My children got sucked in today by an old black and white television show. The show in question? The Twilight Zone. This morning before going to school, waking up with sleep caked eyes they flipped on the TV and they were drawn in. Not by expensive special effects or famous actors, but a well scripted haunting scenario. My kids journeyed with the characters on the episode identified with the actors as they uncovered a truth so hard to accept…they weren’t on Earth at all…they were someplace else.
To some degree the disciples had to have felt like actors on horrifying episode of the twilight zone. They had just finished their meal and went for a walk with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Imagine their tired eyes, filled stomachs and then Jesus tells them to sit at a place in the garden while He went up just a little further to pray. The effects of good food and the tranquil setting must have taken effect because the gospel of Mark records that Peter, James and John fell asleep instead of the Lord’s command of “keep watch”. They fall asleep, and sleep soundly as Jesus prays earnestly for His Father in Heaven to take the cup from Him (v36). Jesus displays his humanity in this moment, because He understood what needed to take place and His very human nature pleads for it to not take place.
Three times, Jesus comes to them and three times He finds them sleeping on the job. Jesus, in this difficult moment, tells them that they have to stand guard so that they didn’t fall into temptation because the spirit is willing, but the body is weak. (v.38) But because of their deep exhaustion they can’t keep their eyes open. In Jesus’ toughest struggle in his human existence, even beyond his temptation in the wilderness, His hand selected disciples couldn’t support Him in this trial. They fell asleep three times…I don’t believe in numerology but this repetitive notion of three is evident in the crucifixion story. Peter denies Jesus three times, the rooster crowed three times, the disciples including Peter, fell asleep three times and three times Jesus has to wake them up. Jesus in His death and resurrection took the span of three days. Post resurrected Jesus asks Peter how much He loved Him…you guessed it three times.
The Twilight Zone Moment:
After Jesus finishes His prayer conversation with the Father, He awakens His disciples for the last time and says, “Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayers!”(v.42) Here is when their reality is turned upside down. Within this very moment an alternative reality seems to present itself and it strikes literal fear in the disciples. One of their own, Judas enters the scene, and as a sign of identification places a kiss on the cheek of Jesus, as if to say ‘this is the one you want’. Peter’s eyes grow wide in surprise, as does James and John’s. How can this be? Why would Judas do such a thing? He was our brother! They all feel the bottom drop out in their stomach as this new reality sinks in. Peter reaches for his sword…where he got it, the Bible doesn’t say, but he uses it poorly it would seem as he slices off the ear of a servant to the high priest. I don’t think Peter planned to use it, his strike wasn’t premeditated but reactionary instead. This twilight zone will lead to an illegal midnight trial.
One can almost imagine the screen flickering in black and white as the camera zooms in on the actor and an expression of sheer disbelief and horror is magnified as the scenario is unveiled for the first time. This Maundy Thursday ended seemingly in a different dimension for the disciples. Way too much drama, too much loss, too little strength to do anything but sleep, cut off an ear and run away.
Don’t be too quick to judge though, perhaps if we were to place our feet into the disciples’ sandals for a moment without the foreknowledge that we have as we view this story from the outside, would we really have done anything different? Probably not.
Welcome to the Biblical Twilight Zone…Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Biblical Twilight Zone.