The end was near. Jesus had been preparing the disciples for several weeks now. The tension just kept building as they finally arrived in Jerusalem and faced horrific attacks from the religious leaders. They shared the Passover meal together.
Their Teacher knew the time had come. He went out to the Mount of Olives, Luke tells us, as usual. “As usual,” what?
His disciples followed him. After all, he probably shouldn’t be left alone at a time like this. But that’s exactly what Jesus wanted to be — alone — or alone with the Father, at least.
He stopped them from entering his personal Holy of Holies, with a warning: “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”*
Should they pray, that is, be in the act of prayer, so they wouldn’t fall into temptation, or pray that they wouldn’t fall into temptation?
I think either works — but it didn’t seem to work with these guys, because Luke tells us:
He found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.*
I find that description by the doctor so interesting. The sorrow that was hanging on the disciples exhausted them and led to their inability to stay awake.
Do you know how that is? Ever been there in life?
As one who’s known grief, I can relate. You go through the shock of the loss, the funeral, the “must do’s” and then you can’t move. You can’t wake up. A wave of exhaustion hits that knocks you down for the count.
This is what the disciples were facing. After all, think about how many times Jesus had told them he would be given over to death. They knew it was coming. Then the attacks were just hammering the point in on a daily basis. They were grieving even before Jesus faced the cross.
That’s the grieving many of us experience with caring for a loved one who has cancer or Alzheimer’s. It leads to deep sorrow that drains the mind, body and soul.
Back to our story — what did Jesus do when he found them in this state? He asked them why they were sleeping. Didn’t they know better? He’d told them to pray so that they wouldn’t fall into temptation, then he did it again:
Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.*
There is a time for rest, but there is also a time for action. What would have happened if he had just let them sleep? They might have missed, not only the crucifixion, but the glorious resurrection!
Has sorrow exhausted you to the point where all you do is sleep? That’s a temptation in itself, isn’t it? But, that’s not the way God would have us live.
He wants us to get up and pray and then press on toward the goal to which he’s called us heavenward in Christ Jesus!
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.*
Don’t sleep through it!
Grace and Peace
*Luke 22: 40, 45, 46 (NIV)
*Psalm 30:5 (NKJV).