Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Jesus Prayed Eyes Wide Open: Awake and Watchful

[Jesus] brought them [the disciples] to a garden grove, Gethsemane, and told them to sit down and wait while he went on ahead to pray. He took Peter with him and Zebedee’s two sons James and John, and began to be filled with anguish and despair. Then he told them, ‘My soul is crushed with horror and sadness to the point of death… stay here… stay awake with me’
(Matthew 26:36-38, The Living Bible)

The Gospels tell us that Jesus and His disciples regularly visited Gethsemane. After the last supper, Jesus took them with Him. Once they were in the grove, Jesus had eight of the disciples stay close to the entrance while He moved deeper among the trees to pray. Some says that it was a rocky place surrounded by trees. Jesus then took Peter, James and John with Him, the same three who had accompanied Him on the mountain when He was transfigured in Matthew 17:1-13 [At this point, Judah Iscariot was going to the Pharisees to betray Him]. I assumed those with Jesus could clearly see that their Master was “anguish and despair.”

Then Jesus told the three who were with Him, “My soul is crushed with horror and sadness to the point of death… stay here… stay awake with me.” Newer translation translated: “Stay here and keep watch with me” (NLT). Jesus was literally said: “I am very sad” or “grieved.” This statement by Jesus reminds me of Isaiah’s words about the Suffering Servant whom God would eventually send to His people, the Messiah: “We despised him and rejected him – a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised and we didn’t care” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus was about to experience the worst parts of His earthly life…

Jesus asked the three, “Stay here… stay awake with me” or “Stay here and keep watch with me.” The term He used means “keep aware.” Jesus wasn’t asking them to pray while He go for ministry; He was asking them to pray alertly as He Himself was praying. This is interesting: It is not likely that Jesus closed His eyes during prayer, nor that He instructed His disciples to do so. We’re told that before He raised Lazarus from the grave, “Jesus looked up to heaven and said…” (John 11:41); also, at the beginning of His high priestly prayer, “When Jesus had finished saying all these things he looked up to heaven and said…” (John 17:1). I noticed that keeping awake and watchful were what in Jesus’ mind as He talked about prayer.

Even though Jesus is the Son of God, in times of crisis, as a man He turned to prayer and bringing others to join Him. He expressed His dependence on God and His dependence on others too. He went to the cross alone but He invited others to walk there with Him as far as possible. This make me think: People we depend on often let us down (and we, in the same way, let others down) but that is not necessarily a compelling reason to stop depending on others. Even though Jesus knew the shortcomings of His disciples, He trusted them in His hour of need. After all, that was the only way for them to eventually learn to be trustworthy. For a very independent person like me, these lessons from Jesus are great reminder for me to: 1) Pray by keeping awake and watchful; and 2) Learn to depend and trust on others, just like Jesus. Amen.

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