153 Look at my suffering and rescue me.
I have not forgotten your teachings.
154 Argue my case, and set me free.
Let me live, as you promised.
155 The wicked have no hope of being saved,
because they don’t follow your laws.
156 Lord, you are very kind.
You always do what is right, so let me live.
157 I have many enemies trying to hurt me,
but I have not stopped following your rules.
158 I look at those traitors and hate what I see,
because they refuse to do what you say.
159 See how much I love your instructions!
Lord, I know your love is true, so let me live.
160 Every word you say can be trusted.
Your laws are fair and will last forever. [ERV]
Today is Maundy Thursday—the day the church recalls the last supper, the washing of the disciples feet, and his prediction of his betrayal. Soon after, he went with his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. According to Matthew, his prayer was simply “My Father, if it is possible, don’t make me drink from this cup.[b] But do what you want, not what I want.” Matthew goes on to say that during this time, his disciples fell asleep. Now, I’m not one who takes long to fall asleep, but that is ridiculous… I can fight sleep long enough to wait out that short prayer. Or perhaps (and precisely because the only witnesses were sleeping), the gospel doesn’t actually capture the entire prayer, just the executive summary.
Part of the catholic doctrine (note the small “c”) is that Jesus was fully God and fully human. I have struggled years with this notion, but it seems rather clear to me that the struggle between these two identities was probably no more poignant than when Christ prayed in the garden. His humanity did not want to die. His divinity wanted to serve the will of the Father.
I imaging today’s psalm stanza to be a more accurate version of the human side of Jesus prayer than the poetic, “Don’t make me drink from this cup.” That is way to sanitized and pretty for someone who is pleading for his life. He must have wrestled with the fact that perhaps he was throwing away his life for people who didn’t actually want his salvation. He must have felt the injustice of being executed for living a God-centered life. If we truly believe that Jesus was truly human, then he must have had similar thoughts… what type of human doesn’t. In the end, as in the end of today’s stanza, he concludes that God can and must be trusted.
And although I am a day early here… THIS is the miracle of Good Friday and why it (not Easter) should be considered the holiest day in the Christian calendar.