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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

Wake Up! (Matthew 26:36-46)

    Easter is three weeks away, the day when Christian churches across the world celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. As we move closer to Easter, we start to think more about the week leading up to Jesus’s suffering, and the brutal crucifixion He submitted to, the sacrifice He made for us and the price He paid to forgive our sins once and for all. We start thinking about how God had been pointing to this act of salvation since humanity’s first sin and the fall of man, how He told the serpent, the Deceiver, our enemy Satan what was coming one day, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all the livestock, And more than any animal of the field; On your belly you shall go, And dust you shall eat All the days of your life; And I will make enemies Of you and the woman, And of your offspring and her Descendant; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise Him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15).
    We start reflecting more deeply on what His sacrifice means for us: salvation from sins, freedom from things that make us slaves, a new life full of joy and peace, power to be a part of others being set free from sin as well. We spend these weeks remembering why we gave our hearts to Jesus.
    This morning, we’ll look back and remember Jesus’s time of sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane. I’ll be in Matthew 26:36-46 and I’d love for you to follow along with me in your Bible, in whatever way you can.
    Jesus and the Disciples had just a few days before, on what we now call Palm Sunday, entered into Jerusalem. Jesus had been greeted with honor as he entered the city; they shouted “Hosanna” and called Him the Son of David, which in some ways recognized Him as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ. They laid palm branches down before Him, symbolizing victory, triumph, peace, and eternal life, all things that Jesus would bring.
    He celebrated the Passover meal, which we now call the Last Supper, and He celebrated with His disciples, even as He knew that one of them would betray Him. Jesus predicted Peter’s denial of Him as well, and still shared His last meal with Him, seeing that Peter was worthy in the Father’s eyes. Our message this morning picks up when the meal was finished.
    “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and told His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with Him, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cup cannot pass away unless I drink from it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let’s go; behold, the one who is betraying Me is near!” (Matthew 26:36-46).
    Jesus knew what was to come. He knew the suffering He would endure; He knew the physical pain He would face; He knew the spiritual agony He would go through as He would be separated from the Father when He bore all the sins of the world; He knew the betrayal and denial. So He faced it the best way He knew: talking to the Father, seeking the will of God, listening to the Spirit.
    This says a lot about what we should do in difficult circumstances, we should take it to God first and foremost and frequently. But I want to talk this morning about the disciples and what Jesus asked them to do as He went and prayed.
    He took all the disciples with Him, but only three, His closest disciples: James, John, and Peter, went with Him deeper into the garden. He has spent three years with these three men, they had seen Him transfigured on the mountaintop and got to see the glory of the Lord shine on Him. He trusted these men, and trusted them enough to ask them to do something really important as He prayed. He said, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
    Keep watch with Me. The Greek says, “Be on alert; be fully awake.” They had come to the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives. It was called the Mount of Olives not only for the olive trees that had grown there for decade, but also because it was the place where they pressed the olives to extract the precious oil from them. It wasn’t an accident that Jesus chose this place because He knew He was about to be pressed. Just like the olives that were pressed there, He knew He would be pressed, but He also knew that what would result from that pressing would be something precious: salvation for mankind.
    He told Peter, John, and James to keep watch with Him because they were about to be pressed as well. They would be pushed to the limits of their faith and their belief. They’d have questions and doubts. They would even be afraid for their lives at one point. Their pressing though, it would lead to the building of the church with Peter, James, and John as the ones who would be the first leaders of that church.
    This passage invites us, as disciples of Jesus, to hear Jesus’ words as words to us. Keep watch with Him. Be on alert. Be fully awake. Know that as you walk with the Lord you will be pressed. In fact, I can say with almost certainty from the example of Scripture and the example of my own life, the closer you draw near to God, the more you can expect to get pressed, because our enemy cannot stand us getting closer to God. He doesn’t want it, and since he has free rein on the world right now, he will try to press us anyway he can. He’ll tempt you to sin, and if that doesn’t work, he’ll attack your family, your job, your purpose, your home, your friends…anything he can think of to discourage you and distract you from walking with the Lord more closely.
    Being pressed though, is good. On the other side of Jesus’ pressing was the resurrection and the defeat of sin! When we go through being pressed, we know that when the pressing is done, what is produced in us will give God glory and be more precious than any other treasure.
    Keep watch with Him. Be on alert. Be fully awake. Understand that you will be pressed, but we do have this promise that keeps us from being discouraged, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Keep watch, because you will be PRESSED.
    Jesus went on alone from there and prayed, knowing what was coming, and asked the Father if there was any way the cup, which was the cup of God’s wrath to be poured out on Him as He bore the sins of the world, Jesus wanted to know if there was any way He could be spared. But, He submitted to the Father’s will. Even though He knew what was coming, He submitted to God’s plan. There’s another sermon there too, isn’t there, about obedience and surrender, even in the face of terrible suffering?
    “And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41).
    Jesus came back to find the three men fast asleep. He got onto them for not watching like He had asked, like He trusted them to do, but I want you to notice that He was demanding a lot: the disciples would have been exhausted from all the events of that week and the preparation that had gone into the Passover meal. They needed rest. He asked a lot, but He did not automatically tell them, “Okay, you failed, so I’m not going to give you this important task anymore.” This tells us a lot about how Jesus deals with us, too.
    He asks a lot, yes, but when we fail or don’t meet His demands, He doesn’t just give up on us. He corrects us and asks us to keep picking up our cross and following Him.
    He told the Peter, James, and John again, “Keep watching and praying, so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Keep watching and praying. Why? So you do not come into temptation.
    Temptation is different than being pressed. Being pressed can and will happen even if there is no temptation to sin. You can put it this way: temptation is always pressing, but being pressed isn’t always through temptation.
    Jesus wants His disciples, including us, to keep watch, to keep praying so we can stand against temptation. Ephesians 6 tells us that prayer is the key to using the Armor of God that He has given us to stand against the flaming arrows of the evil one. Prayer is how we use those pieces of Armor. So Jesus reminds His disciples, watch and pray, so you are not TEMPTED.
    Jesus went back into the Garden and prayed again for God’s cup of wrath to be removed from Him, but He submitted to the Father’s will. This time, it’s a lesson in persevering through prayer.
    “Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let’s go; behold, the one who is betraying Me is near!” (Matthew 26:43-46).
    A second time he found them sleeping, and let them sleep. He went and prayed a third time and came back to the disciples a third time. He woke them up and let them know that the time had come, the hour was at hand, and it was time for Jesus’ suffering that would lead to His death to begin.
    Not keep watch this time, not pray, but wake up! You’ve been asleep too long, He told His disciples. Time to wake up, time to prepare, time to work. Jesus knew His death was near, but you know what? That also meant that the Kingdom of God was at hand! God’s Spirit was soon to be given to those who put their faith in Jesus, enabling them to live for the purpose of the Kingdom here and now as well as waiting for the fullness of the Kingdom of God to come some day. This was one of the things Jesus told the disciples to pray for, to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The time had come for that to begin to be a realization.
    Wake up! You’ve been asleep too long. Time to prepare. Time to go to work.
    “Reigning as Lord of the universe, He does not depend on our support…; but is it possible that Matthew still intends us to hear the plaintive cry of the Lord of harvest in this narrative? The burden of His (God’s) heart remains the mission of the world’s redemption, yet He continues to cry out to a sleeping church governed by other agendas.”
    That’ll preach! Amen?
    What this commentary is saying is that God doesn’t need our help to see the world saved. He is the one who does the saving, isn’t He? He is the one who convicts and calls us to come to Him. He doesn’t need us. Romans says that if we don’t share the gospel, even the rocks will cry out, and Paul also adds that all of creation declares who God is so we are without excuse. If He is mighty, powerful enough to use rocks, He doesn’t need us. But, He has chosen in these times to use His body to be the primary way He works through. We are Plan A. I want you to say that, “We are Plan A.”
    The burden of His heart is to see the world saved, redeemed, through Jesus’ shed blood. Since He has chosen to use us to help with that, He continues to cry out to us, church, “Wake up! Keep watch! Pray! Pay attention! It’s time to prepare. It’s time to take in the harvest.”
    Remember when Jesus told the disciples to pray for workers because the harvest was plentiful, but the workers were few? We are the workers. We are the harvesters. But most of us are sleeping. Wake up!
    Paul wrote much the same thing to the church in Ephesus who was later convicted of forgetting their love for the Lord, “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14).
    Wake up and LOOK for opportunities to join Him in His work. What are those ways?
    1. Make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)
    2. Pray (um…the whole Bible!)
    3. Reap the harvest (Matthew 9:36-38)
He wants us to surrender, to wake up and listen and look for these opportunities and to stop falling asleep, stop looking away in other directions, stop being distracted.
    Keep watch, you will be pressed. Keep watch and pray, so you are not tempted. Wake up, and look for opportunities to join Him in His work.

1. Are you currently being pressed? If so, great! Consider what James 1:2-4 says about being pressed. If you cannot identify areas in your life where you are being pressed, is it because you need to wake up?

2. Read Ephesians 6:10-18 about the Armor of God. What is each piece? What is the importance of those pieces of Armor to you? How has that Armor helped you stand firm against temptation?

3. What opportunities do you have right now to partner with the Spirit in His work? What is He asking you to do to make disciples, to pray, and to join the harvest? This week, write one specific thing you can do to do Kingdom work.

 

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