In need of emotional and spiritual support, Jesus took his disciples to a place to pray with him as the hour of his gruesome death drew near. However, the pain was too great to share with all of his disciples, so he then took three of his closest ones to go a bit further away and pray with him more exclusively. But there the agony grew even more intense, so he walked even further away to pray by himself. It was there that he fell on his face in prayer.
But when he returned to his closest friends sometime later, he did not find them in prayer. They were not sensitive to his pain. They had not read the room at all. No, they were asleep!
Really Peter? Jesus just told you you’d betray him before the sun came up and you couldn’t even stay up for an hour and pray about how you might be able to prevent that? How are you going to be ready for temptation when it comes?
After waking them up and lecturing them, Jesus headed back into isolation to continue talking to God by himself. I imagine it was too emotionally hard to pray with the disciples at that moment given their actions. After some more time had passed, he returned to see how they were doing, but they were already asleep again. Jesus must have been heartbroken at this point, for he didn’t even try to wake the disciples up this time. He just turned around and walked back into isolation to pray.
We all need God, but what about when God needs us? I mean, I get it—God is omnipotent and doesn’t technically need anything from us—yet in this story, God-in-Flesh needed his friends. He needed their support, and their prayers. But they didn’t have the energy. Prayer is slow and boring and it’s late and we just had a big meal, they probably thought to themselves. Besides, we’ve had an uphill climb toward success and greatness. What could stop us now? They would find that answer when they were awoken with adrenaline to a great crowd that had come to arrest them.
Who knows how the story might have gone if even so much as one disciple had stayed awake and ministered to Jesus. Perhaps Peter wouldn’t have given into the temptation to deny Jesus in just a few short hours. Or perhaps Jesus would have felt stronger when the crowd came.
May we learn the lesson and not be sleeping when he needs us.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Matthew 26:36-46 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.