On the night He was betrayed, in the midst of facing His ultimate test, Jesus had just one simple request of His disciples. Would they watch an pray with Him. Matthew records the story for us in Chapter 26. Sadly, they didn’t stand with Him and they fell asleep. He came back to them three times and each time He found them sound asleep.
Matt 26:36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder…
38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me…
40 … And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak …
43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest:
46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.
Can you imagine the despair they felt when the next moment Judas showed up with a great multitude. Jesus came to them with a request and they ignored Him. I think we’ve all been there, when we realize that we haven’t done what Jesus asked us to do and we missed a great opportunity. We realize that we let Him down and we regret the missed opportunity to impact someone’s life. That’s when Jesus comes to us and says “Sleep On.” That opportunity of doing what He asked is lost forever and we can’t do anything about it. All that is left is to rise up and wait for the next opportunity. We can’t despair of the lost opportunity and we need to let it stay in the past.
I have a particular moment in my life in which God presented me with an opportunity and I “slept” in my own thoughts and let it slide by. I was sitting next to a young man at the DMV and was reading a book. The Lord spoke to me “very clearly” and asked me to tell the young man the God loved him. Well, I didn’t and the Lord prompted me yet again and still I didn’t respond. Some time went by and the guilt of not doing what the Lord asked was too much. I turned to talk with him and he was gone. I got up and looked all around, even out in the parking lot, but he was nowhere to be found.
Needless to say I fell into a deep pit of regret and despair at the thought that I did not share the love of God with that young man. I could almost hear Jesus tell me to sleep on now, take your rest. This incident is one of those failures that the enemy has brought up many times and I have to admit that the guilt comes right along with it. But that’s not how Jesus handles it. He just whispers in my ears… Let the past sleep in me… Arise and do the next thing.
That is the wonderful thing about Jesus. He never throws our past failures in our face. He is always moving ahead and we can be absolutely certain that there will be new opportunities. We can’t afford to let our sense of prior failures keep us from those new opportunities. I will never be able to find that young man, but I can Arise and do the next thing.