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Archive for May 5th, 2019

Why did Jesus take his disciples into Gethsemane to pray?

He knew they did not understand the gravity of that night. He knew they did not understand the cross he was to bear (literally and figuratively). He knew they would not stay awake with him.

So why did he take them into the garden that night? And why was he so obviously disappointed when they did what was natural, after a long day, after a feast?

I expect that Jesus was, quite simply, so sorrowful … he knew that one of his own was to betray him, that his human body would be tortured and broken, that he would die, that his father would turn his face from him … all so that these men, and humankind thereafter, would have the freedom to choose to keep watch or sleep.

I expect that he also had a lesson in mind for them … for us.

The Gospels tell us of Jesus responses to their garden napping:

“Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 4“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:40-41

“Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 3Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:37-38

“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Luke 22:46

As we read the commonalities of the three passages there are three things that stand out to me:

  1. When Jesus asks why they are sleeping (and not ‘with’ him), I wonder if Jesus is reminded of a night when he was sleeping, and his disciples were sorrowful? That night on the Sea of Galilee, when the waves were rocking their boat, their world. When they were certain of their demise. And Jesus strolled across the Sea of Galilee and the waves calmed. He had been awake when their very life was at stake.
  2. After finding them asleep Jesus directs them to watch and pray. This is the lifejacket of every follower of Jesus … keep your eyes open, don’t get lazy in looking around, in praying. We stay awake to pray, we also pray to stay awake. We are more than mortal beings who need physical rest, we also need spiritual rest, but that rest comes through connection to God.
  3. Jesus tells them the consequence of not watching and praying … temptation. This, Jesus knows, is the reality of being fully human … the temptation of the flesh over the good intent of the God-infused spirit. In Romans 7:25 we see that Paul laments this reality, when he states, “with my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh the law of sin.” Thankfully, for the disciples, as well as us, to follow Jesus is to live under his grace.

It is interesting that John’s account of this event did not mention those things. Instead, John reflects on the prayer of Jesus, for his disciples. This makes me wonder … were all asleep?

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” John 17:13-19

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