And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? …the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
The garden of Gethsemane is the scene for the greatest inner turmoil in the life of Jesus, yet his closest friends are not able persevere with him in the angst. In spite of their concern for Him and their best intentions, three times in the same period of time, they are sleeping when they should be praying for Jesus. His response? Jesus finds a way to not only be understanding of their failure, but to attribute to them good intentions. Grace, best personified by Jesus, has a way of both forgiving the failing and calling them to something better.
“Cutting people some slack” is a wonderful habit and one that is all too rarely built. Saying in effect “Don’t worry about it, everyone makes mistakes” recognizes a fact and extends charity even when it is not deserved. But that bit of grace does not capture the fullness of what is happening in this scene. It is one thing to excuse failure; it is another thing to do it in a way that builds up those who have failed in your time of crisis. What enabled him to have that kind of charity? Answer: He had already died to his need for their support.
It was said that in the old days many missionaries would pack their worldly goods in their coffin to carry to the mission field. One, when he first told his family of his decision to go, was asked, “But aren’t you afraid of dying there?” He answered, “I died when I decided to go.” A commitment is more than a decision; it is dying to all the alternatives and to our need for reassurance. If we are to make a God-given difference in this world, there are times when it cannot depend on the support of even our closest friends.
Lord, thank you for the people you have given me to love, both near and far. Please give me the passion and strength required to live out my commitments as an example of sacrificial love.