“Seized by Horror and Distress”: A Brief Musing on Mark 14.33-35a
“And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch." And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed ( . . . ).”
- “greatly distressed and troubled” – the two Greek words used here are rather intense. Max Zerwick, S.J., translates them this way, “he was seized by horror and distress” (“A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament,” 5th ed., p.156). This is not language used of one who is drained of all emotion. Here is our Lord Jesus, overcome with the darkness before him, the terror of what he was about to enter into.
- “very sorrowful, even to death” – is a gentle way to translate the Greek word. This is a deep sadness, not something light or surface level. You could even say he expressed a dark depression, the kind that makes one feel like death itself has closed its black arms around the sufferer. This is no robotic Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation!
- “he fell on the ground” – the weight of the dark depression and distress crumpled him to the ground. He didn’t lie down gently, he fell under the pressure. Our Lord is burdened to the breaking point! Maybe you have been here before where the grief, or fear, or dreadfulness of a situation has brought you to your knees or flat onto your face because you could no longer stand up straight under it all. That’s exactly the scene in this passage!
“Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psalm 44.23-26)!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1.3-5).