In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus was pressed for the oil of His Spirit that would be poured out through His blood for our washing and cleansing from sin, which is the only basis for true salvation. For it is only by means of such a sacrificial Spirit that one is able to follow Christ in the way of the cross to die to sin and so be delivered from its power that enslaves us and holds us in bondage to the devil for service in his worldly kingdom through fear of death; cf. Heb 2:14-15, 1Pe 4:1-2. As the cup of sufferings He was about to experience was now weighing heavily upon Him and tormenting Him with sorrows and fear, and tempting Him by such agonies and distress to resist the Father’s will, He had bid His closest disciples to keep watch with Him. But they, not unlike us in so many circumstances, were dull to the spiritual realities that were unfolding and could not keep awake. Now, upon turning and finding them asleep, in spite of His own state of mind that would make any person irritable, He rebuked them, but gently, as the ever-good natured Shepherd: “So, you men [who just a short time earlier pledged even to die with Him] could not keep watch with me for one hour?” Then, still concerned more for them than for Himself, He bid them watch and pray lest they enter into temptation, for even when one’s spirit is willing, yet the flesh is weak, and must be seasoned for the conflict that like a thief in the night will come at the most inopportune time. Knowing in hindsight what was about to take place, what temptations were about to confront them, which, had they kept watch with Jesus and prayed, they might have more successfully avoided? See Mat 26:35,51-52,56,69-75.
Consider that in spite of Jesus’ gentle rebuke, the disciples again fell asleep; Mat 26:43. What does this teach us about the way that sleep begets sleep, and how easy it is, even though we hear the voice of the Lord and know better, to continue to drift off to sleep—both physically and spiritually—when once we give ourselves to it? Cf. Mat 25:5. What does Mark record that they had to say for themselves when Jesus returned the second time and again found them sleeping? See Mar 14:40. Recall that just the day earlier in summary of everything He had taught in the Olivet Discourse about His coming in judgment, Jesus had warned His disciples to be on the alert and keep watch; see Mat 24:42-44, 25:13. In the day of the Lord, though in this age of grace, will we likewise know what to answer Him if He returns and finds us sleeping after bidding us so urgently, and lovingly, to watch and pray?
What did Jesus say to His disciples after returning the third time and again finding them asleep? See Mat 26:45 and observe that because the same Greek verbal forms are used for both the 2nd person plural indicative and imperative, His words may be understood as a question as in the NAS or as a command as in the KJV (cf. the NAS text note). However, because it was impossible for the disciples to continue sleeping and resting with what was immediately unfolding, as well as being at odds with what Jesus had been commanding them to the contrary to keep watch, it makes the most sense to understand His words as a rhetorical question: “Are you going to continue sleeping the rest of the night and taking rest for yourselves? Behold, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.” What do His words to them indicate about their folly—not unlike that of so many today—in supposing that trouble will always pass us by in this world so we can continue in our blissful slumber and safely ignore the Lord’s admonition to watch and pray? Cf. Joh 16:33, 1Th 5:2-3, 2Pe 3:3-7.
What was the last thing Jesus said to His disciples before He was confronted by the mob that came to arrest Him? See Mat 26:46. Consider that even as He heard the approaching crowd He might have hidden or escaped, as He had done so many times before (Luk 4:29-30, Joh 7:30,44, 8:59, 10:39), and just a short time earlier He was overcome with fear and anxiety about what was about to take place so that to do so was a great temptation. Do His words in this verse express such fear or anguish? Or rather, do they communicate that His time of prayer had accomplished its purpose in preparing Him for that hour to successfully meet the challenge head-on? Again, what does this teach us about the purpose of prayer? Is it only to accomplish our own will? Or rather, is it to make us fit to accomplish the Father’s will, which in faith we know will always be much better for us in the long term, even if it isn’t our desire and perhaps causes us to suffer in the short term? Although His time of watching and praying had prepared Him for the hour that had now come upon Him, what opposite effect did the lack of watching and praying have upon His disciples? See Mar 14:50-52, 66-72. What does this again remind us is necessary if we are to serve the Lord faithfully?