April 9, 2009
“When (Jesus) came back to His disciples, He found them sound asleep, He said to Peter, ‘Can’t you stick it out with Me a single hour? Stay alert, be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger.’”
Matthew 26: 40, 41, The Message
“Two Gardens – One Message—Watch and Pray”
“In all our weaknesses we have one element of strength if we recognize it: Knowledge of danger is often the best means of safety.”
Edward P. Roe
Has there been a time in my life, that because of my lack of “watchfulness” and “prayer,” I wandered into a situation where I shouldn’t have been?
What was the result?
“Be eager in prayer, and vigilant, without wearying…you should be watchful both by night and by day; do not be disheartened.”
Abraham of Nathpar
“John In Gethsemane”
“The grass is pleasant here
rains have given the earth a chance to soften
I wonder we have not come to Gethsemane
We are worn out from the Temple crowds
I can hardly stay awake
I wish he would join us and get some rest
for his own sake.
But ever since supper he has seemed strange –
something on his mind –
I expect it will all work out tomorrow
nd we can all unwind.
How drowsy it all seems this evening
and the earth
Shirwood E. Wirt
It wasn’t the first time Jesus had spent an evening with his disciples. But something about this particular night was different. After supper, Matthew’s record of the events tells that the disciples and Jesus “sang a hymn” and went out into the mount of Olives where Jesus shared some disturbing information with those who were closest to Him, “All ye shall be offended because of Me this night” (Matthew 26: 31). What could Jesus mean? His dearest friends couldn’t believe what He was saying. Recoiling in horror, Peter, especially, claimed that even if everybody else forsook Jesus, he never would. But as often happens to all of us, at the moment when confidence surrounds our outside, it may only serve to cover the weakness that lies inside. And in the Greek translation of the word, “offended”, we find expanded meaning to the gentle warning Jesus was attempting to share with His disciples. Like a flare used to signal trouble ahead, Jesus kindly said to His precious followers, “There is something coming that will trip you up and cause you to stumble.”
So He offered a clear solution to the challenge that lay ahead with this advice: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation” (Matthew 26: 41). Flashing lights. Warning signals. Jesus telling His followers that trouble lurked ahead, but if they kept alert and prepared, they wouldn’t be caught unaware.
We find the Greek translation of the phrase, “Watch and pray”, offers us an even clearer view of what was occurring in the Garden of Gethsemane on that night so long ago.
When Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to come with Him into the garden, where the battle for the fate of the universe was to be fought, He had a simple request, “Keep awake and continue now in the action of praying.” This is the meaning of “Watch and pray.” In plain English, “Don’t fall asleep but keep praying.” Not just for their dear friend Jesus, who was facing the unthinkable and unbearable, but for themselves, that they would not be tripped up or caused to stumble!
Interestingly enough, after Peter’s vehement proclamation, found in Matthew 26: 33, “Peter answered and said unto (Jesus), ‘Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee,’” Jesus came to where they were in the garden to see if His three stalwart disciples, were following His admonition and “He findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, ‘What, could ye not watch with Me one hour?’” (Matthew 26: 40).
After an evening meal and overcome by the lateness of the hour, the disciples allowed the weakness of human nature to swamp them and they went to sleep at the very moment when they should have been the most vigilant.
They chose to close their eyes to the danger they had been warned about.
Just like another tragedy that happened in a perfect garden paradise thousands of years before when God warned His perfectly created children, Adam and Eve, to keep their eyes open, to be alert and to keep the line of communication with their Father open at all times. Yet roaming into territory they had been told to avoid, eyes that were blinded by a serpent’s trap failed to see that “vigilance” and “communication” with our Father, watchfulness and prayer, are the only ways for us to avoid the temper’s snare. As Joseph Hall so descriptively observed, “Satan rocks the cradle when we sleep at our devotions.”
How quickly the disciples forgot Jesus’ request. And how soon they fell. This may be why it was none other than Peter, himself, who in his letter to the early Christian church, penned these instructive words: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). I find it worth noting that the word “vigilant” used in this text is the exact same form of the Greek word used by Jesus when he told His followers to be “watchful.” It seems that the self-assured Peter learned that Jesus’ advice to “watch and pray” was the only way any of us can keep from falling and stumbling and tripping. In the words of A. W. Tozer, “The neglected heart will soon be a heart overrun with worldly thoughts; the neglected life will soon become a moral chaos.”
As Jesus said to those who He held and holds today closet to His heart: “Stay awake and continually talk to Me.”
“Frequently we pray that God would not forsake us in the hour of trial and temptation, but we too much forget that we have need to use this prayer at all times. There is no moment of our life, however holy, in which we can do without constant upholding. Whether in light or in darkness, in communion or in temptation, we alike need the prayer, “Forsake me not, O Lord. Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe.”
C. H. Spurgeon
As I was preparing this special week of devotionals on the life of Jesus, I found a poem written by Sally Sampson Craft who graciously gave me permission to use her beautiful thoughts for today’s affirmation. Thank you, Sally!
“It was the debate of a lifetime,
the decision of an eternity.
Who would have given boredom,
the late hour,
the heavy meal,
as an excuse for dozing off
while a universe held it’s breathe
in anticipation of rescue?
But in a shadowed garden,
as He knelt among rocks
and fallen figs crying aloud
to the heart of heaven they slept.
Later they wondered why He
came to them in tears and whisper,
asking, ‘Could you not remain awake
with me one hour?’”
Sally Sampson Craft
©1998 InterVarsity Christian Fellowship of U.S.A.
All rights reserved.
“All of you must keep awake (give strict attention, be cautious, and active) and watch and pray, that you may not come into temptation.”
Matthew 26: 41, Amplified Bible
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Available May 2009
P.S. Thank you for coming to Transformation Garden. For the next eight days, we are taking a break from our studies about all the women in the Bible to focus on the greatest gift every given to humans, the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. I hope you pass along this free gift to your friends and family. Why not invite someone you care about to join you in the garden this week –www.transformationgarden.com
And you’ll also find the devotionals at Crosswalk.com.
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.