Summary: Apostles, Pt. 17
PRAYER SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS (MATTHEW 26:36-46)
A concerned Charlie Brown came to Lucy the psychiatrist setting up shop in her counseling booth and poured out his heart: “I’m worried about my dad.” She instinctively questioned him, “How old is your father?” He turned to her, hoping for some words of advice, and said, “I think he just turned forty.”
Charlie Brown revealed, “Every night he sits in the kitchen eating cold cereal and looking at the pictures in his old high school year book.” Lucy replied without further analysis: “Nothing to worry about. He’s right on schedule. Fifty cents, please.”
The disciples first heard Jesus mentioning his betrayal while they were in Galilee (Matt 17:22) and the next time when they were going up to Jerusalem (Matt 20:17-18), but now on the last night they were together in Jerusalem they heard Him repeating the same thing, whether breaking bread together (Matt 26:21, 23) or heading to Gethsemane (Matt 26:45, 46). Altogether Jesus used the word “betrayed” on himself as many as six times in Matthew. It would make any normal and sane man nervous, sorrowful and helpless. Jesus urged the disciples to watch and pray. Instead, for the third time (v 44), Jesus found His closest three disciples sleeping because they were tired.
What would you do if things are not what you are expecting or what you can fix, when all is doom and gloom, when you feel abandoned, alone or afraid? When things are over your head, do you get down on yourself or get down on your knees in prayer?
Prayer is Proactive, Not Passive
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matt 26:36-38)
Living in Monterey Park was an interesting experience as far as home security was concerned. We lived in a house without an alarm system but it came with bars installed all over the windows, even the bathrooms windows! Iron bars are unsightly, but we never had a burglary in the five years I had lived there.
After that, we lived five months in an apartment without iron gates, steel bars or alarm system. We secured all the windows with the use of sticks, broomsticks and rods, except for a non-ventilated bathroom that we left open an inch of window space to rid the room of moisture. The tiny stick propping one end of the window did not work. Burglars broke into the apartment, ransacked the entire place and gave us sleepless nights!
Later we moved to a home that has a security alarm installed. You have 15 seconds to arm or disarm the alarm. Testing its effectiveness, my wife set the alarm from inside, walked all over the place and grumbled at the alarm’s non-response. It eventually sounded when she reached certain spots.
Jesus had previously used three analogies for “watching” or “gregoreuo” in Greek (v 38), the precursor for the name Gregory, which literally means Watchman. Elsewhere in the Bible, Jesus uses this word to describe a homeowner’s vigilance in guarding his house from break-ins had he known at what time of night the thief was coming (Matt 24:42-43).
Another analogy Jesus used for vigilance is the task of the doorkeeper, who had the assigned task of guarding the door (Mark 13:34). Have you noticed that big wholesale markets like Costco and Sam’s Club have employees at the entrance and exit doors to check if shoppers have membership cards, if they have receipt for the goods and that the items on the receipt tally with the items in the cart before they slash a line across the receipt with a highlighter to signify aproval? Even non-membership stores like electronic giants Best Buy and Fry’s assign one or two employees to do checks, sometimes one at the exit and possibly another at the entrance.
The last analogy is another doorkeeper analogy, but this time his or her sole task is more specific, not just to keep watch but to open the door immediately for the Master of the house who knocks at the door on his return from a wedding banquet (Luke 12:35-38), especially into the sleepy third watch of the night, between midnight and 3 a.m. Jesus expects us to be aware, attentive and alert even in doing small jobs and managing odd jobs such as opening the door.
In Luke’s parallel passage, Jesus had a plan for Peter: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Lk 22:31-32) Satan is a crouching lion and an impostor angel. He masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), looking for believers to devour (1 Peter 5:8-9). Sleepy and sorrowful believers are the perfect appetizer, snack and prey. Watching implies attentiveness, awareness and alertness.