Summary: Jesus’ disciples wanted to do what was right, but they couldn’t seem to do it. Encouragement for those who can’t seem to get it right.
Matthew 26:36-54 – Mess Ups with Good Intentions
Today’s passage is an interesting one. We have been looking at The Life of Jesus since we started the new year, and as we approach Easter – Resurrection Day – we find ourselves getting ever closer to the cross, to His death, by which He forgave us. It’s a wonderful time of the year to spend thinking of your sins and your failures, and to go to Him for forgiveness, cleansing, and a new hope.
Now, I’m working on the assumption that if you are here today, you really do want to do what’s right. Sometimes it may look very hard, and maybe sometimes you don’t feel like doing the right thing. But by and large, I believe that you want to do what’s right.
Well, Jesus’ disciples wanted to do what’s right also. Today we are looking at 2 things where the disciples messed up in doing what was right. I think we’ll recognize these things in our own lives too.
The 1st is in Matthew 26:36-45.
Let me give you the scene. Jesus and His disciples have just had the Last Supper. Judas has fled. The other disciples think he has gone to do something noble but instead, he’s gone to betray Jesus. Jesus and the 11 have gone to an olive grove called the Garden of Gethsemane. From those 11, Jesus singled out Peter, James and John, His 3 closest disciples, to go with Him a little further into the Garden. At some point Jesus tells them to stay while He goes a little further in yet. But He tells them to stay watch over Him.
This is where the movie The Passion of the Christ starts. Jesus was agonizing in the Garden, because He knew what was about to happen. He knew that a mob was about to arrive to arrest Him, after His disciple Judas kissed Him, turning Him in to the authorities. We really get glimpses into His humanness here. Yes, Jesus was and is God. But Jesus most certainly was human too.
And He wanted Peter, James and John to watch with Him. He wanted to know that there were people around trying to help Him. He wanted, even needed, the encouragement that His friends could provide. He wanted to know that He wasn’t alone, even if His friends were just out of earshot.
But they fell asleep. Not just once or twice, but 3 times. He asked them to pray with Him, to stay nearby while He was in anguish and pain, while He was going through an emotional turmoil. But they couldn’t. They didn’t. I think they wanted to, but they didn’t.
I say they wanted to because Jesus said they wanted to. In v41 He says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” What He was saying is that a person can have the desire to do what’s right, but that doesn’t make it easy for them to do it. A person can want to do the right thing, but that’s actually not enough. You need more than good intentions.
But prayer is sometimes so hard. Prayer is a challenge and a struggle sometimes. Not always – sometimes it comes so easily. Like when we are in trouble or when we feel very guilty. That’s when it’s easy to talk to God, but not so easy to listen to Him.
Isaac Bashevis Singer once confessed, “I only pray when I’m in trouble…but I’m in trouble all the time, and so I pray all the time.” But for most of us, for most of the time, it’s much easier to sleep than to pray. It’s easier for us to try to take care of our own needs instead of waiting on the Lord. It’s easier for us to do what we feel are the most pressing needs than to do what is better or more important in the long run.
We can even come up with good reasons. The disciples probably tried hard to pray and watch with Jesus, but they also knew how tired they were. They probably rationalized, “Well, I’ll just take this little nap now, so I’ll be better refreshed to help Jesus later.”
But Jesus didn’t want help later. He didn’t want excuses. He didn’t want them rationalize. He wanted them to pray, and they didn’t. Because it’s hard work to pray. It’s a lot easier to just sit there and listen. Which is why we have a lot more people at Sunday morning services than at prayer meetings.
Well, the evening didn’t get any better. Jesus woke up the 3, clearly with disappointment in His voice. But there was no more time. They weren’t going to get another chance to prove anything to the Lord because Judas had arrived with the mob. Yes, God loves giving second chances, but I’d be foolish to tell you that they never run out, either.