Were you not able to watch one hour with me? Matthew 26:40
Were you not able – Let’s make it crystal clear. The path to the cross goes through Gethsemane. If you are going to follow Jesus, if you are going to take up your cross, then you will have to go with Him to the Garden on the loneliest night of your life. You can refuse. You can sleep through it. But you can’t avoid the request: “Remain here and watch with me.”
Implied in Jesus rebuke is the expectation that we should be able. This is not a failure of capacity. It is a failure of will. With all the best intentions in the world, we still fall asleep. Why? Because there is something terrible in that Garden. In that Garden we will have to come face to face with the agony of sin. We will have to confront obedience unto death. We will know for certain that the enemy is scratching at the door, anxious for the opportunity to snatch us out of God’s hand. We will have to face our darkest selves.
Matthew uses the Greek ouk ischusate (“you did not have strength”). These three disciples experienced willpower failure. They were eager to please the Master, but when it mattered most, they turned off. At the one moment in Jesus’ life when He asked for help, no one came.
Have you been there? Have you spent a night among the black trees, the clouds obscuring the moon, shadows concealing the presence of evil? Have you felt the skin crawl on the back of your neck when you realized that you never wanted to be here, but you could not avoid coming? Have you had a close encounter of the abandoned kind, a time when you looked into the heart of darkness and felt its seductive pull? Was there a moment when your life hung over the pit of hell and you begged for a helping hand? Gethsemane is on the way to glory. On the way to the cross, it cannot be avoided. The Christian is called to the cross, not the empty tomb. You cannot have a resurrection unless you first have a death and you cannot die until you have been to the Garden. Before the gospel is good news, it is a funeral.