Summary: 2006 Maundy Thursday meditation
(The meditation began with a dramatic dialogue, ‘The Road to Gethsemane.’ © 2004 by Creative Communications for the Parish)
“The road to Gethsemane,” writes Arden and Peter Mead, “is a road to prayer.” It is a road to prayer because Jesus tells the disciples to ‘keep alert and pray.’
This begs the question, ‘Keep alert for what?’ as well as the question, ‘Pray for what?’
Regarding the first question, we could argue that Jesus was asking them to stay awake so that they would not give in to the temptation to fall asleep. Which of course, they did.
We could also argue that Jesus was asking them to stay awake so that they could resist the temptation to run away when things began to get hairy and difficult. In spite of Peter’s promise to ‘never deny you,’ our dramatic reading reminds us that evil was beginning to have a field day with Jesus and His followers.
The temptation to run was a very real one for our Savior. We hear it in His agonizing plea, ‘if it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.’
I wonder, did they wake up at the sound of the clanging metal of swords and shields; did they arise to ‘high alert status’ when they heard the footsteps of those who came to ‘finally put a stop to all of this?’ The conclusion of our main text gives us a hint that this is perhaps what Jesus encouraged the eleven who remained with Him to stay awake for.
But what did Jesus want them to pray for? For Him? For God’s will to be done? For themselves? For Judas? Or were they to pray that He (and they) would stand strong and do the Father’s will no matter how hard it was?
We hear the agony in Jesus’ voice as He struggles to do the Father’s will. The very human desire to live begins to struggle against the Divine order to die which also makes this road a road of surrender.
‘Your will, not my will be done.’ Today we might pray,’ Your purpose God, not my purpose; your agenda Father, not my agenda, be done.’
How often do we pray that these days? How often do we pray for God’s will to be done and truly turn our lives and plans and purposes over to the Lord and allow Him to do His good purpose in us and through us?
It is not an easy prayer to pray and carry out. Look what it cost Jesus. But, for us our Gethsemane prayer perhaps will require us not to give up our physical lives but our hopes and dreams and plans and surrender them to God.
The process of surrender is intense and it is not an easy place for Jesus to come to. Three times He prays, in deep soul wrenching agony, ‘If it is your will, take this cup, this about to happen death, and deliver me. Nevertheless, your will not my will be done.”
As we prepare for communion on this very important night, what is it we need to pray for? Is it a greater faith, trust, and confidence in the Lord? Or is it a recommitment to God’s ways and not one’s own?
What is it that we need to watch for? Is it the temptation to give in to skepticism because of all the disappointments in life? Is it the temptation to take short cuts because you are tired of waiting for God to do His thing?