We read today the heartbreaking account of Jesus in Gethsemane. Can we even begin to imagine his feelings? He knew what was about to happen and the terrible experiences he was about to endure. Was there any alternative as there had been for Abraham who agonizingly raised his knife to slay Isaac? Jesus would not have prayed as he did, saying, “Abba Father, all things are possible with you. Remove this cup from me. Yet, not what I will …” (Mark 14:36) – if he did not believe this was possible.
In this intense time of prayer Jesus’ mind was focused on his disciples: after his prayers he returned and, after chiding them for falling asleep, he encourages them, “watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38). He strengthens himself by thinking of them – and we can do the same! Seeking to give guidance and encouragement to others – so often creating a sense of strength within ourselves.
The disciples were weak to the point of being helpless in what was about to happen, they did not know how to “watch and pray”. The compassion of Jesus overflows, pushing his personal anguish into the background for the moment.
The situation takes our thoughts forward to Revelation 3:7-13, his message to the ecclesia in Philadelphia. He says, “I know you have but little power … Because you have kept my word with patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (verse 10).
We have little power, we are helpless as the disciples were, and as the ecclesia at Philadelphia was. May we all “watch and pray” so that we will be kept, as only our Lord can keep us, from “the hour of trial” that is coming on the whole world. “Hold fast what you have” Jesus told those at Philadelphia, “so that no one may seize your crown”. May we do the same.