“Jesus came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14: 37-38
For me this may be one of the most telling passages for the human condition; we have been given an important task to do, but we end up just taking a nap.
I consider myself a night-owl. I often stay up late working on some project on my computer, or reading Wikipedia through a random string of endless topics, or sometimes just binge watching an entire television series on Netflix. Even when working on something important, the internet makes it extremely easy to stray off-topic. The next thing you know is that a few hours have passed instead of a few minutes. While this may be a trite example of my ADD, these very same actions and lack of focus happen in our everyday lives all the time. We indeed find it hard to stay focused and awake for God.
When I read this passage, I can almost hear a sarcastic tone in the voice of Jesus as he is talking to Peter. “Could you not keep awake one hour?” One hour. Really? Is it that hard? If we reflect on our own lives, we all know that even the simplest of God’s callings can be difficult to act upon, even something as simple as keeping our eyes open. Also interesting is that Jesus calls Peter by his old name, Simon. The name Peter, which translates to “rock,” was given to Simon when Jesus called him to be a “fisher of men” rather than just a catcher of fish. Clearly this is not one of Peter’s strongest moments, and calling him Simon was a callback to his earlier un-focused and weaker life. When faced with a new challenge, it’s all too easy for us to slip back into our old routines. We all have our Simon days.
I also find the imagery interesting in this passage. This is in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus has gone to pray, knowing that he soon will be turned over to the Romans by Judas. Here at the foot of the Mount of Olives, Simon-Peter “the rock” is at the base of a great mountain (or “rock” if you will) of God and still fails to drawn on his power to fulfill Jesus’ simple request. It’s hard not to read this passage and be instantly depressed – what hope is there for any of us?
Jesus has not given up on Peter though. “The spirit indeed is willing.” God knows that we want to be strong. But we have to remember that this strength comes from God, not from our own flesh. This passage is a segway into the writings of Paul in Romans 7:18: “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” None of us choose to be weak, we just always end up there somehow, and it’s usually when we decide to operate under our own power rather than rely on God. We all know what happens to Jesus next, and the disarray this put the disciples in for a while. But with open eyes and open hearts they were able to pull themselves together and let God to use them to travel the path that he had set out for them. Through prayer and focus we can call on the power of God to “stay awake” and keep watch for Jesus.Prayer: Lord, my request is simple. Help me to stay awake so that I can keep watch for you and follow your path. Amen