Mark 14:32

Presently they came to a garden known as Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples “Sit down here while I pray.”

having learned to pray
when usual processes fail
was a difficult lesson
it is still a stiff task
to hop out of routine
and actually pray

we’ve long ago known
mama Jesus is the best prayer
and goes off to practice
she’s still in charge
our number one routine
so we leave our praying to her

in a lovely garden
all we do is sit
as evening grows darker
to see how our routine
plays out this time

Mark does not reference Gethsemane as a garden. It is a place where oil is pressed from olives. The very name comes from gath-semane, meaning “oil press”. This is a place to work, not to laze around.

Jesus prepares to go to his work of prayer.

We have seen Jesus go off by himself to pray. We have seen him send the disciples to sea while he went off by himself to pray. We have heard a bit of Jesus at prayer with a sleeping daughter and blind man. But, in Mark, there is not much direction given about praying other than to do so when all else fails.

Here, Jesus is again the Prayer-in-Chief. The disciples are instructed to sit, not sit and pray. It is as if they are protective objects placed to provide a buffer between Jesus and a beginning of a long-talked-about suffering.

A question begs to be asked about why Jesus did not have the disciples participate in some form of prayer. This is in keeping with a friend’s response when in a similar position of leadership—they didn’t want particular people praying with or for them because it was all too predictable that their prayers would go in a different direction. Jesus may not have wanted Peter’s prayer of self-delusion to weaken his own need for prayer.

Implied in “sitting” is the recent repetition of “Keep awake”, but it is not explicitly stated. At question is whether the apocalyptic energy of an intense wakefulness is still operative with the disciples. It has been a busy time and they may have full tummies. These, added to pleasant enough night air, may contribute to failing this first test of whether or not they can live without denying Jesus and just sit.

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