And again [Jesus] came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (Mark 14:40-41)
Three times, Jesus prays. Three times, he finds his disciples sleeping. They are supposed to be keeping watch. They are supposed to be praying, too (v38). But it’s late. It’s been a long day. They were drinking at the Passover. They just couldn’t keep their eyes open.
We can empathize. I’m sure we have all struggled at one time to stay awake during a church service. It’s usually during the sermon, right? It might not be a long sermon. It might be a fascinating sermon. But sometimes it takes every bit of strength to keep our eyelids from slowly closing. Our head bobs and we suddenly wake ourselves up, only to discover that we are still…so…tired. And then it’s time for the prayers, a blessed few moments when you can just close your eyes…
The disciples really don’t know what’s going to happen next. They have no idea Judas is on his way with a crowd armed with swords and clubs. They don’t know that Jesus will soon be nailed to a cross to die. For them, it’s just another night at Gethsemane. It’s another night when Jesus needs to pray. Maybe it was another night for them to fall asleep.
One of the things Jesus told his disciples over and over again was, “Stay awake.” Good and faithful servants are supposed to be up and doing their jobs at all hours of the day (Mark 13:32-37). The one thing you don’t want is for him to catch you asleep, no matter when he shows up. It’s a tough parable to hear because we all know how easy it is to become complacent, lazy and bored. Your spiritual adrenaline may spike when you hear a worship song or an inspirational message. But you quickly come down from that high. We all do. No one can stay at spiritual “defcon 5” indefinitely. The excitement and urgency of following Jesus gives way to his words sounding familiar and routine.
We are blessed to have a Savior who wakes us up over and over again. After Lazarus died, Jesus said, “I’m going to wake him up.” And he did! And he awakens us to life, too. If Jesus has been raised from the dead, and he is a firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor. 15:20), then we can count on him to wake us up, too. He’s like the first one to wake up in the morning who goes around shaking everyone, saying, “Come on, wake up, it’s time to get ready!”
Heavenly Father, thank you for the wake up call I get in Jesus, who is my risen Lord and Savior. Amen.