And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.”
But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ But he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same.
They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’Mark 14:27-42
When we think of Jesus’ death, we often miss the fact that he didn’t go to the cross impassively with complete equanimity. We tend to imagine that just because Jesus is divine, he had no problems with the whole deal of getting betrayed by one beloved disciple, abandoned by the rest, falsely accused by the religious leaders, tortured by the Roman soldiers, and executed on a cross. The passage today clearly shows us otherwise.
We see a man who knew very well what he would soon go through and was extremely distressed by it, “deeply grieved, even to death.” He was so distressed that he fell to the ground in prayer instead of standing to pray, as was the Jewish custom at that time. Thinking of what he would have to endure took all strength away from him. His prayer reflected his distress: “remove this cup from me.” Even though he knew his mission must culminate with his Passion, having announced it to his disciples throughout his ministry, his dread on the eve of it was so great he was moved to asked his Father for reprieve. It was a very human reaction.
It is from this emotional state that we appreciate the rest of his prayer: “yet, not what I want, but what you want.” This is Jesus’ obedience, “to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Phil. 2.8). The “even” of the hymn quoted by Paul speaks volumes of that obedience. Surely, people were flogged and crucified against their will. Who would accept such a horrific death for themselves? Who could? It wasn’t as if Jesus had no choice—he could’ve simply escaped to Galilee. Despite the very human reaction to the unspeakable horror of an impending crucifixion, Jesus made the truly human response: “yet, not what I want, but what you want.” He chose to obey his Father.
May God grant us that obedience in the Spirit of Christ, so we won’t be found to be deserters, but be faithful to the end. May we always have the mind of Christ, to be doing what our Father wants, instead of what we desire.