Jesus in the final hours before getting arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane asked eight of the disciples to sit while he prayed. Then He took Peter, James and John with him further into the garden. Disclosing His anguish to His three closest friends, He asked them to stay awake with Him. Then He went a little further and fell face down on the ground to pray. When He returned to the three he found them sleeping. He confronted Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn’t you stay awake one hour?” (vs. 37)
Mark 14:38—“Stay awake and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Twice more Jesus went back to His friends finding them unable to keep their eyes open. They didn’t know what to say, and we know from Luke’s account that they were “exhausted from their grief” (Luke 22:45). Why at Jesus’ most critical time did they fail to stay awake and pray? Never before had He expressed such pain and horror and sought their help. It would seem that at this crisis point they would have rallied around Him. This was their chance to prove themselves faithful and to be there for the One who gave them everything. Unfortunately, they collapsed—a memory they certainly regretted.
I won’t criticize Peter, James and John for falling asleep. How many times in my life have I slept when I should have prayed? It is easy to throw stones but it is wiser to build a foundation. What can we learn from this painful time in the life of Christ?
The disciples were overcome with grief partly because they were unable to come to terms with what Jesus shared with them. It made no sense to them that their Hero would be defeated. Their confusion clouded their reasoning and so bewildered (despite Jesus’ request), they went to sleep. When we are disordered that is a paramount sign to seek clarity through pray.
Earlier that fateful night Jesus warned Peter that he would betray Him three times. The stout fisherman couldn’t fathom this. Denying he would deny, he did not make himself accountable to James and John to guard him from taking such traitorous action. Surely pride played a part in his refusal to accept Jesus’ prediction. When confronted with our weakness we should not rebuff it but rather seek the help of other believers. Despite three years of training with Jesus, the disciples were still not a team that worked well together. They were independent operators, each seeking glory (see Luke 22:20-24).
Prayer wouldn’t have changed Jesus’ fate. God’s plan was to sacrifice His Son. Yet the act of staying awake would have encouraged the Lamb of God before His sacrifice and amidst His distress and sorrow. The lesson for us is to be vigilant in desperate times. It is too easy to give in to sleep. Spiritual warfare like physical warfare demands that we have the fortitude to deprive ourselves of rest when the mission so dictates. Sleep can come later after victory. Our challenge is to understand when we must stand guard and pray!
Beware of placing the emphasis on what prayer costs us; it cost God everything to make it possible for us to pray.—Oswald Chambers in If You Will Ask
©2017 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)