Are We Too Sleeping? Presence in Chaos, Hospitality Amidst Hostility

Last week as I was working through Luke 22 I was struck by what seemed to be almost an off-hand comment I read in Joel Green’s commentary about the garden scene with Jesus and the disciples. He reads the interaction in the garden, the contrast between Jesus’ own struggling in prayer and the sleeping of the disciples as a hermeneutic for the following betrayal scene (the one I preached on for last week).

That the time had now come, so it is enlightening to see how Jesus and his disciples respond in its context. Jesus, who had struggled in prayer, comes to this encounter in a state of composed mastery; his disciples, who have been sleeping rather than praying, face the ordeal with agitation and miscomprehension (Green 782).

This to me is a rather compelling “spiritual” reading of the scene’s unfolding. John Howard Yoder points out in “The Politics of Jesus” that from Luke 19 on there is increasingly a “a confrontation of two social systems and Jesus’ rejection of the status quo” (Yoder 44). In Luke 22:47, the betrayal scene, we see this confrontation in its full-effect. Judas, the disciples, the high priest, the temple police are all there representing this clash with Jesus and the kingdom he’s bringing about. Some are there and simply misunderstand the nature of what Jesus is doing, others are there for fear of their own power that Jesus’ movement threatens. But whatever the reasons why people are there it is clear that there is a contrast between not only “regimes” or as John Caputo puts it, the logic of the world and the poetics of the kingdom, but also between sleeping and struggling in prayer.

Jesus was fully present in the middle of complete chaos and hostility. In that moment he was not only able to offer full presence to everyone there, but was able to extend hospitality in the context of hostility.The contrast between the one who drew the sword and the one who healed the ear of the high priest’s servant (who was by all accounts the commanding person in charge of the posse).

Are we sleeping or are we struggling in prayer, prepared for every moment, ready to be completely present and extend hospitality – or shall we say, “love of enemy” – even in the most hostile of situations?

[Another thought along these lines is that the other time (I know of) in Scripture where sleeping and praying is contrasted is in the story of Jonah. “The captain came and said to him, “What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.”” (Jonah 1:6 NRSV)]

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

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