Napping in Gethsemane

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Default image

The prayers were agonizing—so intense that red sweat stained his white robe on this blackest of nights.

The sorrow was excruciating—deep, painful, and overwhelming. Jesus said he felt like dying. A pall hung over the olive garden, and he pleaded with his friends, "Stay here. Keep watch with me."

But Peter, James, and John missed out on the eternal significance of the moment. After all, their bellies were full from the Passover meal. And it was dark and late. Sleep came too easily. Their eyes grew heavy, and “they fell into slumber."

Until Jesus woke them—probably not with a gentle nudge or a soft tap. He didn't allow the disciples to roll over and hit the snooze switch. He said in disbelief, "Couldn't you stay awake for just a little while?" He was in an eternal struggle for the very souls of mankind, and here they were, napping in Gethsemane.

My reaction, and perhaps yours, too, is condemnation. Didn't they know that this was Jesus' last night? Couldn’t they be there for their friend?

But this story is about more than a group of first century slackers who couldn't keep it together.

I too have been found asleep in the garden. My Christian life is filled with promises to stay awake, but too often, I just nod off. Indifference and complacency mark my apathetic world. I act like I just don't care. I keep hoping that someone else will fill the gap, that another will take my watch. I pray that other servants will demonstrate Jesus to those around me, while I just get a little more rest.

I'm not always looking for a way out. I'm fully awake for Sunday morning worship. How could I possibly miss that joy and energy? I'm never asleep for the awards ceremony, when others dish out praise for my deeds or my words. And when the soldiers rush the garden, I'm up and awake for a good fight. But most of the time, I just check out.

Reading Christ's words are one thing, but applying those Red Letters to my life is completely different. It doesn’t come by osmosis. I have to be awake.

People aren't perfect. And to keep and maintain relationships takes effort. It means I have to be awake.

Other imperfect saints—just like me—make up the Church. Together, we need to work to make it effective. But we have to be awake.

My workplace is full of those who hurt. They need answers. They need a reason. If I am called to my vocation, I must be aware of these people. I have to be awake.

Jesus knows that living in the real world is hard. He acknowledged as much when he said “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Still, he comes back—repeatedly—and says, “Watch and pray with me."

There are many questions we must answer as we commit to be better followers of Christ in the Gethsemane of our workplace.

Will we watch for ways to stand with Jesus when it comes to righteousness and justice, speaking truth in love? Will we see the opportunities to bear his name, to be his witness? Will we notice those who are beaten down by affliction and trouble and then help turn their discouragement into hope?

Will we watch for ways to exceed expectations, to rise above the lowered bar of mediocrity and do all of our tasks “as unto the Lord”?

This dark night needs all of us to stand, side by side, to watch and to pray.


You can read more of David Rupert by visiting his blog, Red Letter Believers, a member of our network at