Scripture Reading: Mark14:32-42
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34 And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 He said, “Abba,[a] Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” 37 He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;[b] the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41 He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
- Mark 14:36 Aramaic for Father
- Mark 14:38 Or into temptation
Sermon: “Heavy Eyes and Heavier Hearts”
Growing up, I always stood at least a head taller than other kids my age. My mother swore up and down that giving birth to me was the most painful experience of her life. If she’d had a bit too much wine, she’d share the story—in great and gory detail—with anyone who cared to listen, and even those who did not. As you say in your time, TMI!
At any rate, they named me Simon, and I took my place in the family fishing business. I grew up tall and strong, the even more prosperous son of an already prosperous father, faithful, hardworking, good to my family.
The last thing I ever expected was to leave it all behind. Yet that day Jesus walked along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee and called for James and John and me to follow, we all did.
Jesus nicknamed me “Peter,” “The Rock.” I tried to grow into who Jesus said I was, taking a leadership position among the disciples.
I began to think that, finally, I really knew who I was, not as my father’s son, not as the tallest and strongest man in our village, but as Peter, the Rock, the one who follows Jesus.
Then things began to change. Jesus started talking about dying. Here’s how Matthew tells the story.
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, be killed, and on the third day be raised. Peter took him aside and rebuked him.
“God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”
But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You’re a stumbling block to me, setting your mind on human things rather than divine.”
I would much rather have Jesus call me Peter than Satan, so I tried, as best I could, to hold my tongue—something very hard for me, I’ll confess.
In a strange sort of way, the last Passover meal we shared with Jesus saw everything fall apart and yet, at the same time, was also the night everything came together.
Jesus called the wine we shared his blood, and the bread we broke his body. Then he said we’d all desert him, and that one of us would even betray him.
Satan or not, I had to speak up. “Even though all become deserters, I won’t,” I said.
Jesus told me, “Before the day’s over and the cock crows twice, you’ll deny me three times.”
Deny him? I’d die for him! That’s just what I said. Everyone else chimed in with the same thing.
After supper, we sang a hymn and went out to Gethsemane. We were to wait with Jesus and pray with him there, he said. Nine stayed further back, but James, John, and I went deeper into the garden with Jesus. He told us to stay awake.
How hard could that be? There, in the dark, still garden I suddenly felt the weight of everything I’d been carrying. I was tired from the nonstop schedule we’d had the last two days. I was stressed by the growing hostility of the authorities. Spiritually, all the answers I thought I had were now called into question. I was beyond tired. I was weary.
Maybe you know the feeling. You feel as though you can’t go on, that your exhaustion goes to the very core of who you are, which is itself called into question. I was weary. So I slept, as did everyone else.
We left Jesus alone, pouring out the fear and terror so clear on his face before the One whom he called “Father.” Surely, he asked God to ease his fears, to take away the threats, and to spare his life.
No one will ever know, of course. Though close enough to hear, had I remained awake, I did not. Jesus kept coming back to check on us. Each time, he found us asleep. Each time, he told us to stay awake. The third and last time, it was too late.
“Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let’s go. Look! My betrayer is here.”
So, they took him away. And Peter―Peter the Rock, Peter the one everyone looked up to, Peter the one who didn’t bend or break or fear―Peter ran into the darkness with all the rest.
I did come back, huddling around a fire in the high priest’s courtyard, waiting to see if, by some miracle, Jesus’ Father would still spare him.
Instead, I denied him again, three times, just as Jesus said I would. Judas may have brought the authorities to the garden, but we all betrayed Jesus, we twelve upon whom he relied most. I’ll carry that guilt until the day I die.
Of course, there’s more to the story. In a miracle I can still scarcely believe, Jesus not only offered me forgiveness, but the chance to finally grow into my name.
Tonight, though, I leave you in Gethsemane. If Jesus came fearfully to the garden that night, how much more will we all tremble in our own times of testing?
It’s so much easier to sleep, to pretend that faith is a matter of weddings miraculously saved by gallons of wine, of a girl thought dead rising to greet her overjoyed father, of deep wisdom and even greater power poured out for others. Would that faith was always like the time we spent with Jesus on the road, laughing, joking, fully known and yet fully loved.
Faith is all that, of course. But faith is also Gethsemane, the trial and testing of our faith. Strangely enough, though, I now find hope and encouragement in that night.
If the other disciples and myself, who all fell asleep and failed to pray, who all abandoned Jesus when he needed us most, if we can become strong in the faith, then surely all of you can pick yourselves up and start again, in spite of whatever betrayals and denials fill your lives.
For now, I would urge you to follow the advice Jesus gave to us as well as to many others—stay awake.
Stay awake. Remember that the depths of human sin aren’t just found in acts of wickedness and great evil, but more often in those times when we sleep through moments of decision and witness, times when our love, faith, and integrity all hang in the balance.
What Jesus said to us, I now say to all of you: “Keep awake.”