The Gospel of Mark is not one that I would normally choose to read. The sparseness of this particular Gospel and the frequent use of the word “immediately” disturbs me. I prefer reading a Gospel that tells a story and tells it in detail. The evangelist Mark doesn’t write that way. So when I opened my Word on Fire Bible this morning and opened to a page in Mark’s Gospel, I was surprised. I had decided to just open my Bible this morning and read what appeared on the open page.
Here is what I read: “Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter, James and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. (The Word on Fire Bible uses the word “agitated” and not distressed). Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch”. He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will”….
I never noticed nor thought about some of this passage before. Jesus tells his closest friends that he was troubled and distressed. (agitated) The Bible doesn’t say that Peter, James or John ask Jesus why or try to comfort Him. I know that comforting others isn’t usually the purview of men. Women are the ones who have taken upon themselves that role and perhaps it is more suited to the personalities of women. But still, these are His closest friends who have spent the last three years with Him. They have just witnessed and participated in the Last Supper where Jesus tells them that He will soon be arrested and put to death. Did these three apostles say anything to Him when Jesus admitted to be distressed? This Gospel doesn’t tell us. I would like to know if the apostles tried to comfort their Friend.
Then I thought that Jesus had known all along that this Passion was His fate, what He had come to do. Is the Passion what distressed Him? Or rather was He distressed because of Judas’ act of betrayal? After all, Judas had been chosen from among many to be His companion. Judas had been present and witnessed many of Jesus’ miracles. While the Gospels tell us that Judas was a thief, did Jesus think of him that way? Did He believe that Judas would be saved? How many times did Our Lord warn the apostles? Even at the Last Supper, Jesus announced that one of the twelve would betray Him. Would that not have been enough to stave off the betrayal, with the betrayer knowing that He was known to the Master?
The text continues: “When he returned, he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test…..He withdrew again… Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him….”
I know how difficult it is to stay awake when a person is really tired. I rise early and go to bed early. Staying awake past my normal bed time after a busy day is not something that I can do. After a long day, the apostles were no doubt exhausted. I hear great sadness in Jesus’ words. Did the apostles try to maintain a vigil? Or were they so tired, that none could keep his eyes open? And after Jesus was arrested, tried and convicted, did the apostles castigate themselves that at the hour of their Friend’s greatest need, they could not even remain awake to comfort Him?
There have been times in my life when I have made a choice, even though someone I loved was in great need, and my choice was the wrong one. I understand why I made my choice, but I can never forget those actions. Why didn’t I have the courage, the strength, the foresight to have made a different choice? And what if I had made a different choice? Would it have made any difference?.