"Why do you sleep?"
I came across some interesting verse a few weeks ago. I believe it's from a hymn called "Come, all ye chosen saints of God." Its author is Joseph Hart, who lived in London from 1712-1768. His name is not familiar to me, nor is this hymn, though a hymn I love, "Come ye sinners, poor and needy" is by him, as well. So I guess I should have known his name already. Lesson learned.
The verses I heard were only two of the 14 in the hymn, which is about Jesus' time in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Three favored servants left not far,
Were bit to wait and watch the war.
But Christ withdrawn, what watch to keep!
To shun the sight, they sunk in sleep.
Backwards and forwards thrice he ran,
As if He sought some help from man;
Or wished at least they would condole
('Twas all they could) his tortured soul.
Two things stood out to me in those verses. First the line "Backwards and forwards thrice he ran". Although I knew that Jesus went back to Peter, James and John more than once, I never really thought about whether He ran. And of course, it's just a line in a hymn, but the words made it seem so visual to me. Perhaps He was hurrying, knowing time was running out for Him on earth, and not wanting to miss more prayer time than He had to, in going back to the disciples.
The other line that struck me was "To shun the sight, they sunk in sleep." It has always struck me sad that the disciples were sleeping. I guess I've always seen it from Jesus' point of view, and how He berated them for sleeping.
But this line helps me to recognize the misery the disciples must have been feeling. It makes me think about their choice to sleep not being about exhaustion, but escape. Perhaps when He scolded them for sleeping, it wasn't that He didn't know how tired and frightened they were, it's that He knew how desperately they would need strength in the hours ahead ~ the strength that comes from prayer.
Their sleeping was not abandonment, but a measure of their sorrow. And, in fact, they were still there, in the garden, with Him. They had not left. Their flesh was weak, but their spirits were willing. And that's worth a lot.
Our Lord who knows how weak we are, also knows the strength of our spirit, our heart. He knows our willingness. A good thing to remember when we are weak and weary.
~ "Watch and pray,
lest you enter into temptation.
The spirit indeed is willing,
but the flesh is weak." ~