Matt 26:36-45 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and He said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray”. He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and He became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and bowed with His face to the ground praying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet, I want Your will to be done, not mine.”
Then, He returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “ Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give into temptation. For the spirit is willing but the body is weak!”
Then, Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father, If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” When He returned to them again, He found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.
So, He went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Then, He came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look-the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s get going. Look, my betrayer is here!”
Today’s text takes us from the Passover supper to the olive grove to pray. This particular grove is also known as the Garden of Gethsemane. It is here in this secluded place, under the shadow of night, where Jesus is in anguish over what is to come. He has taken three of His most trusted disciples, Peter, James and John to be with Him in His final moments of freedom. The vigil begins as they stand watch for His captors and begin to pray with Him for His upcoming suffering and death. Matthew also tells us in this text that Jesus walks on a little farther ahead of the three and appeals to His beloved Father in Heaven to take “this cup of suffering away” (Matt 26:39). Agonizing over the events to come, Jesus walks back to find something quite alarming. Scripture tells us that Jesus’ best of friends couldn’t stay awake with Him to pray, not even for an hour. (Matt 26:40) Jesus gave the disciples a stern warning about praying so that they, too, would not fall into temptation. (Matt 26:41) Even after being warned, they continued to sleep until Judas was there with Jesus’ captors and His arrest was at hand. (Matt 26:45)
Should we be quick to judge the disciples for “sleeping on the job” so to speak? How often have I ignored someone needing a hand so I could care for my own wants? How many times have I chosen to turn on the TV or read a good book instead of reading the Word or seeking the Lord in prayer? None of these things are inherently wrong and certainly there is a proper time and place for just relaxing as there is a proper time for sleep. However, there are times I’m just as guilty of ignoring my Lord and Savior or the needs of others. Rather than being God-centered, I’ve chosen to be self-centered. Today’s scripture is a good reminder to stay alert as I would not want to be found “sleeping” if Christ calls me by name!
As long as we are talking about the disciples and their shortcomings, why not talk about Judas? Am I anything like him? He comes in on the last verse of our scripture text labeled only as “the betrayer”. Maybe I have never betrayed Jesus with a kiss on the cheek but have I ever betrayed Him in my life as a witness? It could be a statement such as, “ I believe in God” but purposely not mentioning the atoning work of Christ on the cross, not wanting to stand out in a crowd, wanting to hide the fact that I believe that Jesus is the one, true way to heaven… Isn’t that omission much like the “Judas kiss” and that kiss the same as a “slap on the face”? I’ve done that, oh so many times, I’ve done that, more than I’d care to admit. However, I find forgiveness through Christ alone, something Judas didn’t realize. If he had, his story might have ended differently.
Papa, Your love for us is so amazing, that You would send Your ONLY Son to us as a man. He suffered and died in such a way that He paid for our sins by becoming sin itself on the cross. I could never find the words to express how grateful I really am. I love you so. In Jesus I come before You, Amen!