HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
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
The Closest Disciples Sleep Most Often
The scene was the Garden of Gethsemane, and all three disciples were asleep. It is not the first time in the Gospel story that we have found these three disciples sleeping. When the Lord was transfigured on the mountain these same disciples were asleep, and neither there nor here was it a light and evanescent drowsiness. We are told that in the former narrative, and here, the moment Jesus ceased to speak they relapsed into their heavy slumber. One would have thought that the word of Jesus to them would have stabbed them wide awake. It evidently did nothing of the kind. The last syllable was scarcely uttered when they have sunk again in profound sleep.
As a Man, Jesus Craved Companionship
One recognises in these words of Jesus His passionate yearning for companionship. In His hour of travail and of agony He craved the companionship of men. One might have conjectured that in such an hour the Master would have longed to be alone. Had He left His disciples in Jerusalem one could have understood that perfectly. And the very fact that He took these three disciples, and set them where they were not far away, shows how He craved for human sympathy and needed the companionship of men. Our blessed Saviour was no stoic. He leaned hard on loving hearts. He yearned for the fellowship of men as intensely as they yearned for His. And if today He is “the very same Jesus,” unchanged by death and resurrection, then He still craves, with an unaltered longing, for loving human companionship.
He Craved for Their Companionship although He Knew It Would Be Inadequate
It should be noted that He craved this fellowship when it was utterly inadequate. How little could these disciples fathom all that was transacted in the darkness! There He was bearing sin upon His spirit, as on Calvary He bore it in His body. There He was giving Himself utterly to God’s will in the redemption of mankind. Even had the disciples been awake, how little could they have understood–yet He craved an imperfect sympathy like that. What an exquisitely human touch that is! An old and faithful family retainer may know nothing of what her master has to bear. To her, his troubles may be as great a mystery as the troubles of Jesus to His three disciples. Yet the loving sympathy of that old servant, even though she does not understand, is strangely helpful to her master’s heart. Perhaps at the best, all we can give to Christ is a sympathy like that of the old servant. There are depths in His being, His death, His endless life, that no human heart can ever fathom. And yet He wants our loving close companionship, just as, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He wanted that of these three sleeping men.
He Asked Them to Watch But One Hour
Another thought that meets us is how often it is in lesser things we fail. In order to fully appreciate that I ask you to put the accent on one hour. Had He asked them to watch through the livelong night with Him, that might have been a high and arduous service. But to ask their vigilance for sixty minutes surely was a very small demand, yet it was there that the disciples failed. In the last great service, Peter did not fail Him, for Peter was crucified for Christ. James, too, laid down his life for Him, and John went into exile in the Isle of Patmos. Where they all failed was in the lesser thing, in the duty that was comparatively small–what, could ye not watch with Me one hour?
And perhaps it is there most often that we fail in our loving companionship with Christ. Perhaps it is there that love most often fails. In our fellowship with the Lord Jesus we may be ready and eager for the greatest sacrifice, and yet we cannot watch with Him one hour. In those infinitesimal self-denials which are possible with every passing day, in patience and appreciative sympathy within the shelter and secrecy of home, in the rendering of those little kindnesses which are more to many hearts than gold or silver, how often we fail as those disciples did. Great services reveal our possibilities; little services reveal our consecration. Jesus places the emphasis of heaven on him who is faithful in the least. Had these disciples watched for that one hour they would have rendered a service far beyond their dreams. That is true of every one of us.