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.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 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 26:36-46 ESV)
Yesterday we began our study of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane where He becomes very distressed over the fate that awaited Him within just the next few hours and prays to God, His Father, about the situation.
After He finished praying (the first of what will be three prayers) He came to the three disciples and found them sleeping. It was after midnight at this point and these young men were understandably tired. But their friend Jesus was about to be arrested, beaten, and crucified. If ever Jesus needed His friends to support Him it was now. But they could not be counted on. They fell asleep.
Jesus confronts them about not being able to watch with Him one hour. Notice that Jesus speaks to Peter. But in the original Greek the word “you” is plural, indicating that Jesus was addressing the entire group through Peter. This is one place where we can tell that Peter was the leader of the disciples.
Just hours earlier the disciples had professed unwavering support for Jesus despite Jesus’ profession that would not be the case. They clearly did not believe what Jesus said. They also had too much confidence tin themselves.
This is too often true of Christians. We don’t pray because we think “I’ve got this”. The disciples thought they were strong enough to endure the circumstances they were to soon find themselves in. They should have heeded Jesus’ words by praying for strength not to abandon Jesus in His hour of need.
There is a double nature in all believers. When we are born-again [John 3:3] we come to know what sin is and to abhor it. But that doesn’t mean we can stop doing it. As long as we live on this earth we will be torn between doing what we don’t want to do and not doing what we know we should do [Romans 7:15-23]. As Jesus told the disciples, the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. The disciples, like most of us, had good intentions. But they, like most of us, mistook those good intentions for strength.
Our inherent weakness is the exact reason we should pray. Because we are weak we are apt to fall into temptation. The remedy for this is to be on our guard (watch) and pray. We are weak, even though we don’t like to admit it and often fail to realize it. And while God does expect and command believers to encourage and strengthen each other [Luke 22:32; Acts 18:33, Hebrews 10:25], there are times when the only one we can turn to and rely upon is God.
Sin is all around us. Satan is always trying to get Christians to mess up so that he can give nonbelievers and critics a reason to not believe. Prayer is the best way to avoid Satan’s temptations and prevent sin.
Notice that even though we mess up God does not criticize or humiliate us. Jesus instead reminded the disciples of the importance of staying alert and praying for strength. It’s amazing to see that even in Jesus’ most trying hour He continued to teach.
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