Our reading for this Monday, February 11, 2019 is Mark 14:32-42
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.” 39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. 41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” – NIV
“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” This sums up the struggle for the follower of Jesus. I believe we all desire to be faithful, we plan for it and even try to work on it, but become disappointed by the results that prove failure. It is not a complete failure for we will tend to meet with some success yet there are limits to our efforts. This is the point we should take from this experience . . . on our own will and efforts we shall always meet with limited success precisely because we are addressing our desired ends on our own limited capabilities.
Let this be accepted – we shall to the place of experiencing God’s filling and power only when we have exhausted our own. This is good because we shall each run out of stream and be forced to either surrender to failure and disappointment or surrender to God. The faster we accept our limitations the sooner we can get on with being fully reliant upon God. Even before we plan our strategy for fixing ourselves we should accept our inability to accomplish what we and God want to do in us we should look to see that what we will for is also that which God wants or else all we may strive for may be for naught. Unless God is at the forefront of all good activity God will not be in it.
Jesus stated clearly in John 15 that he is the vine and we are the branches. Unless we are intimately connected we lack the ability to accomplish fully what we endeavor to do. He states in verse 5, “apart from me you can do nothing.” That’s not true, we can but our efforts will only get us so far.
Jesus asked his disciples to watch with him as he prayed. He had much to pray about. He knew he would soon be betrayed by one of his own and that he would suffer. He longed for the support of those he cared for to encourage him by their presence in prayer much as any of us would when going through a crisis. But he did not want the disciples to watch for just his own comfort as he did for the blessing they would derive from watching with him. He identified the failure of watching as enlarging the temptations we will face.
Watching has more to do than just prayer. Watching involves presence . . . time. In their watching they could remember the purpose behind what was soon to take place. They could anticipate what they might need to do when the crisis availed itself. They could gain godly composure to live through and make the most out of an inevitable and painful situation.
They could not and were not successful in keeping watch with Jesus in his time of trial just as we will not with others Christ may call upon us to support in various circumstances. What is needed from us is an acceptance of our limitations, prayerful discernment of what we can reasonably provide others, and a commitment to watchfulness. If we are aware of the limitations of others we will not expect more than they can deliver and can as Jesus find strength in the one who alone can watch with us through the nights of our lives. If we admit our weakness we can be careful to plan our support so that we are not tempted by disappointment, failure can focus on what and where we can really be of impactful supports. That watchfulness must always involve more than words of prayer, but actions of care.