And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.  And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed,  saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”  And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.  And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.  And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow,  and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (ESV)
The disciples and Jesus have just finished dinner together in the upper room. When they were done eating, they stood and sang together, they sang a portion of the psalms that dealt with suffering, death, and deliverance.
After singing, Jesus led Peter James and John to the garden to pray. The moon lights the top of the olive trees, these wide canopies that spread out, causing thick darkness under and between them in the garden.
The disciples are spent. They’re emotionally worn out, confused, scared, and it’s late.
There is no coffee, they just ate a long meal and shared wine– and now they’re in the dark, kneeling, praying, leaning against trees in comfortable stillness.
And Jesus says, keep awake! Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.
In Matthew and Mark’s Gospels, they talk of how Christ went off to pray, and came back twice to find Peter James and John asleep. “Peter!, he says, “You couldn’t stay awake one hour?!?“ “The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
There were good intentions to stay awake, but they gave into comfort, they gave into exhaustion, and they slept.
You and I have the privileged position of looking at this night in history and thinking, “Come on! Stay awake! Don’t you know what is about to happen and who he really is?!?”
But how often have you chosen comfort over looking to Jesus?
Chosen distraction over facing reality?
Slid into sleep to escape pain, overwhelm, or fear?
Meanwhile there is Jesus, wrestling his will to the ground with his own blood.
Lent helps us to stay awake.
It’s a practice to align our hearts by walking away from comfort
To align our will with the Father’s
As a friend says, ‘to follow the pattern of the self-emptying Jesus,’
Instead of the pattern of our self-protecting flesh.
46 days to keep watching and praying.
Asking God to give us a sense, a taste, a sight of the weight that Christ bore right here in the garden, surrendering his will to the Father’s, all the way until he declared it done, “It is finished.”
Lent is a rhythm of fasting and feasting.
We enter into discomfort, into self-denial, because Easter is coming.
And He’s calling us to stay awake, to watch, to pray.
That we might not enter into temptation
That we might be prepared for suffering as it comes
And that we might worship in knowing He endured suffering that we might be made whole.