A scandalous day, really. The disciples - men & women - were crushed and confused; befuddled and beside themselves. Their Lord and friend now arrested and facing an unjust and inhumane trial and punishment. He talked about it with them beforehand - but they were either too busy with their own concerns of greatness and didn't really hear, OR, they just didn't think it would really happen.
But here it was - really happening. And these heroic, intimate followers of Jesus - the ones who had seen Jesus turn water to wine, walk on water, heal the lame and blind and just a week ago see him raise Lazarus from the dead...the ones who had themselves cast out demons and healed and served and had a front row seat to all of Jesus' teaching...now, in a seeming blink of an eye, deserted Jesus and fled.
Those are such discouraging words - deserted & fled. Anyone who has been a human being on this planet for more than a couple decades cringes in remembrance of that feeling. Sometimes I wonder if that hurt Jesus more than the nails ripping through his tendons and bones...
The basis of all desertion and fleeing is fear and self-protection. Despite their intimacy and personal knowledge of Jesus, in the muddle of the passion week, they, in the words of The Message, "cut and ran."
Was Jesus too obtuse for them? If he had been clearer, would they have understood and reacted differently?
I doubt it. Human nature is human nature. AND in the flurry of the week's events - from his triumphal entry to his anointing by Mary, to this strange Passover meal in which Jesus stooped to wash their feet, to singing triumphant Hallel (praise) songs while walking to a garden under the full moon of a crisp spring eve; to having stomachs so full of food and hearts so full of grief that they could not even stay awake to pray - they missed it.
Jesus isn't missing it. He's in agonizing sorrow - praying so intensely, his sweat falling like drops of blood. He knows the cross is before Him - He knows his close friends will all desert Him - "Take this assignment away...it's too much...but it's not about me. So Thy will be done."
The disciples are indifferent and sleep through Jesus' painfilled petitions. They are, however, awakened by a hoard of Roman soldiers and Jewish religious leaders carrying torches, swords and clubs. Judas is at the head of the mob, politely betraying Jesus with a kiss. Peter, arising out of his slumber, whacking off Malchus' ear. Jesus says, "I'm not here to lead a rebellion - I'm not who you think or want me to be." Then he reaches out and heals Malchus' ear.
It is in that flurry the disciples "cut & ran" - scurried away like a hoard of cockroaches exposed to a sudden light.
Jesus says to Judas, "Why the charade?" (The Message)
Yes - why the charade?
Sometimes I'm very discouraged by the disciples' desertion. I'm discouraged because even though I know I have moments of eager and expectant faith - I have plenty more where I try to pretend that the cross/death is not part of the equation. I'd prefer more cush - a good night's sleep as opposed to out of control, surrendering prayer. I prefer the charade.
Jesus says of Peter: "There's a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there's another part that's as lazy as an Old dog sleeping by the fire." (The message - Mt. 26:41ish)
B*I*N*G*O - yes, Bingo was his name oh...the dog...
Yup - me too. My spirit is willing, my flesh is weak.
With that many people armed with torches & swords, winding down from Jerusalem into the Kidron valley on a clear night with a full moon - Jesus would have seen them coming. He could have hid & fled. His spirit AND flesh (unlike our own) was willing, not weak.
Isn't it comical - Jesus goes out and asks, "Who is it you want?" Everyone there knows they want HIM...but he makes his betrayer and abusers own up to their misdeeds. He doesn't let them continue with a charade, "oh, greetings Rabbi - we're just 200 soldiers out on an evening walk in the cool of the garden." Why do abusers always twist things to look so innocent?
Perhaps that is one of the greatest pictures of His love - knowing full well they wanted to mock him, spit on him, and humiliate him with death on a cross. Yes - in the midst of a chaotic, jumbled mess of betrayal, arrogance and a sweaty show of force against an innocent (but a threat to their comfort/controlling charade) man...Jesus walks straight into it. Prayed up & seemingly no fear.
With hindsight being 20/20 we so easily chastise the disciples. But how many times does my laziness override my eagerness? How many times do I let prayers fall by the wayside in exchange for sleep or temptation?
Today - the day after the bewildering night of Jesus' arrest - the day we now call "good" because we know the end of the story - I need to let that chaos stay with me. I need to let myself be disturbed & discouraged by my own desertions - whether they be my failure to speak up for Jesus or whether it be my choice to over-indulge my body, mind and emotions with the lesser loves of this world that only pseudo satisfy.
Today's a day of grief...
Sack cloth & ashes
wailing & weeping
Less for the death of a friend. No, I share the disciples' humanity. Let me weep for my own propensity to fall asleep and flee.
If Jesus stayed in the grave - Christianity would remain a mere religion - which pretends to honor a higher being or "force", but is really only all about me.
Lord, may I be adequately disturbed and disgusted with my propensity to flee & desert you for lesser loves & self-protection. May I loathe it so greatly that when I get to Sunday and the tomb is empty - oh - now let my feet not run away, but instead run to tell others, "He is Risen!"
What Thou O Lord Hath suffered - Was all for sinners' gain.
Mine, mine was the transgression - and Thine, the deadly Pain.
Lo here I fall my Savior -
Tis I deserve Thy place....