They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Do you feel as if you have been sleeping through Lent?
I know that in many ways I have. The intentions I had for time set apart, for contemplation, for walking with Christ through the past 40 days didn’t quite meet up with reality. And, to be more honest, most of the time I feel as if I am sleep walking through my daily spiritual life, no matter the time of year. My path is paved with good intentions, missed opportunities, forgotten commitments. Just like the disciples, asleep in the garden, I too fall short of the person I think that I imagine myself to be, and have to face the drowsy reality of who I actually am.
But here is the truth. Jesus did not bail on his destiny just because his companions couldn’t stay awake. Neither did he reject them in the future. Instead, these sleepy men became giants of our faith. They were witnesses to the resurrection, bearers of the Spirit, and our first evangelists. For it is not our own paltry efforts that bring about God’s good plan. Instead, he uses us as instruments in His hand. On the cross, ALL of our sins are redeemed.
Here is another thing I have learned from dwelling on this passage- there is power in praying the night watch. When you one of your people is walking through the dark night of the soul, stay vigilant. Sit with them and pray that their needs will be met. And let them know that you are sitting with them in the garden. That sense of companionship, of not-aloneness, is powerful
And if you find yourself in the garden today? Praying through tears to hear the voice of God? Follow the example of Christ. Ask someone to come sit and pray with you. There is such profound solace in finally admitting that this anguish is too big for you, in asking others to help you pray the night hours. I know from experience that simply knowing others are praying for you brings unimaginable comfort.
And take this invitation to wake up, sweet dreamer. Easter is coming. Let’s prepare to meet the day.