'They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!'
(Mark 13:32-42) - NIV
This passage of scripture takes place just after Jesus’ last meal with his disciples and before he was arrested. He had taken three of his closest friends, Peter, James and John to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Can you imagine how Jesus must have felt at this time? Knowing that his betrayer would soon be on the scene, that his arrest was coming and that all he had come to do on this earth was coming to an end. He was distressed and troubled. Wouldn’t you be?
I am trying to recall events in my life when I knew difficulties were coming my way. I would ask a few of my closest friends to pray with me. I was in need of their support and encouragement. Just knowing that they were there for me would help me prepare for what I was going to have to face. Jesus was no different. He asked his friends to watch with him.
Jesus wandered off a little further by himself. In his final hours, the Lord chose to spend them in prayer to his Father. Psalm 145:18 says “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” This is a promise that is true for us today.
I can imagine the unbearable and agonising thoughts that were going on his mind. The struggle was intense. He asked God for mercy, for God to take the cup from him. He showed the natural desire of man to avoid suffering and pain, but at the same time you could see the Godly nature in him when he was willing to go all the way. “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” He knew the suffering he was going to have to endure yet he was willing to totally submit to the will of God.
What does it mean to watch? To watch means to pay attention to what is happening, to be vigilant. Can you imagine how Jesus felt when he returned and found his disciples sleeping? The stark response by Jesus “Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour?” tells its own story. I know how I would feel. Disappointed wouldn’t cut it. You’ve just poured out your heart and soul to your friends, your closest friends, you’ve asked them to be attentive, to be on their guard and then he comes back and finds them sleeping! He then said “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Jesus ventured off again to pray and when he returned for the second time, you’ve guessed it, he found them sleeping. They couldn’t muster up anything to say to him; after all they had been caught red-handed. I’m not condoning their inability to stay awake. After all, I know what it’s like to be overly tired and that despite my best efforts my eyelids are too heavy to stay open.
On his final return to his friends, he gave a short sharp rebuke - “Enough!” He was unwilling to tolerate any more. The hour had now come.
Throughout the Bible, God’s message to us rings out loud and clear. We need to return to His Paths and His teachings. Jeremiah and other prophets have stood in the role of a watchman.
There was once a story told of a lion that grew so old that he was unable to kill any prey for his food. So, he said to himself, I must do something to stay my stomach else I will die of starvation. He kept thinking and thinking and at last an idea came to him. He decided to lie down in the cave pretending to be ill and then who-so-ever will come to inquire about his health, will become his prey. The old lion put his wicked plan into practice and it started working. Many of his well-wishers got killed. But evil is short lived. One day, a fox came to visit the ailing lion. As foxes are clever by nature, the fox stood at the mouth of the cave and looked about. His sixth sense worked and he came to know the reality. So, he called out to the lion from outside and said, "How are you, sir?"
The lion replied,"I am not feeling well at all. But why don’t you come inside?"
Then the fox replied, "I would love to come in, sir! But on seeing, all foot prints going to your cave and none coming out, I would be foolish enough to come in." The moral of the story is always keep your eyes open and stay alert.
As Jesus admonished his friends to Watch and Pray this advice still holds true for us today. The Greek word gregoreo, translated as “watch,” means to keep awake, to watch and to take heed. Just like a sentry is to be on guard for anything out of order, for the enemy’s advance, for anything that would threaten his watch, we too to need to be aware of the snares of this world. Jesus was warning us to be on the lookout for anything that would take away from our relationship with God.
We need to continually abide in Christ. Let us not be neglectful or overcome by schemes of our adversary the devil who just like the lion in the story above comes prowling to seek and devour. But let us be sober-minded and alert. Let our personal watch be through prayer. When our life is framed around prayer we cannot help but be connected to the vine.
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who brings glad tidings, who proclaims salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’" (Isaiah 52:7)