July 22, 2024

Staying Awake

Matthew 26:36-46

He returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.

—  Matthew 26:40

After an exhausting day, have you still had more to do even though it was bedtime? And have you kept on, barely able to stay awake? That’s the kind of day the disciples had when they went with Jesus to the garden of Gethsemane.

After telling his disciples to wait, Jesus went deeper into the garden to pray. Returning an hour later, he found Peter, James, and John fast asleep. Jesus scolded them and warned them to stay awake and alert. Yet, after going to pray and returning twice again, he found them sleeping. Why did Jesus take a rough tone with them? After all, they had become totally worn out physically, emotionally, and spiritually—not to mention having a cloud of danger and doom hanging over them.

Though Jesus rebuked the disciples’ sleepiness, this scene reveals more about his own situation. Overwhelmed with sorrow, Jesus was weighed down with the great burden of suffering he would soon face. But his confession—“My Father . . . not as I will but as you will” and “May your will be done”—resonates through the centuries to us today.

The disciples’ powerlessness to stay awake only highlights Jesus’ pain and suffering, which ends in his excruciating death on the cross. The suffering that Jesus shouldered for us brings us to our knees in humility and gratitude.

Lord, we are so weak. Only you had the will and ability to carry the burden of our sin. Help us to stay alert and share your love. Amen.

About the author — Kurt Selles

Kurt Selles is the director of ReFrame Ministries and serves as the Executive Editor of Today. He is a graduate of Calvin College and Seminary, and received his PhD from Vanderbilt University. Before coming to ReFrame, he served 19 years in Taiwan and China with CRC World Missions. Kurt later taught missions at Beeson Divinity School, where he also acted as the director of the school’s Global Center. Kurt and his wife, Vicki, reside in Grand Rapids and have three adult children.

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