Jesus agonized at Gethsemane. The inconceivable awareness of the power of sin produced such anguish that his sweat took the form of blood (hematidrosis). For the first time, his will conflicted with his Father’s and it caused excruciating pain. His sorrow ran deeper than any human being will ever suffer. The most severe trial of his time on earth had arrived. And what were his closest companions doing?
They were sleeping…
Jesus had told them to keep watch, to pray, to be on guard so as not to fall into sin’s trap. But they slept. They slept until the betrayer came, leading a crowd armed with swords, clubs and a deadly kiss. When they finally awoke…the nightmare began.
It wasn’t the first time Jesus warned his followers to keep watch. When he described the coming end of the age he cautioned them to remain alert. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back-whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you I say to everyone: ‘Watch”” (Mark 13:35-36).
I guess that everyone includes us. We live in a world that appears to be plunging into destruction at an alarming speed. Are we ignoring the signs? Are we turning our heads over on our pillows because we think there’s nothing we can do? There was nothing the disciples could have done to prevent Jesus’ arrest. Yet he told them to watch and pray so that they wouldn’t give in to temptation. His caution was validated in perhaps one of the saddest verses in scripture: “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Matthew 26: 56).
There will be a time for us to rest. But that day has not yet come. Until then, let’s be careful that we are not lulled to sleep. Our call is to always be on guard and keep the severity of trials and the corruption of our surroundings from stunning our sensitivities. We have to stay in the arena, alert, attentive and ready to act. Otherwise, we might find ourselves akin to those in Gethsemane…those friends of Jesus who fell asleep.