There is a haunting question that Jesus asked His disciples in the midst of a very difficult night before the beginning of one of the most tragic days they would ever face… and He asks us this same question today. In fact, Jesus asks me this question every morning when my snooze button or my cozy bed is calling my name… And how you and I respond to this question can literally change the course of our lives on any given day…
“Why do you sleep? Get up and pray that you may not enter at all into temptation…”
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Luke 24:46 & Matthew 26:41
In Matthew 26 and Luke 24, we see Jesus’ last words to His disciples before heading toward the cross. Being equally God and the Son of God, Jesus knew what was ahead both for Him and for His followers and He took His closest disciples with Him to pray as He poured out His heart to the Father. Jesus knew that more than any other day of their lives thus far, they would desperately need the strength that comes from communion with God.
But they were exhausted. So instead of praying, they slept.
Jesus, stained by blood-sweat, came back to His friends and woke them up with a reminder that they NEEDED to pray. Though Jesus understood that their weary frames begged for sleep, He discerned that more than sleep, these men NEEDED to pour out and fill up before God. Because unlike the disciples, Jesus knew that they all were mere hours away from walking into what would be remembered as some of the most catastrophic days of their lives.
Leaving the disciples with the charge to stay awake and pray, Jesus returned to privately battle and lay down His own will before the Father.
Yet when Jesus met back up with his friends, they were sound asleep.
With a heavy heart, Jesus awoke these men and once more told them to pray. He acknowledged His understanding that their hearts were willing to do this but that their bodies were fighting them on it. And He urged them to press on and persist in prayer anyway.
Jesus left and resumed His life-pouring communion with the Father. Finally, when He arose in humble submission to the Divine Plan, Jesus once again found that His dear friends were still fast asleep.
With no more time for instruction, these were the last personal and private words Jesus spoke to them before His arrest:
“Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand…” Matthew 26:44
Jesus asked His disciples to stay awake and pray because a most difficult day was ahead. He knew how tired they were, but He also understood how much they would need the Strength of the Lord infused within them through choosing to spend that time in prayer instead of in sleep.
When the tragic day arrived, the disciples were not prepared because they choose to continue to sleep and put off time with the Father instead of arising and falling to their knees. Consequently, when the tragedy hit and their leader was arrested, they ran away in fear instead of standing firm in faith.
“Are you still asleep and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand…” Matthew 26:44
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Mark 4:9