Then [Jesus] came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:40-41
Jesus was praying for his life in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew that his time was at hand; the next day, he’d be tortured to death by the occupying Roman legion. Before that happened, he’d be mocked and beaten by the religious authorities of his own people. The next 24 hours were going to be rough, to say the least.
Sometimes, we emphasize Jesus’ divinity so much that we lose track of the fact that he was also a human being, just like us. Jesus was no invulnerable demigod. He wept. He got angry. He didn’t want to die. In the garden that night, he begged God to show him some other way – any way that didn’t mean being nailed to that cross.
Jesus faced temptation, hardship and suffering. He felt abandoned by his closest friends in his darkest moment. Jesus was facing a horrifying death, yet his inner circle – Peter, James and John – couldn’t even stay awake with him for an hour while he prayed!
How often do I fall asleep to the prayer of Jesus in those around me? How often do I tune out the suffering that I see? So many times, I yield to the temptation to fall asleep in my distractions. What would it look like for me to stay awake with Jesus in the lives of those who are facing the reality of the cross every day – the homeless, the outcast, the unloved?
What would it look like to live in the cross myself, allowing my own will to be submitted to God’s loving desire for my life? Like Jesus, how can I stay awake and alert in prayer, knowing that I need the love and presence of the Holy Spirit in each moment?