Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings
Leviticus 13; Matthew 26:26-50
36 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.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 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.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 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.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 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. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Matthew 26:36-46, Common English Bible).
The picture above is of my middle grandson, Noah. Noah and his parents, as well as his older and younger brother, had just driven all night and a good part of the day from their southern California home to the Hill Country of central Texas.
When they arrived at my mother’s home, Noah assured us he wasn’t tired and he didn’t need to sleep. Yeah, if I remember correctly, that picture was taken about 30 minutes after Noah said, “I won’t fall asleep.”
When I was in the Navy there wasn’t much that you could do that the ship’s captain would consider worse than falling asleep on watch. Still, at least every couple of weeks someone would get into trouble for falling asleep at a time they were supposed to be awake. I honestly don’t remember what the punishment was for falling asleep on watch. I do remember it was severe.
Staying awake isn’t always an easy thing to do. We can reach a point where exhaustion sets in and no matter how hard we try, we are not going to stay awake. “I’m not going to fall asleep,” we are known to say. We sound just like Noah.
We also tend to think we are better at some things than the disciples and this is one of those things. “I wouldn’t fall asleep, if it were me.” If you had been able to stay awake, perhaps it would have been because you know what comes next. You know the whole story. It immediately becomes easier to carry out subsequent actions when you know the way things will play out.
Peter, James, and John didn’t know how things would play out. It was late. They had just finished a big meal (If you’ve never fallen asleep following a big meal, what’s wrong with you!”). They had worked hard getting ready for the Passover. And, while Jesus had warned them about what was coming, Jesus also often talked in cryptic terms these guys had proven they didn’t understand. How could they know what was coming? So, they sat down, stomachs full, quit moving around, and before they knew what was happening, they fell asleep.
It is easy to do. I can’t speak for you, but I know I have fallen asleep praying on more than a few occasions. What is the difference between falling asleep in prayer and falling asleep with Jesus in the Garden? I really don’t think there is much.
When Jesus goes back and wakes the three up, and then does so again, he was probably at least a little put out that they couldn’t manage to stay awake. But, in this story, he doesn’t get angry. He simply says, “Wake up! Get Up! It’s time to go).
That Jesus didn’t just leave them in the field show remarkable grace. Most of us might have said, “Oh, just let them sleep. They probably need it anyway.” And, when we did that, they would have missed the opening scenes from the greatest drama in history. How could they tell the story if they never saw the whole story play out? We can tell the story because we know all of it. For the disciples, they had to live it out. That Jesus allows them to continue on the journey to the cross. That is grace for them and it is grace for us. It is grace for us because had Jesus not brought the disciples along, we might even be more like them because we wouldn’t know the story.
“Fall asleep? I’d never do that. That might be our intention but staying awake can be exceedingly difficult. It’s a good thing we can find grace. It will always fix that which ails us. That is good news for us all.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
With joy and thankfulness,
Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved