Actually, this morning I feel very sleepy. I want to put my head on my desk. My mind is wandering. This sense of being less than fully alert ties in to the verses for the missed reading. They are about a willing spirit in a sleepy body.
And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Mark 14:37–42)
Some say Jesus’ question, “Are you still sleeping and resting?” is not an inquiry, but a criticism. The disciples knew they were supposed to be praying. Others say Jesus is making a statement of fact. That is, “It is enough” was used in ordinary life to mean “It is paid.” So Jesus is saying that Judas has received his money and the betrayal is at hand, a statement of fact. Their sleepiness is also a statement of fact.
“The hour” is the hour Jesus prayed to avoid. Soon the “cup” will be given Him. This cup represents the wrath of God for all sin for all time. He’d asked if He could avoid it, but then said, “Not my will, but Thine be done” and willingly accepted it.
Perhaps if the disciples had stayed awake and prayed with Him, they would have realized the significance of the next events. They would have known that Jesus would be arrested and crucified. They would have understood what He was doing and why He was doing it. Instead, they slept and those events surprised and shocked them.
“It is enough” could mean that prayer had settled the issue; Jesus was going to the cross to drink the cup. It could mean that He had enough time to do the Father’s will and now the end has come. It could also mean that the disciples had enough sleep and it was time for them wake up and move on to what would happen next.
As I read and reread this passage, I get the impression that these disciples had given in to their fatigue just long enough to realize the weakness of their flesh. They wanted to pray with Jesus, but they did not have spiritual rule over their own desires. Jesus could have granted them grace to stay awake, but they needed to see and recognize their own need for His sacrifice for their sin.
I can imagine the disciples without this realization. They would tout themselves as being “His special men” and in spiritual pride, lift themselves above the rest of humanity. But they did not do this. Sleeping when Jesus needed them the most insured that they would never forget one important fact; they were sinners also.
I bow my head with this understanding. I too have betrayed my Savior, letting Him down in some very important times when I knew better, when my spirit was willing, but my flesh ruled instead. I hear Jesus say to me, “Are you still failing? It is enough. I have been betrayed by you too. I have suffered and died for you too. Your spirit has been willing only because My Spirit lives in you, but your flesh is still unable. You are a sinner, saved and forgiven, but nevertheless a sinner.”
Watchman Nee, a Chinese martyr, said that the problem with the flesh is not that it is too weak, but that it still has “a little” power. That little power continually tries to run things. However, the Word of God condemns the flesh (my old self). Instead of giving it strength for that “weak” condition, God’s solution is to crucify it with Christ.
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:6–11)
Jesus asks me to worship Him and serve with Him. I fall asleep. I fail. Will I ever come to the place where I’ve truly learned that even my best efforts are insufficient, that my flesh is weak? Will Jesus ever say to me, “It is enough” and fill me with the sense of being finished with trying to serve Him in my own weak strength?
Yet even as I ask them, I recall that these words can also be translated “It is paid” and what else can that mean now (after the garden prayer and after the cross) that Jesus has paid for my sin and failures. No matter how many times my weak flesh interferes with His will, what He did at Calvary is enough.
Lord, what can I say? The disciples didn’t understand what was going to happen, but I understand what did happen after that sleepy night. You gave Your life to cover my sin, even the sin of falling asleep when I should be awake, and the sin of being weak (even apologizing to You for it) when I’m supposed to consider myself dead. Fill me with Your Spirit that I might serve and love You with all my heart and soul.