18/8/02 10.30am Family Service : Matthew 26:36-46
36 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." 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." 39 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." 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. 41 "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." 42 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." 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
Use OHP acetate of 'Home Alone' movie - image at www.moviemalls.com/images/ indexhomealonepic1.jpg information from http://www.foxhome.com/homealone/synopsis.html As well as having moments of comedy 'Home Alone' has times when it is frightening and the future is uncertain for it's hero, or at least as uncertain that you can get in such a movie!
There may have been times in our lives when we have felt alone. Perhaps when we have started at a new school or job, or we might have moved home to an new area where we do not know anyone, or maybe people might have picked upon us because of our hair colour, glasses, height, accent, faith or whatever. Feeling alone can be frightening and unsettling. I am sure we can all relate to that at some time in our lives.
In today's reading Jesus must have felt lonely. Lonely because he knew he would soon be denied by Peter and betrayed by Judas. Lonely because Peter, James and John were falling asleep rather than praying. Lonely because of the rejection, suffering and death that was imminent. What was Jesus response to this?
Verse 39, 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."
Three times Jesus prayed this prayer showing the importance of it. The cup was a symbol of deep sorrow and suffering. Here it refers to being cut off from God the Father when Jesus received the punishment for the sins of the world. Jesus asked that this cup be taken away if possible, but was willing to accept his destiny and die on the cross. In doing so he was acknowledging that God's way was best and that he, Jesus would follow this way. Even though this would result in short term pain for him this would bring everlasting joy for all believers.
What can we take from this passage today?
Like Jesus we are to pray to share our feelings with God, but also to obey the plans that he had for us. Although this may, at times involve difficulties God loves us and wants the best for us. Jeremiah 29:11 : "For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
A church minister shared about a church he served in Tennessee where an eccentric and flamboyant elder impressed him with her intense commitment to the faith. 'One evening at a dinner party in her home we were animatedly discussing some theological idea. In the midst of the give and take her teenage daughter, probably frustrated with all of the high-blown discussion of religion, asked, "Mother, you talk about religion all the time. Why are you so religious anyway?" This query brought a loud hush to the dining table. Her mother paused dramatically, pushed her chair back from the table, stood and responded, "Every morning before you are awake, I rise and walk into the living room. I lift my arms and ask, `Who's in charge here?' The answer always comes back: `Not you!' That's why I am religious. Because I am not in charge!"
The Christian faith begins
with the realisation that we are not in charge, and from there
we can proceed to obey the One who is in charge. Jesus declares
to all his disciples: Go into the world knowing who is in charge
and what it will mean to act upon that knowledge!
From Jesus' example we see that to obey God's plan is not always easy and can lead to suffering. Perhaps we could especially pray for Christians who are persecuted for their faith. That God would be with them, and help them to live out their faith and to share it with others.
We should also be aware of what happened to the disciples who slept that night. As Jesus was being crucified they must have felt guilty as they remembered what had happened, especially Peter who, motivated by fear, went on to deny that he ever knew Jesus.
After his resurrection Jesus forgave and restored these men, and commissioned them to go out into a hostile world to share the good news.
However, Jesus did not send them out alone, they had his Spirit living within them. To be God's presence and to give them the courage, strength and abilities they needed to live and witness for God.
We have the Holy Spirit living within us today, therefore we need never be lonely. We can know God's presence all the time and be confident, whatever happens, that he is in control of our lives giving us everything we need.