Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 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.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 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. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
~ Matthew 26:40-46 (NIV)
Jesus said, “Keep watch with me.” If you have ever sat with a loved one while waiting for that person to die, perhaps you know something of how the three men who waited with Jesus might have felt. He had told them, repeatedly, that he was going away. But now they see him in anguish, and they can see that it is all starting to happen, in perhaps a more terrible way than they had imagined. They could not understand what would come in the next few days, so the waiting was full of dread, the dark kind of sadness that feels unbearable.
Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” But instead they fell asleep. Still, if we disparage the disciples for their inability to stay awake, maybe we haven’t spent enough time thinking about this scene, and maybe we have never prayed to the point of exhaustion. There is a point at which our circumstances can no longer be examined. There is a point after which a person can pray no more. This is when the Holy Spirit must take over for us “through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26), perhaps even while we sleep.
Jesus asked God three times to take away the suffering that was coming, not just the torture and ridicule, but the unbearable thought of facing all of God’s wrath at once, the Father’s hatred for sin all falling at once on the head of his innocent Son. But Jesus followed his request with “may your will be done.”
When we ask God for something three times, and he does not give us what we want, we are often angry and begin to question his goodness. And when our friends fail us, we may want to find new friends. But Jesus, even as he faced the beginning of the most terrible time there ever was on earth, went back to encourage the friends who had failed him and to face his mission before God: the price of our salvation.
Loving Father, I gripe and grumble when I encounter painful circumstances. I complain about bad luck or not getting the breaks in life. I wonder why you allow such pain to occur to me and to others. Yet I know that I can take my grievances directly and openly to you. I can admit my confusion and my disappointment. I know I am approaching the only One who can really do something in my times of need. Thank you for your patience and your kindness to me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.In Jesus,
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Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Taken from Once a Day 40 Days to Easter.
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”