Keeping Watch With Jesus

When you leave the eastern side of the old city of Jerusalem, you descend into the valley of the Brook Kidron. Once across the Kidron, you come upon the garden of Gethsemane—located at the base of the Mount of Olives and in the shadow of the temple mount and its eastern gate (also known as the Golden Gate). This becomes strategic because Ezekiel 44:1–3 tells us that only the Prince (Messiah) will be able to enter that gate, causing some scholars to believe that when Jesus the Messiah returns, He’ll enter Jerusalem through that gate. It’s appropriate, then, that Jesus would begin His passion in the view of the gate which most represents His final victory. That strategic reality gains added significance in that the Hebrew name for the eastern gate is the “gate of mercy.” Mercy secured through the sufferings of Christ that began in Gethsemane.[1]

I have had the honor of visiting this garden several times. I am always captivated by its beauty and view. My mind often wanders to the passage of Scripture when Jesus, facing His final days, took His disciples to the garden to pray (Matthew 26:36-46). He left nine at the entrance area and three journeyed with Him into the solitude of the garden, late at night. As we read the text, most of us quickly remember the fact that these poor, weary, tired fishermen fell asleep. Jesus confronts them with the question, “You could not stay awake one hour and pray with me?” I can, all too easily, see their determination to stay awake as Jesus returned to talk with His Father. They probably tried everything to stay awake. Maybe they talked with each other or tried to listen in to what Jesus was saying. In our time, they may have run out for a coffee or some other sort of highly-caffeinated drink, thinking it might help. But alas, it did not. Jesus returns only to find them sound asleep, once again. Let’s not be too hard on these poor guys. You and I both have fallen asleep in prayer or in church! We know how easy it is to allow our minds to wander off while in a time of prayer. Let’s gain some insight from this text.

In verses 36-38 we see Jesus’ Sorrow. The text tells us Jesus said, “My soul is deeply grieved”, and that He went a little further and fell on His face. He commanded His disciples to “keep watch”, which literally means to stay awake or be alert. Yet in their weariness, they dozed off. Jesus was deeply grieved because He was completely aware that as the sinless Savior, He must soon become sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was preparing for the cross knowing that the sin of us all was being placed upon Him.

Jesus understood the significance of talking with His Father, which is why He calls us to stay alert and seek the Father’s face.

In verses 39-45a, we see the Supplication of Jesus. We see His intensity and the disciples’ seeming indifference or self-centeredness. But Jesus understood the significance of talking with His Father, just as we need to stay alert and seek the Father’s face. Notice it is not about the eloquence of the language—Jesus agonized before the Father, and the only recording of that prayer time is, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will.” It was simple language which showed His heart and His surrender.

In the following part of the text (verses 45b-46) we see the Strength of Jesus. He comes out of His time with the Father and says, “Behold…get up, and let’s be going.” Jesus was not weakened or deterred by these events. Rather, with great confidence in His Father, He walked directly into the events which followed, showing us how we need to walk.

Let me encourage you today. Do not walk in defeat; walk in confidence. Do not use your past failure or sin to represent your seeming lack of concern; turn it into victory. We can walk in confidence in God, with spiritual vigilance, resisting temptation and clinging to obedience.

It is time for the Church to wake up, pray, and be faithful soldiers of the cross—for the Glory of Christ.

It is time for the Church—you and me— to stay alert, to wake up, pray, and be faithful soldiers of the cross for the Glory of Christ. Daniel Henderson often says, “Prayerlessness is my declaration of independence from God.” We can no longer afford the sinful luxury of prayerlessness. We must become the praying, dependent people that Christ has designed us to be. By the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, let us change the dilemma of prayerlessness into a victorious prayerful dependence and see what a holy God can do with a Church sold out for Christ.

Copyright © 2020 Lindsay Taylor. All rights reserved.

[1] Our Daily Bread, April 2020, J.R. Hudberg

Lindsay Taylor spent 37 years in pastoral ministry, serving in churches in both New Brunswick and Ontario, Canada. Lindsay now serves as President of Strategic Renewal Canada ( and works in partnership with Strategic Renewal and The 6.4 Fellowship. He and his wife Kathy have three adult children and reside on the eastern shores of New Brunswick.