This week we studied John 18 in our team Bible study, the arrest of Jesus in the garden. He asks, twice, "Whom are you seeking?"
At first it looks like a rhetorical question, one with an obvious answer, one meant to challenge the guards. But later, in another garden, he asks Mary the same thing (ch 20). Whom are you seeking? And upon further reflection, we see this is the essence of all questions. Whom are you seeking? We are all seeking something, and most of what we seek stems from broken relationship, broken identity, broken purpose. So on the night of all nights, one of Jesus' last questions is this one. And on the morning of all mornings, it is again among the first words from his mouth.
Not a sermon on whom we should seek. Not a challenge to the wrongness of His arrest. Not a forceful assertion of the truth. Instead a last chance for change. Jesus poses the question to give Judas, the guards, Mary, us, the space to consider our own hearts.
Which, if you think of it, is pretty incredible. God withdraws, covers, suppresses His irrefutable power, in order to give us a moment to ponder and consider. Which, if you think again, is the essence of prayer. God has ordered the universe in such a way that we have to actually think about whom we seek, what we want, and ask for it. Seek it. Instead of just giving and directing, He waits. He listens.
Jesus asks whom we seek . . but he has also just emerged from the human experience of wrestling with the same question himself in the hour before the guards arrive. He has struggled in the garden with a hidden God, been given the dark space in which to search and pour out his own heart to His Father. He has acknowledged God's limitless power and love, he has asked for the cup to pass, but he has also come to terms with his commitment to drink the bitter dregs to the end if it is God's will. He could have sought power, recognition, justice, a quickly-ascendent time-bound kingdom. But instead he sought God, even at the cost of everything. If God the Father wanted Jesus to have that space to choose in prayer, how much more so us.
And so every day, over and over, let us take the time to reflect on whom we seek. And if it becomes clear that the answer is God, then let us pour that request to Him too, which is prayer. And as we enter that garden of reflection and asking, over and over, I believe our hearts will gradually become more the type that chooses the cross and the glory of God.