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Maundy Thursday, March 24, 2016

Today’s Reading | Luke 22:39–65

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” They kept heaping many other insults on him. (NRSV)

A mob scene. That’s what this is. Crowds filled with anger and fear have come for Jesus. Judas and Peter are both there, and they are both betrayers, for different reasons. Judas is a perpetrator of evil, plotting gain for himself. Peter is simply weak and fearful. I feel sad about these betrayers and sad about the multitude of times I’ve betrayed Jesus.

Unanswered prayers also make me sad. Jesus prayed so hard it’s as though his sweat turned to blood. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me . . .” Jesus’ prayer makes me think of the pain expressed by so many over the years, in the confidence of my office. “Why weren’t my prayers answered? Why did my loved one die? Why did I lose my job?”

And I feel sad for Jesus and the mocking and physical violence he endured. It makes me sad for all of those others in the world still enduring violence and persecution.

But I feel something else too. I’m inspired by Jesus, who prays hard and still entrusts his life to God. I’m inspired by Jesus, who halts his people from fighting back with violence. “No more of this,” he says to the man who wielded the sword on the high priest’s slave. Instead Jesus touched the wounded man’s ear and healed him. I’m inspired by Jesus who saw Peter’s betrayal and loved and forgave him nonetheless.

There’s no getting around the sadness of this story, but there’s also no getting around how much Jesus inspires me.

Dear Lord Jesus, forgive me for my betrayals and lack of trust. But also thank you for coming into the world to inspire me to act with love no matter what. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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