Are You Still Sleeping?

by Catherine McNiel on September 18, 2023

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”                                                       
Matthew 26:43-46

 With this week’s text, we turn another corner. We noted the tone change a few weeks ago when the story moved from Jesus’ sharp, pointed teaching in Jerusalem to signs of His impending arrest. Then came the Passover dinner Jesus shared with His friends. In these ancient rituals of God’s liberating love and provision, Jesus identified Himself—and that was no small statement.

 Yet even as He held up the bread and wine of the Seder dinner, reappropriating these symbols to be His body, His blood, and His salvation, Jesus redefined His friends, too. “One of you” Jesus said “will betray me. And all of you will fall away from me.”

 The followers would fall away? All of them? Peter was scandalized and refused to believe it. But Jesus doubled down, claiming that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the sun rose the next morning.

 They spent the evening in a public garden. Jesus’ one request was that three close friends sit awake with Him through this night of dread—but they could not. Again and again, He found them asleep.

 Falling asleep in the middle of the night is not surprising: each of us does this every day. It is right, normal, and necessary. Falling asleep when your close friend has asked for your companionship—even this is understandable in the wee hours. But we see how little the disciples understood the story they were in. Though Jesus had frequently predicted His death would happen that very weekend, though the unnamed woman had anointed His body for burial, they seem geared up for adventure not tragedy.

 Peter and the rest flatly deny that they could ever fall away or deny Him—yet they cannot or will not stay away to keep Him company in His grief.

 I’m reminded how often we seek for big adventures of faith, confident that God can and should use us to do great things for Him—yet we overlook the small, everyday requests He makes of us.

 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much,” Jesus taught in Luke 16:10. “Are you still sleeping?” He asks now. “Look, the hour has come….”

 Questions for reflection and discussion: Are you still sleeping? Are you waiting for God to send you on a great adventure of faith, overlooking the ways God’s Kingdom comes in our communities and the role He has given you here? What are the “little” ways you are asked to be faithful?

 Church Bible Reading Plan: 2 Samuel 14; 2 Corinthians 7

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