Praying for Strength

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” All of them deserted him and fled.

A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

Mark 14:32-52

Something I notice about Gethsamane that I didn’t notice in Matthew is how Jesus tells the disciples to pray so they will not come into the time of trial. Obviously Jesus wanted company and sympathy, so I always assumed He wanted the disciples praying for Him. (What a 21st century American thing to think! “Pray for me!”) But instead, He is telling them that if they prayed, perhaps the opportunity to betray Him would not come. He knows that they are not strong enough to stay by Him, so He counsels them to pray for strength. Yet they don’t listen.

Do we? Jesus told us that anything we ask for in prayer is ours, as long as we believe it (Mark 11:24). And He also advises us to pray when we are in need. Do we, or do we rely on ourselves first? When we really need strength or wisdom, do we ask God first, or only after we’ve failed, the way the disciples did? I know it doesn’t usually occur to me to pray about something until after I’ve failed on my own. That’s not what God wants! He’s there for us! We need to take advantage of that!

The last two verses about the young man perplexed me. What does it mean? Why is it there? Scholars have three ideas. First, he stuck around longer than the disciples did, so he could be the credible eyewitness who reported what happened. Second, that his disrobing may be symbolic, specifically in reference to Amos 2:16. Finally, when compared to the young man in Mark 16, he may symbolize the death and re-birth we see in baptism.

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One Response to Praying for Strength

  1. Pingback: The Many Endings of Mark | Understanding the New Testament

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