easter (Matthew 26:36-46)

If Easter were to have a logo – it would be most associated with bunny rabbits, and chocolate eggs, chocolate coins, in fact chocolate anything. And for many chocoholics after 4 months of famine since the Christmas gluttony, Easter comes as a welcome reprieve. Yet how often do we think about preparing for Easter – and what does this mean. Are you expecting some advice on physical fitness to prepare you for the ability to consume 5 chocolate eggs in 24 hours, are you expecting advice on what to pack for trips to the relatives over the Easter period. Well if so I fear you will be sorely disappointed.

Even within churches Easter is seen as a high point, a time of celebration where we remember Jesus Christ risen today. A time for joy, happiness and triumph both within and outside the church. Again if you are 3expceting this you will be disappointed.

Today I want us to spend some time looking at how 1 character in the Bible prepared for Easter. I want us to consider what they did, what they said, and the circumstances that surrounded them, and from that I hope we may draw some lessons for our lives.

The passage is Matthew 26:36-46 –read passage

There was once a small girl who had never seen her father anything but cheerful.

As long as she could remember, he seemed to have been smiling at her. He had smiled when she was born, the daughter he had longed for. He had smiled as he held her in his arms and helped her to learn to eat and drink. He had laughed as he played with her, encouraged her with games and toys as she learned to walk, chatted brightly as he took her to school. If she hurt herself, his smile and gentle kiss helped her to relaxand get over it. If she was in difficulties or trouble, the shadow that would cross his face was like a small cloud which hardly succeeded in hiding the sun; soon the smile would come out again, the eager interest in some new project, something to distract, to move on to new worlds.And then one day it happened.

To begin with she wasn’t told why. He came back home from a visit, and with a look she’d never seen before went straight to his room. Ever afterwards she would remember the sounds she then heard, the sounds she never thought to hear.

The sound of a healthy, strapping 30-year-old man weeping for a dead sister.

It was of course a necessary part of growing up. In most families, grief would have struck sooner. Looking back, she remained grateful for the years when smiles and laughter were all she could remember. But the shock of his sudden vulnerability, far more than the fact of the death of her aunt and all that it meant, were what made the deepest impression.

I think Gethsemane was the equivalent moment for the disciples.

Let us pray – Lord open our eyes that we may see you and ourselves more clearly this morning. Amen

Friends this morning we stand on holy ground. Up to this point in the gospels Christ has been surrounded by 100’s – so many different characters, so much activity, so many healings, so many miracles, tax collectors, publicans, prostitutes, divorcees, soldiers, priests, Pharisees, fisherman. The gospels paint a picture of a Jesus who interacts, cares and loves the world, yes spending time on his own. But we se a picture of a man full of faces surrounding him. Here in this story, we begin to see the characters surrounding Jesus melt away into the background. Vs 36 (The disciples are told to stand aside) – 3 are left (Peter, James and John). Then he shares with them these astonishing words “My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death.” Jesus wept, Jesus embraced others, Jesus healed, but nowhere have we read before such sentiment as this. Something is different, in this story we are entering into new territory, and just as the crowds around him peel way, almost the layers upon Jesus are peeling away, and we are invited in to an even greater depth of who he is than ever before.

Even then he leaves a distance between them. Asking them to “stay and keep watch with me”. And then he prays alone. This is the first picture I want us to hold on to – The Christ who goes on alone.” And we see in the later verses how even the disciples fall asleep. The hour is late – this follows the Last Supper, and the disciples are tired, and here in the depths of the night Jesus is alone – poring out his heart to the Father.

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