Summary: The theme is will power, endurance, and overcoming in spite of difficulty. Every one of us come to a point a times when we want to give up and quit. Just like the disciples who fell asleep while they waited for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When w
Finding Endurance for the Long Haul
January 23, 2005
The scene for the gospel lesson this morning is set on Thursday evening of Holy Week. It had been an incredibly busy and eventful week for Jesus and the disciples. It had started with the triumphant ride down the Mount of Olives the previous Sunday. After having spent the night in Bethany, Jesus was back in the Temple on Monday confronting the money changers and the merchants there. On Tuesday, Jesus was met with more conflict, this time from the elders and the chief priests as they questioned his authority.
He then began a long day of teaching. He told the parable of the tenants, addressed the issue of the payment of civil taxes, answered questions about marriage in the resurrection, reminded the Sadducees of the two greatest commandments, lifted up the widow’s offering as an example of faith, and spoke about the end of the age.
Then he went to Bethany again and had dinner at the home of Simon the Leper. Mark is a little unclear as to when this happened. It could have been Tuesday evening or Wednesday. At Simon’s house, a woman came and anointed his head with expensive perfume to the indignant protests of those present. This set the stage for Judas to approach the chief priests with his offer to betray Jesus.
Thursday was Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Jesus and the twelve joined together in the Upper Room over the Passover lamb and the traditional Passover Supper.
It was following this dinner that they made their way to Gethsemane. Jesus instructed the bulk of the disciples to stay there and wait. Taking Peter, James, and John, he continued up the hillside for a time. Instructing them to stay and keep watch, he went on a little farther and prayed that the time of trial might be passed, that the cup from which he was about to drink might not be necessary. He came back to the three and found them fast asleep. Waking them up, he exhorted them to watch. Twice more he would come back and find them asleep. The feeling I get when I read this account is that Jesus was not so much angry with the three, just terribly disappointed. All he asked them to do was to sit and wait for a while, but they couldn’t. They fell asleep.
Can I take the side of the disciples for a minute? Realize that this comes from a guy who gets really cranky without a nap on Sunday afternoons. Sunday, for me, is different than all the other days of the week. I don’t need to stop in the middle of the day on Monday or Tuesday. I can make it all the way through Wednesday and Thursday without stopping. Friday and Saturday are no problem. But on Sunday afternoon, I shut down and need a nap. The disciples had been through an incredible week. Can you blame them for being tired?
Have you ever been around people who are on the go all the time? There are some people who never seem to get tired, seldom have to stop for a rest. Those sorts of folks exhaust me. Jesus was one of those people. Yes, he took rest periods, but when he was on the go, he was always busy. I doubt that I would have been able to keep up with Jesus either. I’m not sure I blame the disciples all that much for falling asleep. They probably did what most of us would have done in similar circumstances.
However, even though we would be inclined to excuse them for being tired, the fact remains that they fell asleep on the job. They came to a point at which they could endure or give up. They gave up. They came to a point when they needed to confirm their devotion and commitment to Jesus, and they gave up. They had a chance to prove their willingness to endure. They had a chance to display their will power. They had a chance to prove that they had control over their situations, but they failed. Jesus told them, The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.
The theme of the day is will power, endurance, and overcoming in spite of difficulty. Every one of us comes to a point at times when we want to give up and quit. I want to talk about what to do when we reach those points.
As I look back on my adult life, there are some things in which I wish I would have displayed a little more will power. When I left Huntington Trinity church, the UMW gave me as a going away present, a baby-grand piano. Now before you get all excited, this piano was about 70 years old, the sound board was cracked, and it really wasn’t in that good of shape. I think they were looking for a way to get rid of it and I happened to be crazy enough to take it. We carted that old piano around for four more appointments until we finally deposited it in the Elkhart County landfill.