Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “ My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “ This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “ Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
It was on the night before His crucifixion that Jesus left the upper room and walked across the valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. It was on the Mount of Olives. What, at other times had been a place for a meaningful talk, or a spiritual respite, became a battle ground that night.
Jesus went there to pray. But this wouldn’t be an ordinary prayer session with His Dad in heaven. It would be a wrestling match. And he knew the disciples needed to stay engaged.
Matthew 26:41-47 Jesus said, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “ My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “ Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Jesus knew what the night would hold. Everyone had to be ready. This was going to be hard on Jesus, but he knew it would also be hard on his followers. Satan was going to unleash all his ugliness and Jesus would be the target. The Father had a plan that included the defeat and death of his own Son. In this setting, Jesus gave instruction to His disciples. He knew their condition and he knows ours. Human spirits are willing but the flesh is weak, he said. After all, at our best, we are made of dust. How we handle our weakness is where the battle is won or lost.
Jesus said, “Watch.” Be awake. Be aware. This world is a spiritual battlefield. The battle was fought that night, but it is also fought every time we are tempted to walk away from the will of God. We think sin is our idea. We think rebellion is personal. It isn’t. It is part of the warfare of the spirit-universe. We have to watch. See the reality of God’s world. It is made of flesh and spirit. It is made of material and immaterial. It is made of temporal and eternal. Watch.
Jesus also said, “Pray.” Prayer is expressed dependence on God. Jesus knew His disciples wouldn’t make it through this on their own. And Peter didn’t. They needed the power and presence of God with them. Their protection would have to come from Him. We cannot battle the unseen alone. We cannot fight the principalities and authorities with human flesh. We need the Spirit of God. And the Spirit comes in answer to prayer.
Whatever you’re facing this Holy Week. Watch and Pray. Watch for the spiritual realities of what you’re up against. Pray. Really pray. Cry out to God for His help and strength. And the promise is, just like Jesus, the victory will be yours because of Him.
“Must it be dull and tiresome to be delivered from blindness and vanity, from false hopes and vain fears, to improve in holiness, to feel the comforts of conscience in all your actions, to know God is your friend, that all must work for your good, that neither life nor death, neither man nor devils can do you harm; but that all your sufferings and doings that are offered to God, all your watchings and prayers, and labors of love and charity, all your improvements, are in a short time to be rewarded with everlasting glory in the presence of God… ?” – William Law
Stop for a moment, read this again slowly. Consider each phrase prayerfully. And ask “is this the path I’m on?”
When one is redeemed by Christ and pursues holiness and piety it brings a life of satisfaction and an eternity of joy!