Watch and Pray

Tonight, the Light of the World was betrayed by the darkness in the heart of man. Tonight, the Friend of Sinners would be abandoned by all His friends. Tonight, the end of the beginning starts in earnest. For tonight, Jesus is given over to those that sought to destroy Him.

All day long, I’ve dreaded this moment. Throughout the day, I’ve thought and prayed about what to write tonight. There is so much! The Last Supper, where the Passover was fulfilled and transformed (Matthew 26:17-29). The “High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus in John 17, where the Savior interceded on behalf of his disciples, then and now, to the Father. Are you not yet amazed at how, nearing the very hour of His betrayal, the Lord Jesus continued to care and pray for everybody else? Can we really fathom such love as this?
Then there’s the “never-gets-old” account of Peter’s boasting that he would NEVER deny Jesus, only to have the Lord assure him that he would, in fact, do just that. How do you think Pete felt to have the One he confessed to be the “Holy One of God” tell him he was going to run out on him? Not too good, I’d imagine. (Incidentally, for those of you who think this is all made up and it’s just a story to make people behave, think about this: if you were going to invent a religion, wouldn’t you do it some other way that have your central character betrayed, mocked, and murdered, and to have one of the major supporting characters continually play the role of the fool?)
There truly is so much to think about tonight, and I’d encourage you to re-read the accounts in all 4 gospels about it. But tonight, one thought is running roughshod over my mind and heart, and it deals with this:
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.” (Matthew 26:39-43)

On the one night Jesus asked for a favor, his three closest friends couldn’t even stay awake for 60 minutes to be with Him. This struck me, because I so want to be asleep right now. I so want to go to bed, close my eyes, and rest, just like James, John, and Peter. And not just tonight, but most nights. The Lord Jesus wanted to spend time in prayer with these three, and they couldn’t hack it. Not for an hour.

And I can’t judge them. Neither can you. After all, how often do we ignore His invitation to “watch and pray?” How often does our weak flesh overpower our willing spirit? How much time will we spend watching tv, reading the paper or pouring over the net, instead of spending time with Jesus? And how many times do we miss what our friends are going through because we’re so consumed with our own situations, just like James, John, and Pete.

So tonight, as we approach the Friday we call “good” only in hindsight from Resurrection Sunday, let’s watch and pray with our Lord.

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