Summary: Choosing between a life of freedom or indifference.
Thursday – “Sleepy Heads”
4th in a series on “Passion Week”
“A man finally went to the doctor after weeks of symptoms. The doctor examined him carefully, then called the patient’s wife into his office.
“‘Your husband is suffering from a very rare form of anemia. Without treatment, he’ll be dead in a few weeks. The good news is it can be treated with proper nutrition.
"‘You’ll need to get up early every morning and fix your husband a hot breakfast – pancakes, bacon, and eggs. He’ll need a big, home-cooked lunch every day and then an old-fashioned, meat-and-potatoes dinner every evening. It would be especially helpful if you could bake frequently – cakes, pies, homemade bread – these are the things that will allow your husband to live symptom-free.
“‘One more thing. His immune system is weak, so it’s important that your home be kept spotless at all times. Do you have any questions?’
“The wife had none.
“‘Do you want to break the news, or shall I?’ asked the doctor.
“‘I will,’ the wife replied.
“She walked into the examination room. The husband, sensing the seriousness of his illness, asked her, ‘It’s bad, isn’t it?’ She nodded, tears welling up in her eyes. ‘Tell me, what is it?’ he asked her.
“With a sob, the wife blurted out, ‘The doctor says you’re gonna die!’” (Edward K. Rowell and Leadership Journal, 1001 Quotes, Illustrations and Humorous Stories for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1996, 1997), 209).
What lengths are you willing to go for others? When someone else is experiencing difficulty in life, do you go above and beyond the call of duty to extend a helping hand? Do you go the extra mile?
As we’ve been talking about the final week of Jesus’ life, we come to Thursday and Friday of the “Passion Week.” Thursday was Jesus’ last day of freedom; for at the close of the day – after he had prayed in the garden of Gethsemane – he was handed over during the late night hours to the Temple guards who would take him into custody on bogus charges for crimes he didn’t commit. This was a time when he needed the support of his close friends, but was left all alone to struggle through the task that lay ahead.
Let’s read this section of scripture about that late Thursday night prayer in the garden of Gethsemane…
Matthew 26:36-46 (NLT)
Then Jesus brought them to an olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, "Sit here while I go on ahead to pray."  He took Peter and Zebedee's two sons, James and John, and he began to be filled with anguish and deep distress.  He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me."
 He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground, praying, "My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine."  Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, "Couldn't you stay awake and watch with me even one hour?  Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!"
 Again he left them and prayed, "My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away until I drink it, your will be done."  He returned to them again and found them sleeping, for they just couldn't keep their eyes open.
 So he went back to pray a third time, saying the same things again.  Then he came to the disciples and said, "Still sleeping? Still resting? Look, the time has come. I, the Son of Man, am betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Up, let's be going. See, my betrayer is here!"
If not for careful reading at this point in the final week of Jesus’ life we miss some very crucial things. We miss the commonality of a man who the prophet Isaiah says was acquainted with the “bitterest grief.” A man who “was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows.” If we’re not careful we’ll miss these points on that final Thursday prayer in the garden, and we’ll miss the humanity of Jesus as he struggles with overcoming the fear of a brutal death on the cross and ultimate separation from God as he takes on the sins of the world – the sins of each and every man and woman on the face of the earth.
We do well to remember the description given to us by Isaiah, for it tells us something very important about the nature of God. It tells us about the great lengths God’s love was willing to go so that we might know him eternally.