"Not What I Will"

"WHAT YOU ARE GOING to do," Jesus says, "do quickly." What Judas is going to do, he does in a garden, but though he goes about it as quickly as he can, there is a little time to wait before he gets there. It is night, and they are all tired. Jesus tells them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death," and then asks the disciples to stay and watch for him while he goes off to pray. One thinks of the stirring and noble way others have met their deaths—the equanimity of Socrates as he raised the hemlock to his lips, the exaltation of Joan as they bound her to the stake, Nathan Hale's "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Jesus sounds like none of them. Maybe it is because it is to the ones who are most fully alive that death comes most unbearably. His prayer is, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will but what thou wilt," this tormented muddle of a prayer which Luke says made him sweat until it "became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground." He went back to find some solace in the company of his friends then, but he found them all asleep when he got there. "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak," he said, and you feel that it was to himself that he was saying it as well as to them.

- Originally published in The Faces of Jesus 

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