Napping in the Gethsemane (When apathy and empathy collide)

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

The sorrow was excruciatingly deep, painful and overwhelming. Jesus said he felt like dying. A pall hung over the olive garden, an unsettling silence punctured only by His agonizing plea to His friends, “Stay here. Keep watch with me.”

Despite the urgency of His appeal, Peter, James and John missed out on the eternal significance of the moment. After all, their bellies were full from the Passover meal. And combined with the dark surroundings and the lateness of hour, sleep came too easily. Their eyes grew heavy, and “they fell into slumber.”

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 own indifference

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 isn’t about a group of first-century slackers who couldn’t keep it together. It’s a novella about me.

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 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.

To keep and maintain relationships takes effort. I have to pick up the phone, send a note, keep up communication and actually care. It means I have to be awake.

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Photo by Rob McBell, via Fliker CCLI

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

My workplace is full of those who hurt and need The Answer. If I am called to my vocation, I must be aware of them, I have to be awake. My neighborhood and my family are searching too

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.”

Apathy and empathy are at opposite ends of humanity.

By not napping  through life, we won’t be jolted by the suddenness of death, or the appearance of evil, or the depravity of man because we are aware of the insidious creep of the fall.

When we live awake,  with our eyes open, we begin to see the needs of those around us. We see the tears and can shoulder the burden of sadness. We see the smiles and can join in the celebration.

And finally – fully engaged  — we can  share in the suffering of the garden, the burden of the cross, and the joy of the resurrection together.

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