In Mark 14 we read a moving account of events in the Garden of Gethsemane. That evening the disciples had been together in the upper room where the last supper took place. As the bread and the cup were passed around (verses 22-25) the disciples could not appreciate what it was all about. Imagine the kind of emotion they would experience in the weeks that followed, especially when joined with thousands who had been “cut to the heart” on the Day of Pentecost. Let’s open up our minds to the emotion of such occasions – it results in stirring personal meditation.
After that last supper, “when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (verse 26). It is quite a climb and Jesus initiates a conversation about them denying they know him. Peter declares, “If I must die with you I will not deny you” (verse 31). It is late evening when they come down from the Mount and “went to a place called Gethsemane” and Jesus “began to be greatly distressed and troubled”. He tells them to “remain here and watch” (verse 34). What are they to watch for? They have no thought that a band of soldiers will come!
After emotionally praying to his father he returns and finds them sleeping and “says to Peter, ‘Simon are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?’” (verse 37). Their minds were closed to any thought of his arrest, and if they had been aware, would there have been any value in watching?
Jesus next comment is significant, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (verse 38). Jesus means – watch yourselves! Check out the strength of your faith: a lesson for us. In describing the trauma Matthew adds extra words, for Jesus says, “Could you not watch with me one hour?” (26:38,40). He was looking for their support, and they failed him: Let us not fail each other, for the time is surely coming when we will need each other greatly.
In seeking “to interpret the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3) – a phrase Jesus only used when addressing the Pharisees – the emphasis must be on watching ourselves and keeping each other strong. Our prayers and fellowship will be essential to maintain our strength of mind so we do not fail as the disciples did, but are ready when “the angels (come to) gather his elect” (13:27).