Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples,
“Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them,
“I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”
And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed,
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”
Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter,
“So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Again he went away for the second time and prayed,
“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
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. Then he came to the disciples and said to them,
“Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
Sleep is an amazing thing. If you can get any, it brings rest and recuperation from the stresses of life, yet it is the stress of life that often denies us the sleep. The more we try to sleep, the more we stay awake and, as in our reading, the more the disciples try to stay awake, the more they sleep.
Clearly Jesus cannot sleep as the enormity of what is about to happen has just hit him like a sledgehammer! We as humans can understand his reluctance to face what is to come, yet we as humans can but marvel at his complete and utter obedience to follow his Father’s will.
The disciples, exhausted from the day’s events so far, struggle to comprehend the magnitude of Jesus’ words and cannot stay awake. The image we see is of the three disciples intertwined with Jesus, their bodies indicating that they are in this together – yet Jesus is facing upwards, praying to his Father while the disciples are at his feet, sleeping. A shaft of light highlights the night time scene, but even this is not enough to wake them.
We too, often miss the story of the Garden. We go from the Last Supper to the Cross and miss the bit in between. We are so eager to pass by the horror of Good Friday, that we forget the night of Maundy Thursday and the battle that Jesus faced.
May we, this Lent, pause, and reflect on whether we could stay awake in the face of such a task, and let us spend time in the garden, hard as it may be, to offer our complete obedience to God in all we do.
(Picture He Qi, Praying at Gethsemane)
God of the tired, exhausted and weary, bring rest and refreshment. God of the frightened, the worried, the anxious, bring calm and assurance. God of the undecided, the apathetic, the “not sure”, bring certainty and decision. Loving God, help us to face the challenge of believing; the challenge of obedience and most of all, the challenge of following the way of the Cross. Amen
The Rev’d Ruth Watson is minister of Worsley Road and Patricroft URCs in Salford.