STAY AWAKE WITH ME AND PRAY
SCRIPTURES: Matt. 21:6-11 & 26:36-46
Have you ever experienced a whirlwind week?
No doubt, each of us has. Perhaps it was the week of a wedding, yours or for a child. It may have been a particular “final exams” week(s). There was that out-of-the-blue emergency room visit that turned into hospital admittance with a surgery for you or a loved one. We all have experienced them.
Sometimes such weeks can be on the positive side. There was the tying of loose-ends and a closing on a dream home. Finals were passed in flying colors as the nose-to-the-grind-stone study-prep paid off. The stressful rehearsing and researching for job interviews resulted in being hired.
And, sometimes a week, as some of these examples, can be a mixture of both--negative stressors and positive excitement. So was that week for Jesus and his Disciples--that series of seven or so consecutive days known as “holy week.”
And what a beginning to that week, a week so moving that we commemorate that day as a celebration and call it Palm Sunday. And we reference it as Passion Sunday, too, for the emotional excitement, again the positive, as it was at a fever-pitch level.
But it was a whirlwind week. There was too much crammed into it. So much, in fact, that it creates a dilemma of sorts for preachers’ sermon preparation. Which of the two emphases--the palms with cloaks strewn along the path of the approaching donkey which carried Jesus as a king, or, the dark cloud of the week’s end, with both a darkness of the sky at the third hour, not to mention hearts which were bowed low by the horrific happenings to Jesus. An itinerate-teacher from Galilee who entered the week as if living out a fantasy of kingship, but who then was crucified as a trouble-maker to satisfy Jewish authorities and the crowd, yet who was a mere blip on the radar of the Roman government.
Yet, his Disciples were riding the waves of emotional highs and lows from the beginning to the end of the week. Perhaps Peter would become the press-secretary for Jesus. Maybe John the beloved of Jesus would run interference with the Pharisees and scribes once the reign of Jesus got underway. Judas could retain his purse-duties for them and maintain their financial well-being.
But after the betrayal of one of the Twelve, they had been tossed into the throes of being physically tired and emotionally confused. Leaving their meal together in that upper room and on out to the hillside of the Gethsemane Garden, where Jesus desired to pray and gather himself, they flunked a simple-sounding request--stay awake, stay awake and pray with me, Jesus asked. So much for an earthly reign.
And even their passive-neglect to fall asleep rather than pray would be topped come Friday, by intentionally keeping their distance from Jesus’ trials, sentencing and execution--their rabbi and friend.
Though their tiredness and inability to stay awake to pray would be worsted by week’s end, perhaps that hour in the garden was a telling-moment for them and pivotal to their upcoming denials of Jesus.
Was there too much to process? It would appear so.
How you and I can relate!
In Matthew’s Gospel, the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, actually is chronologically determined as Monday, and in fact, nor are palm branches mentioned. But this Gospel does note the fascination of the crowd about Jesus, the entirety of Jerusalem seeming to be in turmoil. Perhaps it was related to the Passover festival and the influx of visitors. Added, most likely to the periphery of the city’s troubled-ness, would have been inquiries and concern about this person named Jesus.
This contrasted to the Disciples as black on a white background. For they had no excuse for not knowing the claims of Jesus as the Christ, nor should they have been surprised about how the week would end, for Jesus had told them. But sometimes when the spirit is willing the flesh can be weak, leaving persons tired, sleepy. Depression, internalized anger, can often form a desire to sleep.
The warning, the admonition, to the Disciples to remain awake and pray, was not only in light of the literal trials affronting Jesus, but to their own trials of loyalty, devotion, and faithfulness or the lack thereof for the Christ whom they loved. Would they succumb to deny? Or, would they stay awake and pray? And we know the answers.
From verses 38 and 40 Jesus shared his intent, desire, for closeness, affinity in relationship “with” the Disciples. “Remain awake and stay here with me.” “Could you not remain awake with me one hour?” The moral support they could have lent to Jesus came up short. The spiritual empowerment upon Jesus for which they could have prayed was also absent. Jesus prostrate, face down, on the ground walked that dark hour without the loving support of those whom he would call his friends, rather than servants. His only reliance was God the Father leading him to drink of the bitter cup--the cup of physical torture and death.
However, I have the sense that you as I are not wanting to be too harsh in our judgment of the Disciples. Because we also have human-limitations. We may be even unlikely to count on our spirits being willing, not to mention the weakness of the flesh. That our spirits would always be willing and our flesh strong.
We Christians know that Jesus is the Christ by experiencing Holy Spirit’s communing with our spirits that we are God’s children. But alas, our spirits may stumble over our human foibles and stubborn wills. So at times we find ourselves being unable to stay alert to pray, even for the trials of those we love. .
Yet Christ, as with his Disciples in the garden, finally will say to us when in our slumbers, “Get up and let us be going.” For he yet remains with us.