Thursday, April 5, 2012


It is the night before Good Friday and appropriately, I can't sleep.  In Mark, Jesus asks his disciples to stay awake with him through the night in the garden of Gethsemane. At first it seems like a question of group solidarity, but toward the end of the passage, we get a glimpse of a very life-like Jesus. He is on edge.

In Mark chapter 14, verse 36, Jesus agonizingly gives over his feigned control, "Abba, Father, remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want."...but Jesus is the only one praying. He only hears the sound of his own voice and the crickets outside.

When Jesus finds those silly disciples conked out and snoring, we see his torture. "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour?" Jesus asks them to pray for him. You know the line..."his spirit is willing, but his flesh is weak."

I don't think Simon just rolled over and said "yeah, yeah, yeah...just go to sleep you weirdo." Simon and his friends just have nothing to say. They are sleepy. Sleep is something that everyone needs. Why would Jesus want to go without sleep? They could pray during the day. They could pray tomorrow morning.  Maybe they didn't get why praying would be such an urgent thing in the middle of the night.

Was Jesus looking for group solidarity? Did Jesus really need the support of his friends to make it through what must have been the most difficult night of his life? Maybe. Maybe Jesus longed for support and love just as we all do. Maybe Jesus was just like one of the inmates in the geriatric ward here at Mandiram. Maybe all he needed was a loving touch and some words of kindness on that night.

Would the outcome have been different if Simon and the other disciples had gathered around their leader for an all night candle lit vigil? Probably not. Jesus (being Jesus) must have known that fact. He shows in verse 36 whose "wants" will be met. So why did Jesus want prayer and support? Why did he want something he knew he didn't really need?

I enjoy the language and the urgency in this passage. Jesus yells "Keep awake!" and "Enough!" and gets a little sassy with Simon. The most subtle urgency to me however, is the use of the word "want" instead of the word "need."

If you replace the word want with need, we end up with "yet not what I need, but what you need." This would imply that Jesus would have felt so attached, so obligated to his body just as it was, that he felt the need to stay. It implies that Jesus was deciding to sacrifice his needs for an assignment from God. When the crucifixion becomes something that God needed Jesus to do, it becomes a little less special.

Instead we are presented with a savior who wanted life, wanted support, wanted love just like everyone else in this world. Instead we are presented with a Jesus who is willing to transform the idea of what he wanted for himself. Jesus places wants out of his hands. He trusts in the thing God wants for all mankind.

God wanted to show humanity the true meaning of servanthood. God wanted to forgive his people. God wanted to watch his son transform from a physical body, to a body of followers.

On this night, I am thinking about all of the special times this year that I have been reminded of what I want and what I need. The times that have truly changed me are not the times in which I have sacrificed or fulfilled a need. The times that have transformed me are the ones where I can truly say, this is what I want. Or, more importantly, this is what God wants for me.

I am currently having difficulty embracing my decision-making pattern. It is amazing how lucky I get with opportunities in life. Most of the time the thing that sticks in my head, the thing that I really can't stop thinking about, is where I end up. It happened with Austin College, it happened with YAV, and it is currently happening with Austin, TX. I just have that city (and one particular job) stuck in my head. I am chasing after a job, something I need, but I hope that I can eventually say that it is what I want.

I also sometimes just have random things tossed in my wake that throw me for a loop. I am going to be co-teaching a Conversational English Class at Kumarakom Lake Resort each Saturday of the summer (and maybe for the rest of my time here in India.) It was great to meet some of the staff who will be taking the class today. Most of them are trying to make it in the tourism industry and are struggling to move up because of their level of English.

It is open to all positions at the Resort, so we expect to be serving people from all kinds of backgrounds and all different levels of English. I hope that it will be an opportunity to help these people succeed and serve them in a way that I know how. It will be a challenge for me, but hopefully a challenge that I can accept.

It challenges me in other ways because today's meeting made me feel unnecessarily powerful. A free lunch at the Resort restaurant, a tour of the grounds and an offer for a free houseboat ride. All of that hospitality was given from the heart, but I don't think I can do the job well if I feel somehow...compensated for the service. In order for this to feel right, it has to feel like I am volunteering. I just have to stand my ground and discern what I deeply and meaningfully want to give to, and take from this experience.

I will not let material, superficial wants get in the way. Only the transformative ones. Only the wants that God nods at through the loving body of Christ.

Thank you for not falling asleep on me. Thank you all for your prayers and support. Please continue to pray with me.

1 comment:

  1. I'm awake and praying. Your blog was shared at the Mission Ministry meeting last night and I just emailed this one to everyone. Your missionary walk helps us with our own faith ventures