What Does Matthew 26:40 Mean?

And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?

Matthew 26:40(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

Jesus ate His final Passover meal with His disciples, and they sang a hymn together on the night that He was betrayed. He told them that His body was broken for them and that His shed blood inaugurated the New Covenant, for the forgiveness of sin. He predicted that Peter would deny Him before the cock crowed the next morning, and together they walked to the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed in great agony of soul.

Was it disinterest in their Master's sufferings that caused His disciples to fall into a deep sleep at this critical moment of Christ's approaching passion. Was it that they were overwhelmed with sleep on account of their own sorrow and confusion? Did the weakness of their fallen bodies overcome a willing spirit that believed in Christ as the Son of God?

Did the slumber that overtook this little band of followers cause them all to slip into the safety-net of unconscious sleep. Did their slumber protect their hearts from their escalating confusion and mounting fear? Could they not watch and pray with Him for one, short, critical hour, as the Son of Man prepared Himself to carry the weight of the world's sin on His sinless shoulders?

Exhaustion, fatigue, sorrow, and grief at the shocking uncertainty of all that crowded their increasingly fearful hearts, was taking its toll on Christ's confused disciples. No doubt their bodies' 'safety-mechanism' was being kicked into play, to save their hearts from collapsing with fear of what was coming into their immediate future. But how dearly the Lord Jesus would have loved to have had their prayer-support at this crucial time.

He told them they would all leave him, run away and be scattered and Peter foolishly blurted out that he would die before deserting His Master! But sleep overtook them all. Even the inner circle of Peter, James, and John, failed to provide the human encouragement for which our Saviour longed. He had instructed them, "Remain here and keep watch with Me", (Stay awake with Me!). And so we read, "And going a little farther, Jesus fell facedown and prayed, 'My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me - Yet not as I will, but as You will.'"

None can begin to imagine the sorrow that Christ experienced as He faced Calvary alone, but our hearts can empathise with His disciples when we... like them, find ourselves confronted with trials greater than we can manage. It was with compassion for the weakness of their flesh, rather than criticism of their sleep, that Christ said to Peter, "Couldn't you all you stay awake with Me, for just one hour?" 

NO! They could not watch for one hour because of the weakness of their human flesh! The human spirit may have been willing, but the fallen flesh was flawed and insufficient. It was only at Pentecost, that the permanently indwelling Holy Spirit of God came to indwell His Church, and provide the sufficient strength we all need to work the work of God. Only in His power can we pray without ceasing and live as Christ lived - in spirit, in truth and in perfect submission to the Father.

How gracious it was of Jesus to single out the blustery, self-confident Peter, who had just proclaimed his undying loyalty to his Lord, and yet was soon to face the greatest sorrow of his entire life, when he deserted the Lord he loved and denied Him three times. No wonder we later read that Peter went outside and wept bitterly.

Like Peter, we also face an increasingly uncertain future, but let us never forget that the Holy Spirit of God has been given to the Church and has taken up permanent residence within the heart of every member of Christ's Body. Let us also remember that we have no reason to be overwhelmed by the protective bodily mechanism of sleep that overcame the disciples, during Christ's pre-cross visit to Gethsemane. We have already received many precious promises that are found in the Word of God. We have an assurance that His grace is sufficient for all our needs, for His strength is perfected in our weakness.

He is with us every moment of the day and we have His assurance that no matter what we have to face, we will be granted HIS sufficient strength and HIS supernatural grace to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. Our Saviour has promised never to leave us nor forsake us, and through HIS strength, we can keep watch with Him.

Let us not slumber with disinterest in these end times, nor allow deep sorrow to inject fear and uncertainty into our hearts. Let us remember that no matter what we may have to face in the days that lie ahead, His over-abounding grace is sufficient for us, for we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to lead and to guide for His supernatural power is perfected in our weakness.

Let us not sleep as others do, but let us remain alert and be sober, for the purpose of prayer. Let us be ready to watch and pray without ceasing so that we do not enter into temptation. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, Whom to know is life eternal, and let us take heed to watch expectantly for the Lord's soon return - and also to watch with Him, in His continuous ministry of prayer and intercession.

My Prayer

Thank You, Lord, for Your Word of truth and the lessons it teaches me day by day. I understand that in my own strength I would soon fall into some narcotic slumber, because my heart is grieved by all that is coming on the world. Yet I praise and thank You that in Your strength and with Your sufficient grace, I know that I can face the future, for You are with me to uphold me with Your righteous right hand. Give me Your strength I pray, to faithfully keep watch with my Lord Jesus in His continuous ministry of intercession. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.

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