Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.
Today marks the point in Holy Week when we enter more deeply into the Passion narrative, the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. As we continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, these devotions will turn our attention more directly to the Passion story, focusing on events as they are recounted in the Gospels, and how they are remembered and celebrated in Jerusalem today.
This evening, known as Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, Christians around the world remember the events that took place the night before Jesus was crucified. On that night, Jesus had the Passover meal with his disciples, including Judas, who would betray him; and Peter, who would deny him. During the meal he took bread, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then, he took the cup of wine, gave thanks to God, and gave it to them; telling them it is the cup of the new covenant in his blood. In doing this, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, known also as communion, or the Eucharist. After the meal, he humbly washed their feet. Then, he, and two of his disciples went to the Mount of Olives, to the garden of Gethsemane to pray.
Christians around the world traditionally remember the Last Supper by eating a meal together, celebrating communion, and washing each others’ feet. These actions of fellowship and submission recount the very actions of Jesus prior to his betrayal and crucifixion. In Jerusalem, Christians also gather in the Garden of Gethsemane at the Church of All Nations, which marks the place where Jesus is thought to have prayed on that night. The Gospel accounts are read in multiple languages, commemorating the three principal moments of the Passion: Jesus’ foretelling of Peter’s denial, the agony of Christ and his prayer in the garden, and his arrest. The stone on which he laid his head is sprinkled with rose petals, signifying the drops of sweat that became like drops of blood as they fell from his brow.
Today, as we reflect on the deep anguish Jesus felt at what was to come, let us also remember how he responded to his suffering, with acts of service and prayer. Although he knew who would betray him and who would deny him, he still ate a meal with them and even humbled himself to wash their feet. Then, he withdrew to pray, preparing himself for what was to come.
For our prayer, we have adapted a portion of last year’s program from the service held at the Church of All Nations in Jerusalem at the Garden of Gethsemane.
Together with the Mother Church of Jerusalem we have come together in spirit with those gathered in Gethsemane to commemorate the salvific events that occurred in that holy place on the eve of Our Lord’s passion.
Recalling the three principal moments as narrated by the Gospels, we reflect upon Christ’s prediction of Peter’s denial and the subsequent fleeing of his disciples’ Christ’s agony in the garden; and finally, his arrest.
In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
This devotion was written by Molly Lorden, the CMEP1835 Coordinator for Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). She is also currently studying toward a Master of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary.
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