Have you ever wondered how you would react to being given the death penalty for a crime that you did not commit? How would you react the night before the execution day? Would you appreciate having your family members and your pastor spend the night praying with you? How would you feel if some of your closest friends and family doubted you? What if they didn’t come to visit you the day before your execution out of fear of being incriminated too? What would you feel as you looked into the accusing eyes of the family and friends of the victim as you were led into the execution chamber? How would it feel to watch strangers on the other side of the glass exchange hugs as they looked on as “justice” was served? Would you tell everyone one more time that you didn’t do it? Or would you be silent because of weeks of sleeplessness? Would you curse God for your bad luck or would you pray that God would have mercy on your accusers?
The night before Jesus’ wrongful execution he spent the night praying in one of His favorite places with his closest friends. He asked his friends for a simple thing. He asked them to stay up with him to watch and pray.
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mark 14:32-42)
Have you ever let your friends down by assuring them that they could count on you for something and then you just didn’t follow through? Good intentions are not love, actions are. When you tell someone that you really meant to do this or that for them, what you are really saying is that at one time your needs were a priority to me. But something else came up that is more important than your needs and I forgot about you.
I believe that Jesus’ disciples wanted to support Him during His toughest night on earth, in the Garden of Gethsemane. The problem is that their bodies were totally exhausted. They were tired from traveling and they were stuffed with New Covenant bread and wine from their last Passover meal with their Rabbi. I don’t know how many times that I have agreed to pray for someone and then just didn’t do it. I just got distracted with life. Now when someone asks me to pray for them, I usually overcome good intentions by praying for them immediately. Jesus summed it up this way, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).
The Gospel of Mark tells us that when Jesus took Peter, James and John aside from the others, He revealed his heart to them. Peter, James and John had also been taken aside to witness Jesus bring Jairus’ daughter back from the dead (Mark 5:21-23). These three men had also witnessed His metamorphoo (Transfiguration) on a mountainside (Mark 9:2-10). If anyone should have been aware of who Jesus was, it should have been Peter, James and John.
In a moment of humanity Jesus told these men that his soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34). He needed their prayers to help him get through the night. Jesus was stressed and was looking for support from his closest friends. Jesus was also still teaching, so in their presence He cried out Abba.
Abba is a title that Jewish children used when addressing their father. This word is Aramaic in origin and has multiple meanings. It is used three times in the New Testament (Mark 14:36, Romans 8:5 and Galatians 4:6) and does not have a direct English counterpart. Abba is a name that denotes both intimacy and reverence, familial and awe. Jesus was calling to both his daddy and His eternal all-powerful Heavenly Father when He asked if drinking from the cup of suffering was the only way to bring redemption to a sinful world. He was looking for comfort from His heavenly Father while acknowledging that His Father’s plan was always best. His plan is best even when it hurts. The book of Hebrews tell us:
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10)
Peter, James and John slept when they should have prayed. They relaxed when they should have prepared. They were silent when they should have spoken. Jesus loved these frail and confused men. When they were embarrassed and could not speak, Jesus spoke for them. He reminded them that strength comes from the Spirit not from the flesh. He taught them that sometimes suffering has to come before Glory.
An excerpt from Chapter 5 of Our Glory Is His by Len Winneroski
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