Todays readings… 1 Kings 14, Jeremiah 40, Mark 14
“WATCH AND PRAY”
Today in Ch. 14 we read Mark’s moving account of the events in the Garden of Gethsemane. That evening the disciples had been together in what is known as the “upper room.” This was when what we call “the last supper” took place. As the bread and the cup were passed around (v.22-25) the disciples would not have accepted in their minds what it was all about!
Let us use our imagination as to the kind of emotions they would experience in the weeks that followed his ascension, especially when joined with thousands who had been “cut to the heart” on the Day of Pentecost. If we can really open up our mind’s eye on the heart felt emotion so many would feel, and would find overwhelming on this and subsequent occasions – we will find this creates most heart stirring personal meditations in us. After that last supper and “they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” [v.26]. It is quite a climb and Jesus initiates a conversation that the time is coming when they will even deny that they know him! This leads Peter to declare, “If I must die with you I will not deny you.” [v.31]
It is now late evening and they come down from the Mount and “went to a place called Gethsemane” where Jesus “began to be greatly distressed and troubled.” He tells them to “remain here and watch” [v.34] What are they to watch for? It is instructive that Matthew’s gospel records that Jesus twice asked them to , “watch with me” [ch. 26 v.38,40] They have no thought that a band of soldiers will come!
After emotionally praying to his father he returns and finds them sleeping and “he says to Peter, ‘Simon are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?” [v.37] Their minds were closed to any thought of his imminent arrest – and if they had been aware – would there have been any value in their watching for the event that are about to happen?
The next comment of Jesus is significant, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” [v.38] Jesus means – watch yourselves! Check out your strength – of faith: what a lesson this is for us: this could well be needful soon when the god of mammon collapses like Dagon of old.(see 1 Sam 5 v.4)
In seeking “to interpret the signs of the times” [Matt.16 v.3] a phrase Jesus only used when addressing the Pharisees, the emphasis must be on watching ourselves. Our prayers are the most essential part in this- and to be with and help each other to maintain our strength of mind so we do not fail – as the disciples did – but we are ready when “the angels (come to) gather his elect” as we read yesterday [13 v.27]. Let us be ready to “watch and pray” more fervently than ever – and have our minds overflowing with the ‘spirit’ of God’s word, for this, wrote Paul is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” [Ephes. 6 v.17]