Sleeping on the Job: Matthew 26:36-46

Focus Passage: Matthew 26:36-46 (GNT)

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. Grief and anguish came over him, 38 and he said to them, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 He went a little farther on, threw himself face downward on the ground, and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want.”

40 Then he returned to the three disciples and found them asleep; and he said to Peter, “How is it that you three were not able to keep watch with me for even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 Once more Jesus went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cup of suffering cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 He returned once more and found the disciples asleep; they could not keep their eyes open.

44 Again Jesus left them, went away, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look! The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners. 46 Get up, let us go. Look, here is the man who is betraying me!”

Read Matthew 26:36-46 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

On the night of Jesus’ arrest, while He was praying in the garden, Jesus’ disciples slept. While we don’t know if every single one of the eleven disciples slept when Jesus had asked them to stay awake, we do know that Jesus repeatedly returned to the disciples and found them sleeping.

It is interesting to me that Jesus specifically asks Peter a question that He answers for Peter. On waking the disciples up, Jesus says, “How is it that you three were not able to keep watch with me for even one hour? Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (v. 40b-41)

Jesus draws our attention onto a key challenge that many of us face. All too often, our spirit is willing, but our bodies are weak. There are plenty of things we can do, and things that we know we should do, but when it comes down to actually doing them, we don’t follow through. In the moment, our body’s weakness takes power over our spirit’s will.

Part of me wonders if Satan helped encourage the drowsiness of these disciples to keep them from keeping watch. I wonder what would have happened if one or more of them had stayed awake and had seen the mob approaching from a distance. Would they have been more prepared to face what was coming?

Matthew tells us that the disciples slept up to the point when the mob arrived. This last time Jesus returned to the disciples after praying, He said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look! The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, here is the man who is betraying me!” (v. 45-46)

In His final words to the disciples, Jesus makes an interesting remark. Jesus stated that “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners.” (v. 45b)

This phrase stands out to me because it demonstrates Jesus’ character and God’s humility. Jesus was willing to submit to be under the power of sinners. In a way, this echoes Jesus’ baptism at the opening of His ministry, where He submitted to John the Baptist (who was a sinner like we all are) to be placed under the water. These two events signify Jesus’ willingness to submit to those who believed He was God (John the Baptist), and those who believed He was their enemy (the Mob and religious leaders).

Jesus was willing to submit to all sinners as a way of showing us God’s love for each of us. We may end up sleeping on the job, but Jesus still loves us in spite of these mistakes. Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. We stumble, fall, and mess up what we know we should do, but no mistake we can make has the power to stop Jesus from submitting to the cross to take the death we deserved!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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