When Jesus brought three of his apostles to watch over him in the garden as he prayed he was inviting them into a holy mystery. Because this was mentioned in such detail it seems altogether likely that while they had seen Jesus pray they had never before been brought into such close communion with his prayer life. Imagine that night. How unusual it must have been to those who expected a triumphant King and received instead a humble carpenter’s son who lowered even this low dignity so that he could wash the feet of his chosen disciples. Already that night he spoke to them of his death and ushered one of the twelve out into the night so that some unspoken task could be accomplished. Already were they told one would betray him. Indeed in their own way all would betray him.
Like all Passovers before bread was broken and wine poured but this too was different; this wine was the blood of the beloved rabbi, the bread his flesh. What did this mean? Then the shock, Peter boldly proclaimed his steadfast loyalty only to be rebuked. Surely he must have thought will it be me who betrays my beloved teacher? No, surely not I. I am Peter, I am a rock, the leader of the twelve, second to Jesus. But then in his heart he knew there was weakness and fear. All the rest remained silent, lost in their own doubts.
Then came the garden and a simple request, keep watch with me. Was it fear in his voice? This teacher who laughed and loved was now sorrowful in his very heart. Trouble was heavy about him. Surely these three would never betray him, Peter must have taken consolation to be there. And yet they did betray him, each falling asleep, unable to keep watch with their friend. And here more than ever before we see Jesus as a friend. In a short while he would bear the sin of all the world, betrayed by the world, and at that moment more than anything Jesus needed his friends. And they fell asleep.
This is so like our prayer lives, we are bold in proclamation, fierce when there is nothing to lose, when we see Jesus as the anointed King we pray valiantly. But when we are called to be his friend, to keep watch we fall asleep. For most of us, the important moments in our prayer life are those quiet garden moment, when the Lord speaks to us but all too often we are asleep and do not hear him. I have often thought that what hurt Jesus most was not the lash or the crown of thorns, not the nails or the weight of his own body as he approached death, but that moment when he needed friends and we were asleep.
Are you sleeping now?