Matthew 26:40-44 (The Disciples’ Failure; Jesus’ Response)

 

 

It is Wednesday evening of Passion week and Jesus has retired to the garden of Gethsemane with His disciples after sharing with them His last Passover meal.  Knowing what was about to take place, He began to feel the weight of all the sins of the world that would press Him for the Oil of His Spirit, and which would be poured out through His blood for the salvation of the world.  For although He could have sought to do His own will and escaped to save His life, He subjected Himself to do the will of the Father to become the source of eternal salvation for all mankind.  For this is the eternal gospel in which we hope: that he who wishes to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for Christ’s sake and the gospel will find it.  I.e., true life is through death, by laying down our own lives to do the will of the Father.  It was this Spirit of subjecting oneself to do the will of the Father for which Jesus was pressed in the garden whose name means an olive press.  And it was this Holy Spirit of sacrifice that led Him to the cross as an example for us to follow, that where He is, there we also might be (Joh 12:24-26).  In this way His blood was poured out for our salvation and we obtain the forgiveness of sins (Mat 26:28) by following Him in the way of the cross, being led by that same Spirit to die to sin in sincere repentance and so be cleansed from sin by the washing of regeneration and renewing by that Holy Spirit whom God poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Tit 3:5).  Cf. Rom 8:12-17, 1Pe 4:1-2.

Although Jesus had bid His disciples to keep watch with Him in this time of His greatest need, as all the agonies of sorrow, grief, anger, fear and distress came upon Him they proved to be of no help, for they had all fallen asleep.  Why does Luke say their eyes were heavy with sleep?  See Luk 22:45 and cf. Mat 26:21-22; also recall that after the day’s preparations they had just eaten the Passover feast and walked out of the city to the Mount of Olives, all of which disposed them towards sleep.  When Jesus came to them and found them sleeping, what did He say to them?  See Mat 26:40-41.  Although He spoke to all of them, to whom did He particularly address?  See Mat 26:40, but note that you there is plural, not singular (hence the NASB addition of men, and the KJV ye).  What does this indicate about how Jesus viewed Peter as a leader among the disciples?  Recall Mat 16:15-19, 26:33-35.  What does the fact that He addressed Peter on behalf of all of them also indicate about the greater responsibility Peter had as the leader for them failing to keep watch?  Is it any different in our own day when those who are leaders of Christ’s people ought to be keeping watch but have also fallen asleep?

What do Jesus’ words to the disciples indicate about how long He had been praying?  See Mat 26:40.  In the grand scheme of things, was an hour a long time to ask them to keep watch with Him?  Was He asking of them something far beyond their ability, or even something that was a huge stretch for them, especially considering their pledge just a short time earlier (Mat 26:35)?  How long do soldiers in physical warfare keep watch, and with what consequences if they fail to do so?  Was Jesus asking them to prepare themselves for the sort of suffering He Himself was about to endure?  Cf. Deut 30:11-13.  Although they could not accomplish the salvation He would work for them, and to keep watch for an hour was but a small thing, what do His words to them indicate about there being something that He expected of them?  Although God does not expect us to do what we cannot, does He in fact expect nothing of us that contributes to His work of salvation?  Even if there is nothing else we can do, what does His expectation of the disciples here teach us that we can, and must do?  Cf. 1Ti 2:1,8.  Knowing this, do we in fact pray, even for an hour?

Considering that Jesus was in a state when men are most apt to be cross, did He scold or berate them for their failure?  What does the gentleness of His rebuke remind us of His nature of a shepherd among sheep, and teach us about the nature required of His under-shepherds?  When He returned a second time and again found them sleeping, did He rebuke or harangue them even more harshly for their repeated failure?  What does this again teach us about His own gentle, patient nature?  See note[1].

Although Jesus was in the depths of His own anguish, was His disciples’ failure a slight He felt to Himself, or a concern He had for them?  See Mat 26:41.  What does His concern for them, especially in the midst of His own suffering, teach us further about His servant nature and concern for those He loved?  Cf. Joh 13:1, 19:26-27.  Although not excusing their failure, how do His words to them in Mat 26:41 explain why He wasn’t as hard on them, and why we likewise shouldn’t be so hard on others when they fail to live up to our expectations?  What do His words teach us about the inexorable pull our fallen, sinful nature has upon us, and the only way to overcome its downward churn?  As Jesus didn’t chide or beat them down for the weakness of their flesh, but suffered them and laid down His life to set them free from the sin that was the source of their weakness, what should we likewise do when faced with the failures of others?

[1] Though we daily offend, yet he will not always chide.  Matthew Henry