Read Matthew 26:40-41
I fall asleep very easily. Very easily. You know the saying, “He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.”? That was written about me. Seriously. Not joking. I can be watching a movie, and just fall asleep right in the theater. Even if it’s an action movie with explosions and everything. It’s a little ridiculous.
All this is to say, I totally get where the disciples are coming from here. It’s probably the middle of the night, maybe 2 or 3 in the morning, on a cool night in Jerusalem. Sleep sounds like a really good idea to me too in that situation.
And yet, I think what Jesus says in the second part of verse 41 is really true about us. Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. That is, we really like the idea of something, but to actually put that idea into practice is really, really difficult. We really like the idea of being able to stay up all night, but our physiological capabilities just won’t allow it.
I often wonder if Jesus slept. When we read about the things that Jesus did, it’s curious to me that sleep isn’t ever mentioned. You would think that all the praying and healing and blessing and feeding and loving and teaching that Jesus did would wear him out. The gospels are pretty clear, however, that Jesus did lots of stuff in the middle of the night. Visiting friends, calming storms, walking on water, praying…
I wonder that about pastors too. It seems that pretty much every pastor I know is up at odd hours; writing, reading, checking and sending emails, praying…
It makes me wonder about my future as a pastor. Do I have to hate sleep in order to be a pastor? Because I don’t. I love sleep. I don’t suffer from insomnia or anything like that. I’ve never really pulled an all-nighter. It’s just not appealing to me.
But I’m also not sure that’s what Jesus is talking about here.
This scene from the garden before Jesus’ arrest and ultimate crucifixion tells me something about the character of God. It shows me something about how I should be with those that I’m close to. See, here, Jesus is grieved, seriously troubled. And now, at this moment, probably more than at any other moment in his life, he needs his friends. He needs his friends to stay awake and sit with him, and grieve with him, and pray with him.
And watch with him.
Questions for reflection: Is there a spiritual practice or discipline that interests you? Would Advent be a good time to take up a new practice or discipline? What are some things that, despite your best ideas about yourself, you find yourself unable to do? How can Jesus’ assertion at the end of the reading today help you in struggling with that?