The remembering Jesus What Scripture brings into the room

This chapter continues to develop the practical Christology for pastoral supervision grounded in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Christology presented in this chapter and the next—the remembering Jesus—is derived from a theological interpretation of the second gospel passage (Lk. 22:39-53) which functions as a core sample. Following the previous two chapters—the revealing Jesus—the practical Christology of the remembering Jesus in Chapters 6 and 7 is developed via Emil Brunner’s Christ as mediator. Brunner’s Christology that includes both mediation and memory is centred on his similarly titled book, The Mediator: A Study of the Central Doctrine of the Christian Faith, animating the next three practices for pastoral supervision: examen-ing (examining), expecting, and encountering.[1]

Remembering Jesus: Luke 22:39-53 (in the garden)

Luke’s story of Jesus passion, death, and resurrection is most productively read together. The first part of that continuous narrative which takes place on the Mount of Olives the night before Jesus’ death is discussed in the present chapter. A second, and briefer, discussion of Jesus death between two criminals (Lk. 23:26-43) occurs towards the end of the chapter. Despite this rather arbitrary division, Barth has shown, that for the account of Jesus’ prayer,

in this story there is already compressed the whole happening of Good Friday ... in this respect the story forms the turning point between the two parts of the whole Gospel record ... the reversal in which the Judge becomes the judged is now about to take place.

Scholars and preachers, pastors and supervisors alike are deeply attracted to Jesus at prayer in the garden. Indeed, there is much to be learnt from Jesus’ example in contrast to the poor performance of the disciples, too exhausted to watch and pray. In developing the Christology of the remembering Jesus, I will highlight those distinctions as three cycles: three cycles of forgetting by the disciples followed by three cycles of remembering by Jesus. In pastoral supervision, cycles (or patterns) of remembering are significant as supervisees remember their calling, remember deep desires easily buried and forgotten in the daily grind of ministry, and remember those connections with one another. The cycles of Jesus’ remembering can reanimate the supervisee for their ministry and mission. This renewal, however, must be anchored at a deeper level than mere reminding and recollecting. I proposed in Chapter 2 that re-membering must include the public and political acts of reuniting and re-envisioning—an idea that will be expanded on here. The theological interpretation of Luke 22:39-53, however, will demonstrate that being remembered is more profound and permanent—and the surprising endpoint—of re-membering. As practical theologian John Swinton notes in Dementia: Living in the Memories of God,

we are not what we remember; (rather) we are remembered. ... To be remembered is to exist and to be sustained by God . . . our identity is safe in the memory of God . . . the deep fear of forgetting is overcome by the deeper promise of being remembered.4

Swinton correctly locates being remembered theologically as being safe in the memory of God. I interpret this Christologically as the remembering Jesus. On the cross, Jesus remembers the second wrongdoer with a word of promise (Lk. 23:42)—words from the cross to which I will return at the end of the chapter. First, I explore how Luke establishes Jesus as the remembering Jesus the night before his crucifixion in the garden where Jesus is the One who remembers.

There is a general scholarly consensus that Luke’s narrative is carefully structured I propose the following structure as:

v.38 Two swords discourse

v.39 Disciples instruction to watch and pray (to remember)

v.40 Instructions to pray . . . not to enter peirasmon (testing/ temptation)

vv.41-43a Jesus’ first cycle of remembering: God’s will to remove cup?

vv.43b-44 Jesus’ second cycle of remembering: God’s will to be done

vv.45-46 The first cycle of forgetting: the disciples ‘not awake’

v.46 Second instruction to pray ... not to enter peirasmon (testing/ temptation)

vv.47-48 The second cycle of forgetting: Judas’ betrayal

vv.49-51 The third cycle of forgetting: the use of sword.5 [2]

The remembering Jesus: Scripture 75 story climaxes with Jesus’ prayer of relinquishment (or obedience, surrender) in which Jesus himself is remembered by God (Swinton’s ‘safe in the memory of God’). Jesus’ encouragement to pray and his warning against peirasmon (temptation or severe testing) suggests the zealot options against the Romans—either escaping from or violence towards—were live, viable, and tempting options for Jesus and his disciples.6 Jesus’ disciples fail by first taking up the sword, then fleeing.7 What enables Jesus to stay and submit to the arresting party? The garden’s threefold cycle of Jesus’ remembering, then being remembered by God, functions as a ‘zone of re-membering' in the passion narrative. Here in the garden, I will argue that Jesus is remembered through reminding and recollecting, then reuniting with the Father and re-envisioning for the cup of suffering of his trial and crucifixion.

By way of stark contrast, the peirasmon for Jesus’ disciples begins in a failure to pray (Lk. 22:45). This is a failure to be present, listen, and be attentive. Second, it is the failure to practice peace-making in the face of hostility (Lk. 22:49-51). Third, it is the failure to persevere with Jesus through his confrontation with the ‘power of darkness’ and, finally, death on a rebel’s cross.

1 The first cycle of forgetting: the disciples ‘fall asleep’ (fail to be present, watch, and pray)

When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them,‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial’.

(Lk. 22:45-46)

All the male disciples—except John—fail to remain with Jesus, fail to be present at his trial, and fail to be with him at the foot of the cross, which, according to Luther, is the test of everything. The first failure is to forget to show up. How many church workers are sometimes missing in action? They must be reminded that theirs is a ministry of presence: from the young and disorganised, the timid or anxious, to the bruised or defeated.8 A wise supervisor knows that in each case, the failure to be present is a symptom of a deeper problem. Luke offers a clue of what this might be. A symptom of the first kind of forgetting is the failure to listen, to be attentive. Jesus had already instructed the disciples how to pray (Lk. 11:1-4) and specifically called on them to watch and pray with him. How on earth did they forget so quickly? Even people whose prayers are irregular and inconsistent must wonder at the disciples’ failure. Luke describes their inattentiveness as types, usually translated as grief but includes the debilitating sense of devastation: a pain of mind or spirit, grief, sorrow, affliction.9 Johnson notes the negative connotation for Hellenistic readers: ‘it is an emotion that is always connected to envy or cowardice/fear’.10 One view, therefore, is this is the bad kind of grief (types). A grief that is jealous of others’ joy. A sorrow that weighs down, that unnecessarily sucks life, energy, and oxygen out of theroom. Such exhaustion prevents the disciples from being present to Jesus and his suffering. Exhausted, weighed down, they forget Jesus’ teaching on prayer (Lk. 11:4). This is how they forget to pray (Lk. 22:46).

Clergy forget their calling to watch and pray. Such failures, on their own, can often be catastrophic. Pastoral supervisors must often hold a space for those overwhelmed by grief (types) or exhaustion as demonstrated by the revealing Jesus in the previous chapter. Luke, however, holds a mirror to this kind of pain, devastation, or failure with a second cycle of forgetting.

2 The second cycle of forgetting: Peter forgets the way of peace (use of the sword/violence)

When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’

(Lk. 22:49-51)

Jesus’ curious instruction about the possession of swords (Lk. 22:38) offers a crucial insight into Jesus’ self-understanding, already forgotten by the disciples: he is the suffering—not the fighting—Messiah.11 How Peter reacts to the hostility of ‘what he saw coming’ (the arresting party from Jerusalem) denies and diminishes the way of Jesus.12 The curious inclusion of the earlier verses concerning the disciples’ possession of swords (unique to Luke’s gospel in Lk. 22:35-38) is now answered by the use of the sword in the garden upon Jesus’ arrest, which Luke attributes to all of the disciples (Lk. 22:49-51).15 Jesus’ essential commitment to a non-violent way is anchored in Jesus’ rejection and condemnation of using the swords in his defence. New Testament scholar Gordon Lampe identifies three parts to Luke’s story of the swords. They consist of the citation of Isaiah 53:12 (‘he was numbered with the transgressors’) at this point of the story of Jesus’ death, the dialogue about the possession of swords (Lk. 22:38), and the episode where a sword is used against the high priest’s servant (Lk. 22:49-51).14 ‘Taking up the sword’ (violence, fighting) is the second symptom of forgetfulness: the failure to remain faithful to Jesus’ way of peace. The failure to promote peace has a much darker side, where clergy and church workers are actively violent and abusive to others (Chapter 1 suggested the critical role of pastoral supervision in making churches safe). More recently, the church has had to contend with these evils in its midst by pastors and leaders in not only the sexual abuse of children but also domestic and family violence, bullying, and sexual harassment in the workplace.15 Each of these is sinful and shocking and can never be excused or ignored in a church that gathers in the name of the Prince of Peace. Beyond the more obvious scars of physical and sexual violence are those wounded by the clever words and calculating ways of pastors and church leaders.16

The earlier dialogue about the swords and their improper use is straightforward forgetfulness on the part of Peter (and, presumably, the other disciples).17 Peter forgets the figurative nature of Jesus’ language, resulting in the actual use of the sword (Lk. 22:49-51). The use of the sword is the second in a sequence of forgetfulness by the disciples recorded by Luke (which began earlier with the brothers’ quarrel about greatness): (1) the use of the sword, (2) Judas’s betrayal, and (3) Peter’s denial.18 Denial and betrayal are forms of violence that continue in the church, harming relationships and communities, that can never be excused or ignored. In many instances that make their way into the pastoral supervision room, it is the pastor who has been denied or betrayed by the institutional church (or one of its representatives). Once again, Luke calls our attention to the hidden reasons for such failures in his third cycle of forgetting: the failure to persevere.

3 The third cycle of forgetting: Judas forgets the way of perseverance

While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?’

(Lk. 22:47-48)

The more obvious betrayals are active, like Judas’s kiss and blood money (paradidds). The less obvious betrayals take the form of timidity and abandonment, like the male disciples, their failure at this key moment to abide with Christ (Jn. 15:1-15). Their forgetfulness is not merely a lack of reminding each other of their calling to follow but also their failure to recollect the teaching of Jesus. Forgetting the way of perseverance takes many forms in the Lukan story such as the two on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24) encountered in chapter 4 or Peter on the beach fishing (Lk. 5 and Jn. 21), explored in the next chapter 8. Their forgetting leads to disunity, not reuniting, and, as I will demonstrate in chapter 9, the abandoning of vocation, not re-envisioning. For Luke, these comprise a third symptom of forgetfulness: the failure to persevere (denial, betrayal, or abandoning). The contemporary research and statistics regarding clergy burnout and those leaving ministry roles makes it perfectly clear that 2,000 years after Luke’s stories, contemporary ministers of Jesus Christ regularly fail to persevere. Luke’s garden narrative has provided three cycles of the disciples forgetting. Luke also provides three alternatives to these cycles of forgetting and their symptoms: (1) expectation, (2) examination (examen), and (3) encounter, which I will develop in the next chapter. First, I will highlight three cycles of the remembering Jesus in Luke’s garden story.19

The contrast is not merely between the failure of the disciples and the faithfulness of Jesus. Jesus is more than an exemplar of praying, persevering, or even remembering. As Luther understood, there is a substitutionary aspect of what takes place in the garden. Jesus fulfils where the disciples fail. Luther raises an important interpretative question: how does the remembering Jesus in the garden benefit Christians? Luther’s answer has three parts. First, Jesus’ emotion and experience in the garden reveals the true weight of sin. Second, Jesus reveals where consolation can be found—at the place where death, once the punishment for sin, has become the cure for sin. Third, Jesus models prayer during times of testing.20 These will be discussed in reverse order.

1 The first cycle of remembering: Jesus’ examen at the hour of testing/ tempting

Jesus had already resisted the evil one in the desert immediately after his baptism, call through prayer, and reminding himself of God’s words (cf. Lk. 4:1-15). Jesus’ temptation took him into the desert/wilderness (v.l) and to Jerusalem and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple (v.9).Then according to the Lukan account, the devil disappears from Jesus’ story:

When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

(Lk. 4:13)

Satan’s reappearance here in Luke 22 is the opportune time; it is the re-emergence of the ‘death-dealing’ power of the evil one. First, Satan enters Judas (Lk. 22:3), threatens the integrity of the inner circle of disciples (Lk. 22:31), tests Jesus in his resolve to proceed in obedience to God (Lk. 22:39-46), and finally is active in the arrest of Jesus with the description he exousia tou skotous (the power of darkness) (Lk. 22:53).

Geographically, the desert is on the other side of the garden and less than a mile away. In the darkness of night, why doesn’t Jesus escape into the wilderness where his ancestors consistently met with God? The path of flight into the desert would constitute an answer to Jesus’ prayer: remove this cup of suffering. Why doesn’t Jesus flee into the night of the desert? Jesus, steeped in the Hebrew traditions of place and geography, understood the deeper significance of the location of the garden: between wilderness and temple. Jesus is familiar with the geographical significance of those places on either side of him. This zone of re-membering for Jesus is at the intersection of the desert and the temple. As Gifford has shown for both ancient Greeks and Australia’s First Peoples, place (topos) and geography were central to the ancients’ zones of re-membering.lx The desire to encounter God, to be with his Father (the escape of the desert), is matched by the desire to see God’s purposes fulfilled. Barth names the paradox of Jesus’ zone of re-membering. Both the Father’s will and the ‘lordship of evil’—which has exousia to destroy God’s purpose of redemption and reconciliation—hang in the balance:

| Jesus’] freedom to finish His work, to execute the divine judgment by undergoing it Himself, to punish the sin of the world by bearing it Himself, by taking it away from the world in His own person, in His death. The sin of the world was now laid upon Him. It was now true that in the series of many sinners He was the only One singled out by God to be its bearer and Representative, the only One that it could really touch and oppress and terrify.22

Jesus’ zone of re-membering is not the mere recollecting and reminiscing that occurs when we find some old photos or drive past our first home or first school. Zones of re-membering include re-envisioning divine purpose and reuniting with divine will.

2 The second and third cycles of remembering: Jesus expects the promises of God to be fulfilled and Jesus’ encounter with the Father

The garden as Jesus’ zone of re-membering explains why he doesn’t flee into the night of the desert. Jesus remembers not only his ancestors’ encounters with God in the desert but the ancient promises of God for Jerusalem, the holy city.

The structure of Luke’s narrative highlights the two paradoxical parts to the prayer of Jesus: that the cup be removed from him and his commitment that the Father’s boulomai/thelema (‘will’) be done.23 Following Karl Barth, Schweizer rightly affirms that Jesus’ agonia (‘struggle’) is with God’s will: namely, what is it?24 The will of God is discerned in this paradoxical prayer that is precisely and purposively located in two opposing directions from where Jesus prayed on the Mount of Olives. Abandonment to God is the path of human flourishing and faithful discipleship—walking in the footsteps of Jesus. What is the significance of the remembering Jesus? Jesus’ first prayer—that God would remove the cup of suffering—could be answered by flight into the desert wilderness, where Jesus’ ancestors (Jacob, Moses, and Elijah) had always encountered God. Jesus’ second prayer—that the Father’s will be done—could be answered by taking up the sword, restoring the Davidic throne in God’s holy city, to fulfil the ancient promises. Both flight and fight are the temptations that Jesus’s followers faced in their zone of forgetting.

In the garden, in his prayer of submission, Jesus’ resistance to the power of forgetting is displayed. Once arrested, it was Jesus’ submission to his captors that constituted his continuing resistance to the powers of darkness. Jesus does not respond to his captors with force; his refusal to resort to either retaliation or violence and denying his disciples any entitlement to do so are sources of the agony Jesus experienced in the garden. This summary statement of Jesus’ death is supported by Jesus’ own words and actions in the garden. Events in the garden (as described by Luke) force us to delve deeper into Jesus’ agony. Barth’s interpretation of Jesus’ prayer accepts that Jesus’ agonia the night before he died was genuine agony (‘deep distress’ and ‘great troubling’) in which he ‘raises the whole question afresh’.25 Barth rejects several possibilities as the ‘problem’ of Gethsemane and counsels that it be solved in what Jesus said, that he is alone in what he says, and the answer of God is only given in ‘the language of facts’.26 Noting that Jesus’ battle became severe after his strengthening (Lk. 22:44) and that Jesus ‘does not, in fact, receive any answer, any sign from God’, Barth is confronted with ‘the frightful thing’ in the hour of darkness in Gethsemane:

The will of God was done as the will of Satan was done. The answer of God was identical with the action of Satan . . . what shook him was the coming concealment of the lordship of God under the lordship of evil and evil men. This was the terrible thing which he saw breaking on Himself and His disciples and all men, on His work as Reconciler between God and man, and therefore on God’s own work, destroying everything, mortally imperilling the fulfilment of His just and redemptive judgment.27

3 Jesus’ zone of re-membering: ‘not my will but yours’ (in the hour of darkness)

In the garden of the remembering, Jesus renounces his will to power (to borrow Nietzsche’s infamous phrase) and chooses instead the self-emptying prayer, not my will but yours. This is a king who also knows what it means to be subject to the will of another (Phil. 2:6-11). Emil Brunner understood this as evidence of true encounter with God; it is

that total self-giving, that complete renunciation of one’s own security, that utter dependence, which is only possible face to face with one whose being and acts are such that face to face with him one can afford to renounce his own security.28

Parker J. Palmer argues the renunciation of one’s own security unveils the illusions in life that masquerade as reality and reveals the reality that underlies them.29 One illusion for clergy and pastoral workers is that they think they are in control and can get what they want, even by praying for it, a kind of negotiating with God. The illusion is that people in ministry believe what others say about them or believe the inner voices, whether they falsely praise or wrongly criticise. The garden, as a zone of re-membering, invited Jesus to the deeper reality of relinquishing hope to God with the profound prayer, ‘not what I want but what you want’. A zone of re-membering is the invitation to be remembered by God, abandoning ourselves to be safe in the memory of God. Perhaps the most evocative expression of this abandoning faith was expressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who turned his darkest

The remembering Jesus: Scripture 81 moments into a remembered-by-God prayer, in a prison cell awaiting the death penalty at the hand of the Nazi regime:

Who am I? They often tell me

I stepped from my cell’s confinement

calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me

I used to speak to my warders freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me

I bore the days of misfortune equally, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I myself know of myself?

restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds, thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness, tossing in expectation of great events,

powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine!30

Bonhoeffer’s prison cell poem is faithful to Jesus’ garden prayer. Both reflect an understanding of calling and ministry that is aligned with God’s will. A zone of re-membering, Christologically interpreted, is to be remembered by God, safe in God’s memory. For Brunner, God’s memory is safe because God’s heart is love and mercy:

The fact that God reveals Himself is His Love; in [the] very fact that He comes down to our level, that He comes to us, that He seeks us, He reveals His heart, His will.31

The garden story in Luke 22:39-53 began with the grieving, exhausted disciples unable to watch and pray with Jesus. Their grief and weariness made them forget. The garden was a zone of forgetfulness where they were unable to remind each other of their calling or recollect Jesus’ teaching and example. The narrative ends with the disciples anxious and alert, because the remembering Jesus, re-membered by the Father, has been arrested by the powers of darkness. The interpretation of Luke 22:39-53 offers the second Christological framework for pastoral supervision: re-membering. The final part of this chapter identifies the theological and practical significance of re-membering for Chapter 7.

  • [1] 2 3
  • [2] 2 the disciples can be creatively interpreted as three cycles of forgetting. This 3 is answered by three cycles of remembering by the remembering Jesus. The
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