Luke’s Passion is chock full of tiny details that in the course of reading the entire thing are bound to get passed over. One that I’ve noticed this time around is Luke’s casual mention that Jesus’ trip to the Mount of Olives was “his custom.” The Greek word that gets translated as custom is ethos, which has come into the English language as a transliteration and in this context, it means something that is part of the character of Jesus. Going to the mountain, presumably to pray, is just part of who Jesus is.
That seems like an interesting turn of phrase to me. It is the only time in Luke’s 10 uses of the word that it applies to Jesus. In fact, it is the only time the word is ascribed to a single person. Every other time it gets used by Luke, it applies to the religious customs of a people: either the Jews or the Greeks. Here, however, on the night before Jesus dies, we get an insight into the nature of Jesus’ relationship with his Father. A spotlight gets shone upon the ethos of Jesus as a man of prayer who went out of his way to find a quiet place to spend time in conversation with his Father.
As an American Christian, I can relatively reasonably assume that I won’t face death as a result of my faith in Jesus Christ. As such, there’s not a whole lot I can learn from the example of Jesus’ willingness to suffer death on the cross. This moment of deep devotion, however, is an opportunity for me to learn something about the life of faith. Jesus knew what was fixin’ to happen. He’d been orchestrating it, moment by moment, since Sunday afternoon. Death at the hands of Rome was mere hours away, and Jesus’ response was to go to the mountain to pray, as was his custom; his ethos.
In those moments when it feels like life is crashing down upon me, it is easy to forget to turn to God in prayer. When the adrenaline starts pumping and my mind is racing at a million miles an hour, I can get so caught up in the details, that I forget to invite God to be present. Even when I, like Jesus, would contest what appears to be God’s plan, I forget to engage in a conversation with him, and instead set off on doing my own thing. On his darkest night, Jesus still turned to his Father in prayer. Would that I might have the faith to remember to do the same thing.