They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely you don't mean me, Lord?"
~ Matthew 26:22
Before there was an empty tomb, there was an empty seat at the table.
"Go and do what you must," had to have been the hardest sentence Jesus uttered in his lifetime. Knowing that things were about to change, and the anxiety that he must have felt, as he broke bread and shared the blessing cup with those present in the upper room is hard to imagine.
Yesterday I spent time with a woman who will probably die over the weekend. She shared with me that she, "hopes to make it until Easter so that I can rise with Jesus." She smiled as she shared, but with these words, there is great sadness as well. One of her children who has become distant, will not be present.
"It hurts knowing he won't come, but then again, one of Jesus' closest friends left him as well."
The world for Jesus is coming apart.
One of the hardest moments for me in the life of Jesus is when he asks the disciples to wait in the garden while he goes a little further ahead and begins to pray, asking that this night, this "cup," pass from him. The gospel writer Luke shares, "And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Luke 22:44)
Jesus returns to find the disciples asleep.
Not only is there an empty seat at the table, as Judas has left to go and complete his mission of betraying Jesus, but Jesus now encounters the disciples sleeping, and he screams, "Can you not even stay awake an hour?" (Matthew 26:40)
Loss, betrayal, anxiety, anger are words that can only begin to describe the moment and how Jesus is feeling.
I have to wonder if Jesus is beginning to think, "And this is what I get for devoting my life to God and these people?"
We have been there. We understand. If we are truthful with ourselves, any one of us can claim a moment where we have either felt abandoned, entitled, or have been the one who has betrayed some one.
It's as if we are all asking ourselves about now, "Is it I?"
Today is the day we encounter the empty seat, and realize it is ours.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.