Our reading for March 28, 2018 is Mark 14. 26-52
26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not. 30 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today — yes, tonight — before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” 31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same. 32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” – NIV
It is not that Peter’s denial was worse than that of the other twelve disciples; it was simply due to how vocally he asserted he would not, but die with or for Jesus. Mark records for us how the other disciples affirmed the same commitment and each in their own way denied and betrayed the Master. When Judas escorted the authorities to arrest Jesus each ran and scattered. Earlier they each could not stay awake with Jesus as he endured his tumultuous time of prayer in the Garden. They were tired, it had been a long day (If you have experienced a Passover celebration you know how long they can last!), they had eaten well and had multiple glasses of wine, and besides in the midst of their ritual observance Jesus had disclosed his betrayal and taught them many other lessons. It was no wonder they could not keep their eyes open as Jesus prayed.
We also make a commitment to Jesus to stay up with him to keep watch. Whenever we attempt to pray and serve others for Jesus’ sake we are attempting to fulfill a commitment of faithfulness. We know we should pray and serve others but there is a limit to our capacities and grow weary in prayer and exhausted by the competing responsibilities of life we undertake. Our spiritual service often seems to be the icing on the cake of life of things we must accomplish which can be left undone at the time where other tasks and personal desires take precedence. In our failure to “keep awake” with Jesus we too deny and betray his trust.
It is comforting to know that though we are inconsistent and limited, Jesus stays awake through the suffering of countless people and circumstances. There is never a time where he does not know or care for what people and the world must go through. He suffers with all and continually offers the hope and help we need and should we follow his way much of the struggle we have to endure in life would be resolved. Jesus is the answer to our troublesome circumstance today as he is the ultimate resolution for the world’s present dilemma. At our best we who know this and follow Christ will caught short and off guard.
Jesus did not return three times to rub their inconstancy in their faces, but rather to remind them to offer a reasonable expectation for what they, and we can offer in our service to him. We need to maintain our idealism without expecting the answers will be found in human agency. We need to take a reasonable assessment of ourselves, our resources, the circumstances and be driven to our knees in prayer for the help we require to make a dent in responding to the evils we face. We can do “all things through Christ who is our strength” (Phil. 4.13), yet the things we are to do are those things Christ commands us to do.
We cannot be the savior of the world, our neighbor or even ourselves, only Jesus can and will save. Remembering this will keep us engaged, fruitful and at peace. Our spirit, like Peter’s and the other disciples, may be willing yet our bodies remain weaker than the challenge we would like to take on and win. Like Jesus who prayed “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you,” so we must acknowledge this same truth. The cup of struggle may be lifted from us or be ours to endure, yet it is God who will be present giving us the ability to do more than is reasonable to think possible.
So, let us make our good faith pledges to God and not be surprised if we bite off more than we can chew for it is in trying we discover afresh God’s grace and observe the miracle of just what God can do.