1998-01-08 - Sleeping on Watch
The Cross Series, Part 22
Luke 22:43-46 Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. 45 And when He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, 46 and said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation." (NAS)
As many of you know, Luke was a physician. It is not uncommon for Luke to cite physical details that others leave out. It was a part of his chosen profession to notice these details. The modern medical term for what Luke saw is hematidrosis. It is a situation where the capillaries, tiny blood vessels, in the forehead and face burst when the person is under tremendous mental or physical stress. It is supposed to be physically exhausting and weakens the individual. It can be fatal. The blood from the capillaries mixes with perspiration from the sweat glands. This can give the appearance of sweating blood.
There are two interesting things here. The first is the level of suffering and strain that Jesus is already under. The intensity of His request to the Father is of such force that it has a physical manifestation. The desire to avoid that moment when the perfect fellowship between Jesus and the Father would be broken as the Father must turn His back on sin. This conflicts with the Lord's desire to be obedient to the Father and to follow the plan to restore the human race to fellowship with their Creator. Once Jesus submits to the plan and to the will of the Father, He knows the road home to Heaven is through the cross. There is the impending moment when the Messiah will crush the head of the enemy. A moment that had been foretold to Adam and Eve. Opposing forces: will and submission, suffering and joy, death and victory.
The second point, He will begin the night is a weakened and physically drained state. Humanly, what we are about to walk though in a devotional study, is impossible to expect the victim to survive as far as the cross. The physical abuse and beatings that will be inflicted upon Jesus would crush the life from a man. Most prisoners did not survive the scourging when the count was thirty-nine lashes. Most would die from shock and blood loss. And here Jesus has already been physically traumatized at the beginning. We are faced with the fact that supernatural forces were involved in getting Jesus to the cross from the Garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus returns from His prayers to find even his closest disciples asleep. They were sleeping from sorrow. They had been through the Passover meal with the Master. They had seen and heard things that they were still attempting to comprehend. Jesus the Messiah, stripped naked washing their feet; Jesus explaining that He must die; the first communion with the pictures of the body and blood in the bread and wine. Then they would have heard Jesus as He begged His Father to find another path to redeem fallen mankind. Spending time with someone who is mourning, suffering or the like is very draining. It takes and effort to be there and be supportive of someone in emotional need. It can be exhausting. For the disciples to hear this man they had proclaimed to be the long awaited Messiah in such apparent distress must have been too much for them. They succumbed to the night air and long days. Matthew records Jesus encouragement to his friends after His first time in prayer:
Matt 26:41 "Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
This can be said of us so many times. The things our hearts long to do for Jesus. We want to be a witness to that co-worker or friend. Then a perfect moment arises, and the words just won't come. Sometimes for fear of rejection, sometimes we just don't know why, but we have let Jesus down. Did Jesus upbraid His charges? No. He knew the disciples as He knows us. Our flesh is often surprising in its resilience, but is still very frail. Our minds and wills are not the stalwart, resolute things we would hope. In order to disappoint someone, they must be surprised. Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him, He knew the disciples would scatter at His arrest, and that you and I would blow it from eternity past. And the Lord knew He would have paid for that too and it was so recorded in the Book of Life before time began. So, the next time you blow it, know that Jesus understands. The thing I think He hopes is that we will learn a little more of how much we depend on Him for everything. If we learn that, then we will know where to turn for strength that will not fail the next time.
Thank You Jesus, for your infinite patience, wisdom and understanding as we learn to walk this path. Help us to see ourselves as the fragile children we really are. If we can learn a little more each day, of our dependence on You, then we will be much better prepared for the 'next times'. Amen
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.