Streaking at Gethsemane (staying awake, but still running away)

He came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you stay alert for one hour? Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak. – Mark 14:37-38

One young man, a disciple, was wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They grabbed him, but he left the linen cloth behind and ran away naked. Mark 14:51-52

– thinking about my journey…

Yet again, meeting with my Wednesday evening Bible study group, I am left with a deep sense of gratitude for what and how these men contribute to my journey as a person of faith.

Yesterday evening there were nine of us “in” the Zoom room. We typically meet for 90-minutes, and there is always so much more to say, to talk about, to learn from one another.

This week we talked about Gethsemane, the place where Jesus went with his friends to pray before his arrest and crucifixion. We tried to wrap our minds around the grief and anguish Jesus felt there, and we talked about our personal connections to the story.

At the end I was left with two distinct images. The first is one I have thought about before, the second is something new.

Staying Awake!

First, Jesus was disappointed that his disciples did not “stay awake” while he struggled in prayer so agonizingly. He wanted – he needed – a sense of their companionship and their active presence. His concern was also spiritual, in terms of their watchfulness, their awareness of the world around them, and their consequent ability to interface with this world’s great need and be ready to share the light and love of Jesus.

This reminds me of the succinct, brilliant answer Rebekah gave one time when a pastoral search team was interviewing her about a possible call (it may have been the team from Wake Forest….). “How do you prepare for preaching?” one man asked, thinking she would then talk about 20-hours of work, Bible-study, searching through concordances and reference books, prayer etc.

“Well” she said, reducing her answer to five short words, “I try to stay awake.”

Naked and on the run:

The second image is this observation, in Mark’s Gospel, of a young man running away when Jesus is arrested. A soldier grabs at his robe but he squirms out of it and flees the scene, naked.

I can’t help but feel disarmed by this story, disrobed as it were. I cover up my lack of faith, my weakness, my doubts, my fears, my inauthenticity… and when it all falls away in the presence of Jesus I just run.

But then I look around and I see that my friends – these men who share in conversation and prayer with me – may be overwhelmed sometimes too, but they are not running away. Instead they are doing their best to stand with Jesus and they are taking their stand together.

We are standing together. We need each other. We need to be awake, we need to strip away the pretense and live with more authenticity, we need to encourage one another, and we need to continue to follow Jesus.

Because we know the end of the story, and we must live as if we believe it – DEREK

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