Sunday, April 24, 2011

Approaching the Cross III: Stay awake!

A three part sermon on Matthew's account of Gethsemane (Matthew 26.36.46).

I. The gathering storm
II. Draining the cup
III. Stay awake!
And at this crucial time, his disciples cannot keep their eyes open. Why is Jesus so keen for his disciples to stay awake and so disappointed to find them repeatedly sleeping? At the start of our chapter he has already told them that he was about to be handed over to be crucified. Were they to give him warning when his enemies were approaching? Was that it? Or was he making a much deeper point about the necessity of paying attention? I don’t think he was so much trying to prevent his arrest as asking his disciples to watch carefully what was about to happen. He didn’t want them to miss the full significance of what he was doing. He was not simply setting them an example of non-violent resistance to hatred and hubris. He was fighting a battle on their behalf, on our behalf, forging a new way to be human, emptying the cup of God’s judgement so none is left over.

The passion and cross of Christ that follow are also well-known, well-trodden ground, holy ground. Will we nod off? Will we let our attention slip? Will the familiar stories wash over us?

Jesus bids us too to pay attention, to stay awake, to keep watch. Will we join in his vigil? Will we share his prayer and entrust ourselves to his Father, our Father? Will we watch him as he dies, not turning our eyes from the whips and thorns or closing our ears to the mockery? Will we gaze intently at this death to catch a glimpse of the hope of true life? Will we, like him, out of love, enter into the sorrow and pain of our neighbour, be grieved by the wrongs of the world and allow our hearts and lives to be broken for the sake of others? Will we wake up and watch? Or have our eyes already glazed over, our hands reaching for the remote to change the channel and return to our all too easy, soothing slumber?

Let’s pray.

Father, keep us awake that we may learn from your Son how to pray. Amen.


Ian Packer said...

Thanks, Byron - in appreciation of your reflections