Buechner: Maundy Thursday
“‘WHAT YOU ARE GOING to do,’ Jesus says, ‘do quickly.’ … Jesus tells them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death,’ and then asks the disciples to stay and watch for him while he goes off to pray. … His prayer is, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will but what thou wilt,’—this tormented muddle of a prayer which Luke says made [Jesus] sweat until it ‘became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.’ He went back to find some solace in the company of his friends then, but he found them all asleep when he got there. ‘The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,’ he said, and you feel that it was to himself that he was saying it as well as to them.” —Frederick Buechner, “Last Supper” in The Faces of Jesus: A Life Story (Paraclete Press, 1974).
We all continually struggle with our own humanity. So many spiritual friends I meet with, including myself, spend a lifetime seeking perfection. Holy Week is a time for us specially to remember Jesus’ struggle with his humanity as best told in the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. On Maundy Thursday in these Gospels, Jesus reveals to us how difficult the human condition is, as he asks for this cup to pass, he sweats “blood,” he suffers, he cries out in anguish, he thirsts, and he even asks God, “Where are you?”
A huge painting of Jesus praying at Gethsemane hung at the front of the sanctuary inside the Methodist Church where I grew up in Virginia. The image of Jesus praying in the Garden is different from any of the other references to his praying in the Gospels. This time Scripture connects us to the human side of Jesus. This is an image to keep when we, as well, are praying through difficult situations in our lives.
We can talk to and identify with those who have had experiences similar to ours. I see this most often in grief recovery groups where people listen to each other because they know that the other has some idea of the pain they are going through. I see this in twelve-step groups where alcoholics and addicts and co-dependents listen to others who walked a very similar path to theirs. How amazing that our God loves us so much, so deeply that God came to be among us. This week especially we remember that God has experienced and understands what it is like to suffer and be human. There is no greater love.
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