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. Mark 14, verses 39-40.
The spirit is indeed willing and the flesh is indeed weak. Knowing that, we can easily relate to the sleepy Apostles.
Let’s cut a little slack to the Apostles because, well, after all, they’re human. They were tired. No, they were exhausted. These verses occurred very early in the morning, perhaps around 2 or 3 AM. After tramping all around Jerusalem on Thursday, then the last supper, then some incredibly wrenching personal time with Jesus, they were exhausted.
“I would have done better. I would have stayed up.”
Sure you would, pal. Don’t forget there wasn’t a Denny’s open at that time. Around AD33 you couldn’t run to the local QT to get a cup of fresh coffee. You and I might have wanted to stay awake and keep watch, but in the end, after chatting with our mates, we probably would have quietly sat down and nodded off…just like they did. It’s all the more real when you think that they weren’t sitting there in North Face jackets with thermal sleeping bags. No, on a cold Judean night in the springtime (think 40-50 degrees), they sat on the hard ground, perhaps against stone walls, wearing thin robes, skirts or tunics and sandals. I’m thinking they didn’t stretch out to relax. I’m betting they huddled together to keep warm.
Then they were alarmed when Jesus came back and He was disappointed in them. They didn’t know what to say.
Now, I’ll confess how I’m getting old by saying that I don’t see how young people can sleep so much. My kids, they can sleep for hours, sometimes 8-12 hours at a stretch. I don’t think I could count on one hand how many times I’ve slept that long in my entire life and I’m nearly 50. Try waking up one of my kids when they’re asleep and you’ll get a disoriented, probably crabby hot mess. Ask them a question and you’ll likely get a vacant response. Should it be surprising, then, if that’s the same response Jesus got from His sleeping disciples? And they hadn’t even been asleep for 10 hours.
Yes, they should have kept a better watch; so should we. Could they have eased Jesus’ anxiety over what was happening? Perhaps; we’ll never know. Jesus wanted them to keep watch with Him just like He wants us to keep watch with Him every day of our lives. He upbraided them to watch out and resist temptation because He knew that their best defense against a Satan on offense was to watch and be ready when sin tempts. He’ll do that same thing for you and I, speaking to our hearts, speaking to us through conscience. When we are tempted, He’ll speak to us in ways that appeal to our hearts. “Don’t do it.” “You shouldn’t.” “Stop now.” Those are good things to know because we will each find ourselves in moments of temptation every single day. It’s a fair bet to assume that, like the Apostles, we won’t know what to say when that happens.
Lord Jesus, abide with me. Remind me to avoid temptation and help me to resist.
Read Mark 14, verses 32-41.