The setting sun played hide and seek across the western cleft of the little valley, casting its lengthening shadows upon the garden wall. An occasional slight breeze fingered the evening’s canopy of vaporous mist into filmy strands that settled in the treetops. Nearby, water, from a hidden spring, murmured softly. Like the whisper of a solitary voice carried along on the wind, its soft cadence entreated any lingering garden guest to “stay…stay…stay”. The last bit of the day’s warmth was snatched away by the evening sky as the packed earth grew cold to the touch. All that had been golden and beautiful, splayed in the warmth of the afternoon sun, now appeared haunting and unnerving as final shadows quickly turned into darkness.
Along the garden path came one solitary man, followed by eleven others. He was clothed from head to toe in a cloak that was drawn tightly about Him, revealing nothing of His appearance, save that of His face. As He held his torchlight aloft, its flickering luminescence danced across His countenance, revealing the visage of a youngish man. A second glance revealed a face, drawn, as if from the weight of cares and etched with deep sadness. The man walked quickly, looking neither to the left, nor to the right, until He came to a full stop at the opening of a small copse of trees. He slowly turned and spoke, as one accustomed to taking authority. “My brethren, tarry here a while and pray for Me, until I return.” His measured glance met each man’s gaze. “Surely”, He thought, “these whom you have given to me…my brothers…my closest friends… will willingly support me in My darkest hour.” His Father’s voice broke through His musings and spoke into His heart with great empathy, “My Son, their spirits are willing, but their flesh is weak. They will not uphold you in this, Your greatest hour of need.” Sadly, this man, called Jesus, turned about and entered the copse.
Those who had accompanied Him, settled down and propped themselves against whatever they could find…intending to wait…intending to pray. Full stomached and mellowed from sweet wine, their eyes grew heavy and, one by one, sleep overtook them. Deep within the small, sheltered circle of trees, the Son of Man fell to His knees and wept, as it were, great drops of blood. He was filled with dread at the knowledge of His rapidly approaching death. Sometime later, He rose and journeyed a short way back to the place where His friends were keeping vigil. How great His feeling of abandonment must have been at what Jesus saw there. For not one man remained awake, to comfort Him. The noise of a solitary cricket punctuated the silence of the now pitch black of night. After gently rebuking His disciples, the Lord returned unto His place of prayer.
Perhaps if even one or two of Jesus’ closest friends had remained vigilant, He might have been afforded some small measure of comfort during those final hours. What if just a few moments of intercessory prayer from the lips of John, the beloved, could have spared the Savior the pain of even one thorn, as it pierced His precious head? Could not Peter have postponed slumber long enough to plead for God’s mercy upon the man to whom he had foresworn fealty unto death? Consider that such a prayer might have afforded the Lord, even brief respite from the constant torment of His broken body. Instead, the Incarnate Christ suffered the full intensity of the agony of slow death by asphyxiation.
How frequently do we really grasp the potential of just one purposeful heart, surrendered by a willing spirit? Too often, like the little ragtag band of disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, we prop ourselves up on the circumstantial pieces of our lives and wait for life to somehow “flesh out” God’s plan. Because they slept, Christ’s most intimate friends missed out on the greatest opportunity that they would ever have; to willingly offer the gift of a few moments in prayer for the One who was about to give the greatest gift of all.