Gethsemane… not their finest hour



Matthew 26:36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38 Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” 39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” 40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

We often hear about the 12 disciples of Jesus, but among the 12 there were the 3: Peter, James and John. These were the small group of primary leaders among the group of 12 disciples. They were the ones with Jesus at some very important moments in his ministry, including here at the very end – at the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus asked them to accompany him as he prayed through the night. He didn’t ask them to pray with him all night, only to stay close by. His was a lonely task, pleading with his heavenly Father regarding what lay ahead. But it would be a comfort to him to know that his closest disciples, his dearest friends, his “brothers” in the faith, were nearby praying for him as he prayed to the Father.

But they couldn’t do it.

Not only did they fail to honor Jesus’ simple request, they failed to do it… THREE TIMES! And if that wasn’t bad enough, Peter (the ringleader) later denied knowing Jesus at all… three different times. It was failure compounded by more failure. Seriously, if you were going to put together a team to lead a movement to change the world would you stick with these guys? I wouldn’t. No way.

Yet that’s exactly what Jesus did. 

Instead of ditching these guys – he doubled down. When they scattered at his death, fearing for of their own lives, he sought them out and commissioned them to teach others all that Jesus had taught them. And it worked. That’s why you’re reading and I’m writing this blog in the first place.

In a strange way, this story gives me hope. I can most definitely relate to well-meaning people who, despite the best of intentions, fall short in key moments. I know the sting and shame of failure. More than I’d care to admit. And yet God has a history of using flawed and broken people like them, like me, like you… to change the world. We cannot do it, but almighty God can do it through us. He’s proven it time and again.

Dear Lord, we come to you as people full of flaws and weaknesses, full of good intentions and meager results. Seriously, I don’t know why you put up with us, especially me. Yet the bible shows us what is possible when you take hold of deficient people and use us despite our weakness. Give us grace to take heart when we let others down. When we let you down. When we let ourselves down. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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