Note: the devotions during Holy Week don't follow the Lectionary. I have chosen instead to focus on Matthew's story of Jesus' last days.
Prepare to Listen, offering this prayer: For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. (Psalm 36:9)
Prayerfully Read Matthew 26:36-46
36Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ 37He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’ 39And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’ 40Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ 42Again he went away for the second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ 43Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45Then he came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’
“I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” As Jesus entered his greatest battle yet, all he asked of his disciples was to stay awake with him. He didn’t ask them to pray for him; just to stay awake with him. They couldn’t do it.
As I read this story again, a few weeks into the coronavirus pandemic, it seems too close to what we’re all experiencing now, some worse than others. Daily I light a candle as a reminder to stay awake and pray. But then I get distracted. I’m awake, but I’m not awake. I pray and then move on to something else. I’d be lying down, fast asleep in Gethsemane with Peter, James and John, too overwhelmed with a multiple of emotions to stay awake and pray. How about you?
Jesus returns; finds them sleeping and addresses Peter. “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Pray for yourself, Peter [Jackie/your name]; you’re going to need it, because, while the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. Pray as Jesus taught us, “Do not bring us to the time of trial” (Mt 6:13). Pray as he did in Gethsemane, “yet not what I want but what you want.” Just as Jesus was not preserved from his trial, so too we’re in this trial now; we can only pray, ‘not what I want.’ Every time I hear another tragic story, read about further incompetence and lies from our nation’s President, see the shocking statistics of the virus around the world, I realize my flesh is weak even though my spirit is willing. I pray for myself that I may not crumble under this trial so that I can stay awake and pray but for the world in dire need.
A second time Jesus returned to his disciples and found them all still fast asleep. “Stay awake with me,” was all he asked of them. They couldn’t do it. What about you?
What most affected you in reading this passage today in light of living in a time of severe trial? Plan a time when you will stay awake and pray for our pandemic afflicted world.
Respond to Jesus
Lord Jesus, I pray for those around the world who are experiencing intense suffering, especially for those suffering hardship and pain because of covid-19. Give them strength; give them grace to receive whatever comes; give them the assurance of your compassionate presence. Help me stay awake, alert and in prayer for the world Jesus died for. Amen.
Go live obediently in the world. Stay awake and pray.
Because I believe that Scripture is food for our soul (our entire being) I seek to read it and encourage others to read it in ways that nourish and transform our beings. I invite you to read the Bible with me during Lent and into Easter. I am a Bible teacher, spiritual companion and retreat director. I know the Bile and how to read it for spiritual formation.