Holy Monday, April 6
“BE WOKE!” has been a prominent term on social media in recent years. Merriam-Webster defines its meaning as “being aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues–especially issues of racial and social justice.” Centuries before, Jesus repeated a similar appeal to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. As he “began to be grieved and troubled” (vs. 37), Jesus urged his closest followers to “remain here, and stay awake and watch with me” (v. 38). When instead they fell fast asleep, he prodded again, “Stay awake and pray!” (vs. 41). And when those whom Jesus had chosen to be with him in his agony succumbed to slumber yet a third time, Jesus questioned “Are you still sleeping?” (vs. 45) and proclaimed “the hour” (vs. 45) and “my betrayer” (vs. 46) are at hand.
Jesus’ pleading to his disciples to “Stay awake! Watch!” was much more than just an urging to be physically awake. He wanted them (and us today) to “BE WOKE” to injustices surrounding him, closing in, and infecting society. While Jesus’ time at Calvary would focus on horrific bodily suffering, today’s passage in Gethsemane highlights the worst of Jesus’ human experiences of spiritual and emotional suffering. Perhaps we should not be surprised that the very word “Gethsemane” means “oil presses;” for it was there where Jesus, Peter, and the two sons of Zebedee were feeling tragically pressed and squeezed by invading conflicts.
Though all were well fed on that garden night after their Passover supper together, digestion of coming betrayals and doom was proving difficult. Peter, who’d been the very one just before this passage who’d confidently proclaimed, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you” (v. 35) now found himself nodding off again and again. Jesus, who’d thrown himself on the ground to pray, “If possible, please let this cup pass from me!” (vs. 39) was coming to realize God’s will was for him to “drink this cup” of suffering.
In our own time, when challenges and trials leave us feeling overwhelmed – even unto sleep to escape the anxieties that we, like the disciples, are yet unready to face – may we rise to “stay woke.” With Jesus, may we be alert to pray and be attuned to the dynamics that may be working “from the inside” (like Judas) and “from the outside” (like the chief priests) to de-rail the rule of justice and love in our world.
Prayer: God of the weary, and blurry-eyed, wake us and alert us to those on this Lenten journey. Through the eyes of prayer and the hope of resurrection morning, may those who weep from the oppressor’s injustices be comforted through your eternal grace and comfort. Keep us awake, Oh God. Amen.
– Sharon Stanley-Rea