Jesus Praying in the Garden Matthew 26:40-46
Jesus found them Sleeping…
I have an eight week old baby. Have you ever heard the saying “I slept like a baby”? I guarantee you it does not mean that you slept well. For me it means going to bed at 11:30pm for a two and a half hour nap, waking up to feed the baby in my sleep, then laying back down for another three and a half hour nap before getting up again to feed the baby and then starting my day. With a five year old and an “almost” two year old ready to take on the world at 6:30am each morning and then a flurry of activities ranging from homeschooling to cooking meals to swimming lessons, etc. I am utterly exhausted by the time we land on the couch at night once the kids are all tucked nicely in bed. So when I opened my Bible to Matthew 26:40 the other night I could totally relate to the disciples, and the message I discovered there was exactly what I needed to read.
And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
(Matthew 26:40-46 ESV)
Zealous and Tired?
Can you relate to the disciples when you read this passage? How often do you sit down to read your Bible and pray in the morning or at night and your eyes feel “heavy” with tiredness? Do you ever skip spending time in the Word and prayer because you feel sleepy? I have to be honest, tiredness has been my greatest battle this past year. I went from being pregnant with two other young ones at home to now managing, loving, and serving three little ones and I never really feel fully refreshed. Of course, I’m speaking in the natural though, because Jesus words to his friends, “..the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”, I can completely understand. The only time I feel refreshed is when I have been reading God’s Word and been washed in it each day. My spirit longs to be with him, studying the mysteries of his Word and serving him faithfully through evangelism, but so often my weak flesh exhausts me and I find myself struggling to stay awake during my devotions. When I read the above passage though I found hope. Let’s go through it and see what Jesus says about our slumber.
“Watch and pray…”
First of all the disciples knew that something was different about this night. Just before he went to pray on his own in the garden, in verse 38, he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” They witnessed the heavy burden that Jesus was carrying, they heard his words urging them to stay awake and “watch” with him, they knew that he had been telling them to be prepared for his death in Jerusalem, but they just could not keep their eyes open.
And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?
(Matthew 26:40 ESV)
These men were so human, just like us, it was late at night, they had done a lot of walking, had a big day and Jesus understood. He had a human body like them and he knew why they were tired and he felt it too, but he also knew that what was going on in the spirit could not afford to be slept through. So he gives them the key to overcoming their exhaustion. He tells them to “Watch and Pray…“. Our flesh is weak and it tires easily of doing the Lord’s work. We can’t expect to do well for him on our own strength. While we may still feel physically tired, he gives us the strength we need when we forge on in watchfulness and prayer.
What Are We Watching For?
If you remember being 10 years old and it was ever your turn to “keep watch” at the clubhouse you’ll know what a critical responsibility this is.
And on a more serious note Ezekiel 33:6 describes the duties of a watchman.
But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.
(Ezekiel 33:6 ESV)
A watchman is on guard and on the look out for possible intruders. It is his job to warn others if danger is on its way. So when Jesus implores his disciples to “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation”, he is warning them to be on guard and ready to fight the temptation ahead of them that would be to turn their backs on him as he is arrested, tried, and crucified.
Jesus gives us a very similar warning in Matthew 25:13,
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour (of his return).
(Matthew 25:13 ESV)
And again in Matthew 24:42,
Therefore, stay awake (watch), for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
(Matthew 24:42 ESV)
Don’t hit the Snooze Button
Just as the disciples were not expecting the angry mob to come that night in the garden we don’t know when to expect Jesus’ return. He is coming both to gather his elect (Matt. 24:31) and in judgment (2 Cor. 5:10) of the world, and we must be prepared ourselves and busy preparing others. In order to do that we have to be awake; watching. The only way to stay awake is to be consistently and regularly in the Word, studying and seeking wisdom and truth, and also to be in prayer so that we are in fellowship with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit, and finally to be in service to him so that we are actively obeying his command to make disciples when he returns.
When we’re tired is when we are most vulnerable to the temptations of this world; tempted to sin, to be stagnant, to be selfish, and tempted to live comfortable and safe. So when we are tired is when we need to be most “awake”, meaning in the Word, in prayer, and in service. “The Kingdom of God is at hand” Jesus said, and as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be when Jesus returns. People will be busy and tired. We do not want to be so swept up with earthly concerns and comforts that we neglect our work of building the ark that will warn people of the wrath to come and the salvation that lies within its walls if they will only enter through the door of repentance and faith. If we’re constantly hitting the “snooze” button on God we might find ourselves transitioning from a sleepy Christian (which is dangerous enough) to one who is asleep altogether. So read this excerpt from Keith Green’s song, “Asleep in the Light”…
The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can’t fight
Cause it’s asleep in the light
How can you be so dead
When you’ve been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, you can’t even get out of bed
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead
Come on, get out of your bed
When it comes right down to it, like all the other struggles and difficulties we face as Christians, we must call out to Jesus to give us the strength to overcome our weary flesh.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)
Of course we are most familiar with verse 13 of Philippians 4, but when you read that verse in context with what Paul is actually saying I believe it gives greater hope than if it’s taken out of context to literally mean you can do “all things” (anything you want). What Paul is saying is that whatever is situation the Lord allows us to be in he will help us to be content in Him alone and able to endure it without fainting because He will strengthen us with His strength and we won’t have to do it on our own. So, if you have come to the end of this post and you can relate to me and the disciples, and you’ve just be feeling tired, whether physically, spiritually or both, humbly ask Jesus now to strengthen and wake you so that you can continue on (or maybe begin) the tasks that he has set before you to complete for his Kingdom.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)
Preparing the Way,