Thursday, April 18, 2019

Daily Devotion for Lent 2019 - Day 38

Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:36-75 (NRSV)

It must have been a difficult time for Jesus to endure.

Sometimes we sleep even though
we know we shouldn't.
Surrounding his arrest, the characters through which we see the story are his disciples.  Their behavior even though predicted seems to be lacking in perseverance.

We find them sleeping and Jesus implores them to stay awake and pray with him.  They fall asleep two more times, awakened when one of their own number comes with a mob bent on taking Jesus in for questioning.  This reminds us that Jesus has instructed us to keep awake two times before in the preceding two chapters.

Even as Jesus is being arrested, we see his followers seek to intervene with violence and Jesus continues to instruct.  With his declaration of the angels, we understand that Jesus is really in charge of the situation but allows it to continue.

Notice that he refuses to speak under oath as we are reminded that Jesus has told us to avoid doing that - Peter by contrast denies Jesus by oath.

The treatment of Jesus in being struck, slapped and spit upon reminds us of the suffering servant from Isaiah 50:6:

I gave my back to those who struck me,
    and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
    from insult and spitting.    (NRSV)

Just as we begin our reading with the disciples falling asleep three times, we then end it with Peter's thrice denial of his Lord.  It would be hard to criticize Peter as he would have feared for his own life.  It would have been terribly traumatic.  Maybe he would have justified his own inaction by agreeing with Jesus that God could send angels to do the work of freeing him.  Placing his own life in jeopardy would not make Jesus any less captive.

What is impressive is that this is the church's account of what happened.  We could have easily brushed some of the less charitable moments by its founders under the rug and yet they are exposed in the light of day.  This is because we must always remember that we are founded on grace.

There are times in our own lives that we may have rather had God send an angel to do the work we were called to do.  After all, we can justify with the best of them!  But maybe we are called to be numbered in the twelve legions of angels at God's disposal.  This story reminds us that just because God is on our side, it doesn't mean we won't suffer for the cause.

Prayer for the day:

God, we are not betrayers.
We would never desert you.  
We are not deniers of our faith.
But if we examine our actions,
and if we are honest with ourselves,
we know that we also have moments that might cause us to weep.
Give us the courage to be the Church anyway.

Photo by reynermedia via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

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