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.