A Good Friday Poem

Several weeks ago, I led my formation hour class (aka Sunday school) at church through an ancient guided prayer practice called Lectio Divina, which means divine reading. Lectio Divina makes space to meditate on biblical passages and encounter God in them. In Opening to God, Benner writes,

A better starting point for an adequate understanding of the breadth of prayer is to view it as communion with God. Communion includes conversation but is much broader. Because it involves union, not just closeness and connection, it also entails much more intimacy than mere conversation. We are, as Paul reminds us, in Christ, just as Christ is in us. That language reflects the intermingling that is part of true communion. It does not get much more intimate than this—an intimacy that is based on the reality of a mystical union with Christ, in the present moment, not simply something to be hoped for in the future.

As we entered into the prayer practice, I asked the class to pay attention to different aspects of the scene in which Jesus and His chosen three disciples resided. As Jesus entered into the darkest night of His life, He asked His friends to stay awake and be with Him. He longed for their presence and their withness. He longed for their communion.

As I read the passage to the class three different times, different parts of the story shimmered to each of us. For Anna Bret, she had never noticed that Jesus went to Peter, James, and John three different times throughout the night. Over the following weeks, the passage continued to simmer in her mind and she was stirred to capture these ideas in a poem. 

On this Good Friday, I wanted to share her poem with you. Perhaps it will stir your imagination about the Garden.

“Keep watch and pray,”

He walks away

and kneels with his face 

on the ground.

Heavy are my eyes,

and like a lullaby

are the garden’s 

evening sounds.

I startle awake

to His gentle shake,

and hear Him plead 


“A burden I bear

So temptation beware—

watch with me, 

my friend?”

My flesh is willing 

but my spirit is weak,

forsaking my Lord

I fall back asleep.

Above me He stands

extending His hand,

“Rest later, the hour has come.

Here comes my betrayer.”

And after a kiss,

my Lord is bound

at His sweat-soaked wrists.

Stumbling I flee

through Gethsemane,

when this thought like the olive branches

strikes me directly:

Did my Lord want to share

His sorrows

With me?

By Anna Bret Mitchell

May your Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday be filled with communion.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.  Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” —Matthew 26: 36-45