On the evening of the Passover meal, before He was betrayed by Judas, Jesus led the disciples to the Mount of Olives for some focused prayer time. More accurately, Jesus headed out for some focused prayer time, the disciples were just trying to keep their eyes open.
I get it, the guys had just had a big dinner, they had a little wine, their feet were freshly washed and they were leaned up against a tree in the garden at night. I think I would be dozing off as well. Jesus had warned them, “keep watch” and “watch and pray that you do not fall into temptation.” But still, they couldn’t stay awake. Have you ever really wanted to stay awake or really needed to stay awake and just couldn’t? It’s rough. It’s like fighting your mind, body and soul all at once.
I’d always read this passage out of Matthew 26 with a posture like, those lazy stinkin’ disciples, couldn’t even stay awake the night Jesus gets betrayed. Here Jesus is sweating blood and praying for this cup of suffering to pass, and the disciples are snoring.
But recently I read this scripture again, and for some reason, a new sense of compassion came upon me for them.
It hit me, this was the last bit of shut eye these guys would get with their Master and Lord by their side. This is the last time they would have pure peace for the next 3 days or so. This was the last time they would wake up to be in the presence of the Messiah. In fact, based off what we read in scripture, they may not have slept much at all for the next 3 days. This was in fact, the last nap before everything they knew would change drastically.
You can sense this is the tone Jesus takes each time He checks back to find them resting and sleeping. He starts out first a little hard edged about it, “Couldn’t you men watch with me for even one hour?” Then the second time He finds them napping, He left them be, and went back to pray alone. Jesus is the best at understanding humanness. Our weaknesses, our inabilities, our desire to do what’s right and our utter incapability to do it, Jesus understands all of that. And He’s compassionate.
During this time, which may have been the most difficult in the life on earth of Christ. These moments of realization and understanding of the magnitude of the purpose before Him, He still offered the disciples grace, mercy and understanding. Jesus is looking down the barrel of all sin of all humanity for all time, and these men that He loved and trusted and spend three years teaching don’t even honor Him in this moment. I would go off the deep end and have a self-hosted pity party for the ages. But Jesus, looked at the men He loved, and returned to pray. Jesus is the man, the God-man!
The disciples would wake up to the hub-bub of a large crowd of men with clubs and swords sent to apprehend Jesus for charges yet to be decided.
Peter, John, James and the men would never be the same again. Pain, feat, anger and the unknown lie ahead for them. Maybe what they really needed in the garden was a few minutes of peace before the Prince of Peace would settle the eternal debt of man-kind.
I appreciate when people look at my situations and decisions with mercy and understanding rather than judgment and condemnation. Another life lesson taught by the master in this most difficult of times.
Don’t underestimate the value of making and allowing peace for others.