We are approaching Holy Week.
“Holy Week” is that sacred space between the roar of the crowd on Palm Sunday and the ugly mass of humanity who cried, “Crucify Him,” on Friday.
Holy Week encompasses the days that the Christian church sets aside to mourn the death of Jesus and to celebrate His resurrection!
It is a week of wretched betrayal, of loud hosanna’s, of good-bye meals and of desperate prayer.
This is a week that never fails to sober me and annually causes me to evaluate my faith.
During this week every year, I walk up Calvary’s mountain with Jesus and carry my cross beside Him. Easter has a way of forcing me to examine the woman that I am and the course that He has for me.
Oh … don’t worry about me. I will celebrate on Sunday! I will shout with the crowds in triumphant procession but for today… as I contemplate the holiest week of all measured time … allow me to evaluate who I am and who I am called to be in the story of Christ.
Jesus took only three disciples with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane who had also been with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Peter, James and John were the three that Jesus fiercely desired to stand with Him in prayer. These were the three, Peter, James and John, who were closest to Him as brothers, friends and co-workers.
This trio had heard Jesus laugh over the antics of children and had seen him cry at the tomb of Lazarus.
They had celebrated glorious miracles with this Man Who went about only doing good.
They called Him their Teacher, their Friend and the Son of God. They knew Who He was … make no mistake about that.
“And Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of God.” – Luke 9:20
But on this night, the lonely night spent in the Garden of Gethsemane … while Jesus prayed ... Peter, James and John slept.
While Jesus sweat great drops of blood ... the great triumvirate snored.
While Jesus cried in agony ... the three friends, whom He trusted, slumbered and rested.
Peter, James and John all knew that Jesus was about to die the violent death of a criminal and yet they dozed and drooled. Where were their hearts of compassion? Were these men the faithful friends that Jesus hoped for or were they mere acquaintances prone to forget matters of eternal significance?
“Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” – Matthew 26:38
Three times Jesus came to the disciples ... and three times they were sleeping.
They were unable to wipe the sand from their eyes and thus nodded into sweet dreams while Jesus fought in agony over His destiny and over His purpose on earth.
“And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” – Matthew 26:39
Jesus was about to be brutally murdered so that Peter, James and John would be able to live forever with Him. And yet these men of faith and valor couldn’t stay up past their bedtime for Jesus. What kind of friendship is that?!
These men who had been appointed to carry on in Jesus’ stead, couldn’t even miss one night of sleep to pray Him through the coming ferocious days?
You know, as 21st. Century Christians, we become outraged at the seemingly careless actions of Peter, James and John, and yet, how often have I been caught giving into the twilight of lackadaisical behavior when Jesus calls my name?
“Carol … could you spend time with Me?”
I watch television when there are prayers to be prayed.
“Carol … could you read my Word this day?”
I read novels when there is wisdom to be attained.
“Carol … could you feed My sheep?”
I piddle around in wasteful behavior while people are going to hell.
“Carol … would you worship Me?”
I snore while my culture crumbles.
Just as the Savior needed Peter, James and John ... your Savior needs you and He needs me.
My Savior needs me. Your Savior needs YOU!
He has entrusted us with the power of prayer. He has entrusted us with the Great Commission. He has entrusted us with the life-changing Gospel message.
In this Garden, on this never-to-be-forgotten night, Jesus prayed, “Not as I will ... but as You will.”
Have you ever tried praying that powerful yet humble prayer when your life was crumbling? Have you ever prayed, “Father, Your will be done”, when faced with cruel circumstances?
If we learn nothing else from this particular event in the life of Jesus, we should learn to pray while others sleep. We should also learn to desire the will of the Father above all else.
When Jesus finally roused his three buddies from their self-serving slumber, they had a view in the moonlight of a mob coming up the western slope of Mt. Olive. After the mob, led by Judas, had seized Jesus, Peter stayed in the courtyard of the high priest. It was there that Peter denied Jesus three times.
“I don’t know Him.”
“I don’t know Him!”
“I DON’T KNOW HIM!”
And with each betrayal, Peter became more defiant and angrier.
In the morning light, when Peter realized what he had done, he wept.
Peter, a grown man, cried from the deepest part of his soul.
The opinionated Peter, a rugged and burly fisherman, couldn’t stop the sobs.
Peter, a man’s man and a leader of leaders, was ashamed of himself. He had betrayed His Savior and His friend. What would his life look like now?
You know, I have often wondered if Peter would have actually denied Jesus if he had prayed rather than slept. I wonder if rather than snoring and slumbering, what would have happened if Peter had stayed on his knees in earnest prayer through the longest night of Jesus earthly life.
I wonder …
Do you know what else I wonder?
I wonder how different my life would be if I would pray ... rather than sleep. I wonder if I would have more power to stand for Jesus If I would read the Word rather than read the twaddle of the day.
I wonder if I would humbly decree, “Not my will … but Your will be done, Father,” what glorious miracles would take place in my life.