Questions that Jesus asked, and We Must Answer:
Today is our last message in this series on questions Jesus asked that we must answer. I hope that we will continue to consider Jesus’ questions to those he encountered in God’s Word for ourselves, going forward.
Let’s jump right into today’s Scripture context, beginning with Mark 14, verse 32…
Mark 14: 32-42…
So, Jesus asked Peter, James and John to go with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, but Jesus keyed in on Peter when he asked our question for today:
“Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? (Mark 14: 37)
A great trial is coming as Jesus asked this question of Peter. Jesus was seemingly saying: Now is the time of gathering strength through prayer to the Father. In Mark 14: 38, following His question to Peter, Jesus goes on to say:
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Earlier in this chapter Peter boasted that he would die with the Lord. But in this moment in the Garden we are reminded…We can only do what God gives us the grace to do. And we need the Holy Spirit.
It could be that God’s Word is also reminding us that Peter failed in this moment because he was not properly prepared spiritually for the trials that would soon come. He had no idea of the storm that was just around the corner. It takes some time for a person to realize that every day is a spiritual battle, and to develop a consistency in being prepared for that battle (something Peter should have realized with the time he had been with Jesus)…but he was still growing in his faith.
The truth is this:
God uses a prepared person for a prepared place.
If you are not properly prepared, failure is imminent. That’s why in the church we don’t ask a person to serve in leadership (especially like an Elder), who is new to the faith. A young Christian is new to the spiritual battles of life. This is God’s work we are attempting to do. In order to do it we must be connected to God, walking with God, relying upon God, and talking to God. You are not relying upon God, if you are not talking to Him.
It’s interesting that in Mark 14: 37, Jesus called Peter, Simon. Remember that Simon was Peter’s original name before he met Jesus. The name “Simon” represented the life that Peter lived before he started following Christ.
It’s as if Jesus is calling Peter out a bit here. Pete, your prayer life is like what it was before you were saved…before you said yes, to following me.
What Jesus said in verse 38 is equally important as we consider this morning’s question:
Again, Jesus said, Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Like most things as a believer in Christ, there is both a practical side and a spiritual side to avoid falling into temptation. The spiritual side is relying upon God through prayer. The practical side is found in the word “watch.” In other words, watch out: be on your guard. Don’t be naive.
The world is a spiritually dangerous place. 1 Peter 5: 8 reminds us:
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
Why is it that people fail spiritually? One reason is because they do not pray when they should. Another reason is because they did not watch out: they did not beware of the danger that was lurking there in their lives.
Notice that Jesus said, “Stay alert!”
Sometimes the way to avoiding spiritual failure will not be because of how strong you are, but how effective you are at staying out of the place of temptation.
The world and the flesh and the devil are much too tempting and enticing for you and I to always be stronger than them in every conceivable situation. If we want to ensure that we do not fall, then we must stay out of the places of temptation.
I’m appreciate the lyrics to Steven Curtis Chapman’s Song: Run Away:
Strolling past temptation avenue,
You hear so many voices calling you;
Maybe you’ll step in and take a quick look around.
Try to walk through it,
And you’re gonna fall down.
You’ve gotta run away,
Turn around and run the other way;
Don’t even look in the direction
of a thought you should not entertain.
You’ve gotta run away,
It’s a prison that is calling your name;
You just can’t win if you play,
So run away.
There comes a time when you must stand and fight,
When the darkness tries to overcome the light;
But sin that is dressed up in the color of gray,
Is only defeated
When we run away.
Don’t put yourself in that position
Where sin can make it’s proposition;
And if you find that you have fallen,
You gotta get up, get ready to run
Next time sin comes calling, calling.
There are places and situations where the temptations will be greater for you than other places and situations, depending upon who you are and what your weaknesses are. The best way to approach all this is to organize your life such that you will avoid tempting situations.
Of course, you do not rely totally upon yourself to avoid entering into temptation. You do your part, but you also rely upon God to lead you “in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake,” as the Psalmist said in the 23rd Psalm.
And that was one of the things that Jesus told us to pray about in the Sermon on the Mount in the Lord’s prayer. He said to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Temptation is defeated by both watching and praying.
But what about when we mess up like Peter, James and John did…when they could not stay awake for even one hour to pray for/with Jesus. Here’s some great news:
God is merciful and He will give you the chance to learn from your mistakes.
Paul makes it clear in his letter to the church in Corinth that provision is always available from falling to temptation: 1 Corinthians 10: 13:
No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
And yet,, God is still merciful towards us when we do fail. God is always merciful because of what Jesus did for us on the cross; and he is also merciful because he knows the weakness of our flesh.
God knows our weaknesses as it says in Psalm 103:13-14:
The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.
If He was not a merciful God, we would have no hope. Those who walk in fellowship with God do so because of the mercy of God through Christ and not because of their own goodness.
In this incident the flesh conquered the spirit in the life of Peter. But God is merciful. He used Peter’s failure to show Peter later on how merciful He was, and to teach Peter so that Peter would do better the next time. Eventually Peter would give his life for Christ, but not now. Now was the time for Jesus to die alone for the sins of the world.
Let’s look again at our text this morning, particularly Mark 14: 39-42…
39 Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. 40 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say.
It was bad enough that the disciples didn’t watch and pray for themselves, but they should have been willing to watch and pray simply for the sake of Jesus. They had experienced so much from Jesus…learned so much from Jesus. Been transformed by Jesus. And yet, they really didn’t know what to say, because there really wasn’t anything too say.
41 When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”
Jesus said to the disciples, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest.”
How much those words must have burned into their hearts later after they had run away and after Jesus had been crucified. They would never have this opportunity again, but by the grace of God they would have other opportunities.
We should not think that Jesus was angry or irritated because His disciples did not help Him. He wanted the disciples to help Him and stand in prayer, not for His own sake, but for their own benefit. Jesus could stand alone against the trial of the cross, but they, being without prayer, would not.
Maybe this failure is one of the reasons that they accomplished all that they accomplished later on in life as Apostles of Christ. That’s one of the wonderful things about Christianity. God is merciful and He will give you the chance to learn from your mistakes.
Each day can be new with a fresh start and a new chance to face the challenges of life. The important thing is that you repent where you need repentance and that you learn from your mistakes. That’s what the disciples did, at least that’s what eleven of them did.
So, Jesus is asking you and I today as we consider our walk with Him, the same question He asked Peter. “Bruce, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour?
What are the implications and applications for us today?
In these last days, don’t fall asleep, Bruce. Keep watch. Not only for your own sake as you deal with temptation, but for the sake of your family and for the sake of the church, as well. Keep praying and keep watching. (say that with me)
Bruce, I know you are not perfect, and you will make mistakes. But when you do, repent and learn from them. I’m a merciful God who is not finished with you yet.
I close this morning with the lyrics of one more song. It was written by the late Keith Green. It’s called Asleep in the Light:
Do you see?
Do you see?
All the people sinking down?
Don’t you care?
Don’t you care?
Are you gonna let them drown?
How can you be so numb?!
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job is done
“oh, bless me, lord!
Bless me, lord!”
You know, it’s all I ever hear!
No one aches,
No one hurts,
No one even sheds one tear
But, he cries,
And he cares for your needs
And you just lay back,
And keep soaking it in
Oh, can’t you see such sin?!
’cause he brings people to your door,
And you turn them away
As you smile and say,
“god bless you!
Be at peace!”
And all heaven just weep,
’cause Jesus came to your door,
You left him out on the streets
Open up! open up!
And give yourself away
You see the need,
You hear the cries,
So how can you delay?!
God is calling,
And you are the one
But like Jonah, you run
He told you to speak,
But you keep holding it in
Oh, can’t you see such sin?!
The world is sleeping in the dark,
That the church just can’t fight,
’cause it’s asleep in the light!
How can you be so dead?!
When you’ve been so well famed
Jesus rose from the grave,
You can’t even get out of bed!
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead!
Come on, get out of your bed!