Matthew 26:31-75; Mark 14:26-72; Luke 22:32-71
The story of the betrayal of Jesus is found in all of the gospels. As they convey this story, the editors of the Spark Story Bible for children summarize the accounts from Matthew, Mark, and Luke in words and pictures filling 6 pages. Their last 2 pages show Peter, a rooster, and someone pointing out Peter’s denial of Jesus. The middle two pages depict Judas embracing Jesus as the soldiers arrive. (Both of these accounts touch the hearts of followers of Jesus as we remember not only the biblical stories, but also how we too have betrayed and denied our Lord.) The first two pages in the children’s Bible story, and the image of a praying Jesus and sleeping disciples, grabbed my attention most profoundly. Why?
The church of my childhood (First United Presbyterian Church in Olney, Illinois) features this scene in relief on the front sanctuary wall. While I sat in the pews from the time I left the nursery until my family moved to Florida at the end of my seventh grade year, I pondered the image on that wall. In my childhood wonder, this story might have made those carved figures come alive:
Jesus had a good friend named Peter …. Jesus had another friend named Judas ……
Jesus, Peter, Judas, and the other disciples spent lots of time together. They were
together when Jesus told them that his life had to end. It was a sad and hard time for
Jesus and his friends.
Jesus felt so sad that he went to a quiet place in a garden and prayed. “Please God,”
Jesus prayed, “make me strong. Help me to trust you.”
Jesus asked the disciples to come to the garden and stay awake while he prayed. But they fell asleep.
Of all the images to permanently attach to the front wall of a worship space, the saints in Olney had placed an obedient, prayerful Jesus (looking up toward heaven), and some sleeping friends.
It’s sad but true. We, as friends of Jesus, do play a part in the betrayal. But He loves us still.
Wonderful God, thank You for loving me, in spite of my frailty. Thank You for loving me, in spite of my lack of obedience. Thank You for loving me through the grace of our Lord Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.