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Summary: Not even for an hour could the disciples stay awake and keep watch with Christ. What about us? How difficult is it for us to stay awake and alert to Christ’s commands?

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Not Even for an Hour?

Matthew 26:36-56

Maundy Thursday 2008

It was the night before Easter 1994. I was a senior in college and at 8:00 p.m. I decided to make the 5 hour drive home to spend Easter with my family. Of course, I hadn’t packed or done any of that, so it was probably almost 9:00 before I actually got on the road. The first couple hours of the drive were fine. But then the sleepiness set in. And being a young female driving by herself at night, I didn’t dare stop anywhere to take a nap! I remember being so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open! I tried coffee. I tried snacking. I tried singing. I tried driving with the window down – but nothing could wake me up! So, I’d drive for a few minutes with one eye shut, then switch eyes and drive for a few minutes with the other eye shut... I thought I’d never make the last couple of hours of driving through the pitch darkness of central Ohio… Even though the my will was to stay awake – the power of sleepiness was almost overwhelming and had I not been driving, I certainly would have succumbed to the power of sleep…

The disciples had had quite and eventful week with Jesus. On Sunday they were with him when throngs of people greeted Jesus at the gates of Jerusalem like a king returning to his kingdom. They were with him when he accused the moneychangers of making a house of prayer into a den of robbers and drove them out from the temple. They were with him as he healed the blind and the lame. They were with him as children continued to greet Jesus with Hosannas! They were witnesses as Jesus cursed the fig tree and it withered at the words of Christ. The disciples were with Jesus as he taught in the temple courts and as the temple leaders questioned his authority and Jesus silenced them through parables and condemnations. Just last night, the disciples were with Jesus at the house of Simon the Leper when a woman came and anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and dried them with her hair…

And then tonight, they were with him, gathered in the upper room dining with Him at the Passover celebration. Remembering the works of God as God delivered the Israelites from the oppression of slavery in Egypt. They had feasted on the ceremonial meal and were lounging around the table when Jesus started talking again about his death. And he told them that one of those closest to him was going to betray him. Then he started talking about the broken bread being his body and the cup of wine being the cup of new salvation! It was just too much to comprehend! And the week just continued to get more strange and unbelievable!

And after the celebration Jesus said to his disciples, let’s go out to the garden of Gethsemane and pray. It was a strange request – for it was late, and their stomachs were full and after the events of the past few days the disciples were tired – emotionally and physically. But Jesus persevered. So after singing a hymn, Jesus and eleven disciples went into the chill of the night air and walked to the Mount of Olives, to the garden of Gethsemane that overlooked Jerusalem. And when they arrived, Jesus stopped them and left the disciples by themselves, telling them to stay awake and to keep watch while he went on a little further to pray.

It was so difficult to stay awake! It was late and the week had been an emotional roller coaster – from triumphs to curses to anointing to talk of betrayal and death. It was all too much to handle! And though the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak.

The disciples gathered in the darkness, in the silence of the garden, felt the overwhelming power of sleep. And try as they might, they couldn’t stay awake – not even for an hour! Though the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak and even after Christ woke them and encouraged them – they still couldn’t stay awake. Again they fell asleep.

Then it happened, Christ woke them – saying his betrayer was coming. And before you knew it, he was betrayed with a kiss – and the disciples scattered.

Not even for an hour, could the disciples do what Christ asked of them. Not even for an hour could they lay aside their mortal desires and needs in order to be in prayer with Christ. Not even for an hour, after sharing the Passover with the Christ, could they stand for their faith in the face of adversity and persecution. Not even for an hour…

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