A few years ago I was able to spend the week before Easter reading Scripture and praying in a more focused way than usual. It was 2011, my personal annus mirabilis, the year when I finally accepted the idea that God accepted me. Every day for months, I heard new truth and wrote it down. From Fortress to Freedom is the compilation of the first forty of those writings, and the fortieth came just before Holy Week. I kept writing daily, and on the night of Maundy Thursday that year I was awake most of the night, praying, meditating, and writing. Here are some of the words from that night.
Unable to Stand
Next I see Him standing up, dusting off his knees, and looking at the guys sleeping on the ground. He knows they’re about to leave Him, but He loves them like crazy anyway. Bless their hearts, they wanted to be with Him, but they just don’t have the staying power they need to be right there with Him. They did their best, at least the best they thought they could do, and He knows it. With resignation, perhaps, but with deep affection and concern, he speaks over them softly: “Sleep. Go ahead and get your rest, guys. You’re gonna need it.”
I imagine some time passes before He tells them to get up. In the Matthew narrative there is no break, but after letting them rest a while, He calls them to rise. He knows they aren’t going to be any help, but He still needs His buddies around Him for this next moment that He foresees and has chosen not to avoid. He is a man, a single human being, facing the most difficult trial in history before or since. Of course He wants his closest friends to stand with Him for as long as they can.
Then things start to get ugly. The plan starts unfolding before the eyes of those closest to Him, as He has seen it all along but could not tell them in terms they could comprehend. They still cannot understand, and after one of His friends makes a rash and violent move, He heals even the servant of His chief earthly enemy, the high priest who has set out to kill Him. Then He takes time to explain yet again that His way is a way of peace, that He is in control of Himself and can defend Himself, but that He must go through this trial.
How focused on His purpose, how intent on His mission, was He. To seek and to save, He came. Even when the turn of events made it obvious that He was near the end of His time here, this man remained faithful and earnestly tried to keep teaching, keep explaining, keep encouraging those who had ears to hear, to listen to the Word, the Way, the Truth, the Life.
He speaks to those coming under cover of darkness to whisk Him away to a secret mock trial. “Did you really have to do all this sneaking around? I’ve been in the Temple, like, every day, and you didn’t bother me then. Well, you may as well know, this is all part of the plan. And all those Scriptures I was trying to explain then, that I’ve been living out before you for all these years, are about to come true in a really big way. So, thanks, guys.”
And then, after His confident statement that things were going according to plan, then the disciples forsook him and fled. Why are we so afraid of truth?
Unable to watch and wait with Him, we fall asleep in our complacency. Unable to comprehend His plan, we act outside of it. Unable to face the truth, we run away.
God, Our Father, help us. Help us, like Christ, to come to the place of being alone and unguarded in Your presence, to accept Your will as supreme, and to stand in confidence as Your plan unfolds with us as part of it. Let us not turn back, turn away, turn aside; let us not forsake Your Son and flee, ever again. Help us, Holy Spirit, to understand and to believe and to stand. And Lord Jesus, our brother, please do not stop pleading our case before the throne of God, for we know we have failed You and do not even deserve to be making these requests.