And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Matthew 26:40 (KJV)
And so it begins…another Maundy Thursday watch.
This night, of all nights, means the most to me. While Christmas Eve service would hold a high spot in most Christian heart’s, it is this night, this quiet, holy night that calls to me year after year.
I am not a theologian, but I do know this, one night each year on Maundy Thursday, I sit down with Jesus, one on one, and pour out my heart in the stillness of the night. I am changed.
I wish I had the skill to accurately describe how I feel on this night. Mostly, I just think about the fact that Jesus couldn’t count on those He loved the most for one hour. One hour on the night before it all begins.
There is a total sense of peace and calm in the Cathedral. It is a rare opportunity in the midst of our ever-changing and tumultuous world to find absolute rest. In fact, I am not tired. I am not weary. It is the reverse. I have released the world’s hold on me and I rest in the presence of God.
This is a night to sit with Jesus for one hour as I try to comprehend the betrayal, the sense of loss and the end, the earthly end, of our Lord and Savior. While we know the end at the beginning in our march to Easter Sunday, it doesn’t make the cross less painful.
My belief in Jesus Christ does not falter, my eyes do not grow weary and my heart remains strong as my love deepens.
It is just one night, just one hour, and just me.
Just me…and Jesus.
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:37-38
Loneliness is a terrible thing. The fear that grows from the despair of loneliness can be difficult to bear.
I have experienced a deep sense of loss and loneliness. But, I have never experienced or could even fathom what Jesus felt that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus counts on His beloved disciples to watch with Him as He prays. They can’t do it.
As sweat turns to blood and Jesus cries out in prayer to the Father, the disciples sleep.
Preparing to drink from the cup filled with the sins of mankind would be beyond human comprehension. It is unimaginable. But Christians believe in the unimaginable. We believe in a Savior who died for us. We could not drink a cup containing just our own personal sins. So, imagine the sins of the world…it is too much to ask of anyone.
But Jesus went on that lonely journey to death for me and for you. He carried the cross, endured the humiliation, the beatings, and the pain for our sins.
Tonight, I watch for one hour. One hour of my time for a lifetime of grace.
I sit and I watch and I am grateful. I sit and I know I am unworthy but I sit and I am glad. I sit remembering His sacrifice and I mourn until I can rejoice again.
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. Matthew 26:40
One hour is not a long time. But giving up one hour for anything you don’t want to do can seem like an eternity.
When Jesus goes into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray he asks his loyal disciples to wait and watch (and pray) for one hour. But when he returns to them, they are all asleep. This follows the Upper Room discourse where Jesus tells them that soon He will be gone. He warns them of what is to come. Yet, they still can’t stay awake.
Some of us are awake and functioning Christians. But our spirit is not. Our soul is asleep. We can’t keep the light of Christ going for one hour. Sometimes, not even while we are in church.
The lessons of Lent are greater than this but they do require us to be mindful, vigilant and on watch for Jesus. Can you not give Him one hour of your time?
I crave silence. I crave a peace-filled moment.
Sometimes when I visit my parents’ graves, I sit on the bench and I am still. I sit and do nothing other than glory in the quiet and peacefulness. The occasional birdcall is welcome as is the gentle breeze on my face. But for the most part, I just sit. It is glorious.
Pretty soon we will celebrate Maundy Thursday watch. This is a time when we sit in prayerful silence in the sanctuary. It is a time to reflect upon the night that Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane; the night His disciples could not watch with him for just one hour without falling asleep. It was a night that Jesus spent alone in prayer with the Father.
I haven’t missed a night watch in over 20 years. Next to Christmas Eve Mass and Easter Sunday, it is my favorite day on the church calendar.
There is something so holy about sitting quietly and pausing from this busy life to seek the face of God. If you sit quietly enough, you hear the creak of the church, the scurry of feet, the groan of the building as it sways with the earth. And sometimes, just sometimes, you hear a still small voice in your soul saying it will all be right with the world. Jesus has overcome the world.
Somehow we are reminded that without a moment of silence, words can lose their meaning. That is the moment when silence really is golden.
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Matthew 26:36-46 (NIV)
My Dad was always thinking ahead. He apologized on more than one occasion that one day I would come in to wake him and he would be gone and walking with Jesus. While I told him not to stress out about this, I also reminded him that no one knows the time, date or way you are going to cross from this life into eternity.
No one knows the day they will die…except Jesus.
Jesus knew the end from the beginning. Like all of us…technically we are born to die. But he knew his death was imminent and was going to be difficult, very difficult.
I cannot even begin to imagine the sheer weight of this knowledge. I can’t imagine how Jesus felt carrying the sins of the world on His shoulders. It is just beyond my ability to comprehend.
Tonight, I will ponder these things and I will prayerfully watch for one hour at my church as part of Maundy Thursday services. One hour. It’s not enough to thank Him for the sacrifice He made for you and for me.
But then again, nothing I do could thank Him enough.
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.