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Let sleeping dogs lie


"Don't be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire."

--Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane when exhausted and in agony he discovers Peter, James and John asleep
These words stood out to me as I recently read through this part of the last section of Mark's account of Jesus' life and words in Eugene Peterson's Message. Jesus has just spent deeply painful moments a short distance away from his dearest and closest friends - three men with whom he'd spent the last few years not just teaching and leading but also with whom he'd spent long nights beside fires, talking, laughing and breaking bread. Jesus knows what was coming in the next hours and he's in a "sinkhole of dreadful agony":

"I feel bad enough right now to die," he confesses to his friends. "Stay here and keep vigil with me."

But they fall asleep; they don't get what' s going on. Jesus confronts Peter: ". . . you went to sleep on me? Can't you stick it out with me a single hour?"

But it's not just about a friend letting down a friend for Jesus: it runs much deeper than that. Jesus knows the bigger picture - and like always, he speaks out of it. His words aren't gentle - they are firm, confrontive, true and sharper than the sword that will soon cut off the ear of one of the men who would soon arrest him. And Peter, James and John are without excuse; they've been told what is to come. But everything Jesus has told them about how he will be mocked and killed (and rise again) doesn't fit into the way they expect things to fall out. So they don't assimilate it. They are well-intentioned, but that's not enough. They must see things as they are. Choosing to disregard truth - even the bits they don't know what to do with - puts them and those around them at risk. It blinds them not only to the Kingdom and God's action but to the action of those that move against him. And Jesus won't stand for that:

"Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don't enter the danger zone without even knowing it," Jesus tells them. Then he calls it as it is: "Don't be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire."

I must admit, the Jesus that speaks these words captivates me. For too many years, my image of him was very much like the soft, doe-eyed paintings of him that still hangs in living rooms and church halls. But, as I spent more and more time reading about him and walking with him, that image began to change. I began to discover a Jesus of sharp wit and quick thinking. A Jesus of deep compassion - and deep, righteous anger. A Jesus of tender touch and whose hand can also wield a whip. A Jesus who, even in the midst of great turmoil, still calls it as it is, who ushers in his Father's Kingdom and won't let us get away with anything that keeps us or others from it. His actions, life and words bring Light - and sometimes what we see in that Light is beautiful and sometimes it's downright ugly. Sometimes it's both. And this is one of those moments.

Like those three disciples and friends of Jesus, there is a part of me that is eager, longing and at bit's edge to see what God will do next. But there is another part, one that is sluggish, self-aborbed and, yes, lazy. This is the one jumps up and snarls, irritated, frightened or angry whenever something disturbs that space I've carved out by a fire - when something or someone threatens the illusion of security gained from anything else other than the arms of my Father.

Jesus - even in the midst of great agony and turmoil - still operated out of the big picture, the Great Story. He knew his own and his disciples reality. He knows mine too. His words call me out to the same Great Story, to the truth of who I am and where my life really lies. These truths are real even if I am the one living like a lazy dog - or in the midst of great turmoil or struggle.

Jesus' words may not be the most comfortable, but they are true, Light and Life. In the end, I'd rather live in that Light than the glow of a false fire.

(Image: from Andrea Mantegna's Agony in the Garden, circa 1460)

Comments

Wow, Carmen...hit me right between the eyes...as usual! *wink* I've never read that translation before. Might give it a look sometime now because that's powerful!