Napping in Gethsemane (When apathy and empathy collide)

Napping in Gethsemane (When apathy and empathy collide) March 30, 2015

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.

napping in the garden

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.

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.

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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  • Have you ever heard Keith Green’s, Asleep in the light? I think the angels are singing it in the background of this post.

  • Wow… Powerful! I actually focused on a similar thought (very personal) in my homily last night at our Ecumenical Fifth Sunday Evening service. Thanks!

  • brilliant and convicting as always David

    and such poetry here –

    red sweat stained his white robe on this blackest of nights

    may you be filled with resurrection power, this Sunday and always

  • So…I’m reading this post, thinking about those disciples in Gethsemane.

    Not only were their bellies full, but they had also been drinking the Passover wine…four glasses of wine interspaced throughout the Passover Seder. AND…their spirits were full…full with the presence of Christ…full of the promises He had just spoken to them…full of the covenant commitment He had just made with them.

    And that Passover meal is not a short event…not at all like taking Communion at most modern-day churches. The Passover meal is a lengthy event in and of itself…interspersed with traditional prayers and songs…an interactive renactment of the Exodus from Egypt. Plus, Jesus had given lengthy discourses throughout this particular meal.

    A busy week with long travel days. Fear for Jesus’ safety. The excitement of the trimuphal entry into Jerusalem. The excitement of the events leading up to the reservation of the Upper Room. The foot washing. The long meal. The conversation. The full bellies combined with the effects of four glasses of wine.

    And to top it all off, they had no idea how much was riding on Jesus’ shoulders that night. They were filled, tired, drained, satisfied…and lacked the eternal perspective to see the significance of the moment.

    Yep…I’m right there with them. I’d have been napping too…trying valiantly but unsucessfully to keep my eyes open as I rested in the love of my Lord…

    I just pray he’ll wake me! :-)

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  • I love the challenge to have apathy and empathy collide. It’s where each of us live every day. I want to be there to shoulder the burdens of sadness and partake of the celebrations. Eyes wide open! Really beautifully written post. Thank you!

  • Bernie

    Excellent, powerful post provoking a challenge!