Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
I still remember the first time I saw Holy Week referred to as Passion Week! I was a new Christian and associated ‘passion’ with strong emotion or intense loving feelings. I could not see how the crucifixion and resurrection could be called Passion Week.
I did some research and found that the word “passion” comes from the Greek verb pascho, and meaning “to suffer,” particularly in reference to Christ’s sufferings and death on the cross. What a difference between the secular connotation of passion and the meaning behind the week’s title!
Suffering is not a popular topic in today’s culture and rarely does one hear a sermon that addresses the biblical perspective on it. When people are faced with suffering, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual, we tend to look for the nearest pill, band-aid, or product to numb the pain and make the suffering go away.
Sadly, much of the suffering that people in our pews are dealing with cannot be relieved simply with pills or products. Guilt, grief, shame, sin, sexual brokenness, dysfunctional families, and addictions do not go away easily. When people are facing pain, trials, death, and betrayal, they need encouragement and hope.
This is where the passion of Christ as shared in our reading in Matthew, especially in Chapter 26: 36-46, can provide consolation and comfort. While the suffering on the cross is also a critical example that we can point people to, most of us won’t face the level of suffering experienced in the crucifixion. But when Jesus is in the Garden, His actions reflect His human side, the side to which we can relate!
He is aware of what is ahead for Him, (pain and separation from the Father) and He petitions the Father three times to let the cup pass from Him. He is asking God to find another way for redemption to be made possible. Instead of God answering Jesus’ prayer, He lets Him suffer for our sake. God did that because He knew what was on the other side of the suffering, the resurrection.
In other words, we cannot prevent people from suffering but we are called to let them see that God has a plan, a purpose for it. And He will be with them in it, just as he was with Jesus. And that is real passion.
Dear Lord, please help Your people not to fear suffering but to seek more of You in the midst of our suffering. We are grateful for Palliative Care that provides pain relief for physical suffering, and we thank You for coming along side us in our emotional and spiritual suffering. Help us to have hope in our suffering as we trust Your purposes to be served through it. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
This month’s reflections are written by Deacon Georgette Forney. She was ordained to the vocational diaconate in the Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy in the Anglican Church in North America in 2014. As well as serving as President of Anglicans for Life, She is also the Co-Founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, an effort to raise awareness about the physical, spiritual, and emotional harm abortion does to women and men and to help those who are hurting after abortion find healing.