It was the beginning of 3 days that these 3 men would never forget. Never.
The hour was late. Much had happened. The last supper. Prideful posturing. Washing feet. Judas’ departure. And the ensuing walk across the Kedron valley with Jesus teaching. Encouraging. Comforting. Promising.
Peter, James, and John are invited to walk a little father, as Jesus entered into prayer to the Father.
Struggle. Sorrow. Supplication. These words describe Jesus’ emotions in Gethsemane’s garden as Thursday turned into Friday.
And what words describe the disciples? Weariness. Slumbering. Sleeping. Jesus simply asked them, “Stay here and keep watch with me.”
But while the Savior prayed. The disciples slept.
You can hear the disappointment in Jesus’ voice as he asked “What? “Could you not watch with me one hour?”
Then he issued this heart-felt exhortation. “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The gospel writers document this scene repeated itself two more times. Jesus’ response? “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”
“Watch and pray.” Those words ring in my ears, as I reflect on what follows. The betrayal kiss by Judas. The apostles fearful abandonment of Jesus. Peter’s denial. The Sanhedrin’s kangaroo court of a trial. Herod’s contemptuous scorn. Pilate’s cowardice.
The crowd’s cry “Crucify Him.” The brutal beating. The weakened walk to Calvary. And finally the executioner’s cross. The pounding sound of soldiers driving the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. The painful cry. The hurt in Mary’s eyes.
“Watch and pray.” Sobering words, as I think about the people who pass by shaking their heads and hurling abuse. The crowd jeers. And Satan cheers. While the turned face of the Father sheds tears.
“Watch and pray.” As Jesus suffers. Prays. Forgives. And dies. On the cross. All alone.
Fast forward to a Sunday service. A song is sung. Verses are read. A few appropriate comments are made. Communion is passed. The bread is eaten. The juice swallowed. And I sit. I slumber. My mind wanders. I lose focus. An afternoon ball game. A family outing. A debt to be paid. A business deal to close. A vacation to begin. And then those words ring in my ears.
“Watch and pray.” Indeed the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I know all too well. I feel the disciples’ frailty. Their feebleness. Their temptation. Their embarrassment in the presence of Jesus.
As I’m shaken out of spiritual slumber, I am thankful. Not just for Friday. And for the cross. But for Sunday. For the eye-opening, spirit-stirring victory. For the resurrection. For Jesus’ triumph over the tomb. For death’s defeat. For the crushing blow to Satan’s scheme.
“Watch and pray.” Through faith I can do that. With the power of God’s love I can find forgiveness. Receive redemption. Procure pardon.
“Watch and pray.” Yes! Sunday reminds me of that. I have help. Hope. Assurance. God planned it. Jesus promised it. The apostles proclaimed it.
I leave the table better. Stronger. And humbled.
Oh, tomorrow I may slip. Again. I know the flesh is weak. But the spirit is willing.
“Watch and pray.”
I know I can.
It may be Friday. But Sunday’s coming!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman