It really wasn't so difficult for the disciples to fall asleep in the garden; they were doing the same thing that Jesus had done in the boat. It was late. They were tired. They'd had a long stretch of ministry, and this seemed as good a time as any to catch up on a little sleep. The "expert" - the one Guy among them most qualified to pray - was praying.
And yet, three times, we see Jesus return to His sleeping disciples disappointed. Wake up! Wake up! The question here is...why?
In the boat, the disciples (at least, the four fishermen among them) were highly qualified to handle the waves. Although they were not successful at convincing the white-collar guys among them, Jesus trusted them wholeheartedly to secure the boat, even in the storm. Does that mean that they were capable of doing everything Jesus could do if He were awake?
Of course not. The disciples could steady the ship, but they could never calm the waves. They can sail through the storm, but they can't stop it. Only Jesus can speak to the wind.
In the garden, Jesus was highly qualified to handle His heart. He was the only one who could truly cry out to God; He was the only one who knew what was going on. The disciples trusted Jesus to manage events and anxieties. Does that mean Jesus was capable of doing everything the disciples could do?
Before you get all upset with me, thinking that I am claiming there is something the omnipotent, omnipresent Son of God cannot do, let me make clear that this is no failure on His part; it's not that He can't do it. It's that we won't let Him do it.
Not all the world is convinced by the Son of God. That's why He needs disciples.
There are persons in this world who need a little flesh every now and then. They need a living, breathing human being to come alongside them and "keep watch." Jesus, of course, is wholly capable of keeping watch, but an unbelieving world is not convinced. They need you and me to keep watch with them. Which is why Jesus says, Wake up!
There are persons in this world who will never hear the whispers of the Spirit because their ears just don't work that way. They can't hear Jesus praying in the Garden. And maybe you think that only God needs to hear such a prayer, but that's not true; we need it, too. Just imagine, for a moment, what is missing from the story of Jesus if we don't have that prayer, if we don't have that garden. It's essential. And yet, many among us will never hear it. That's why we must be awake. So that we can tell the story to those who can't hear the whisper. Persons can often hear our voice even when they can't hear God's. So Wake up!
There are persons in this world who are coming after Jesus. With a vengeance. They've got it out for Him. He can hear the mob forming, even while sleep invades our eyes. The torches are being lit; the swords are being drawn. If we, His disciples, cannot keep watch with Him, who can? If we will not, who will? Wake up!
And there are persons in this world who will sail in our boat and trust us wholeheartedly in the storm, even as they roll their eyes at the sleeping Jesus. This is just what they'd expect of Him in their unbelieving hearts. This is exactly the God they just can't buy into - this God who sleeps through the storm. And these very same persons will also come to us in the garden. And maybe in the garden, they find us sleeping and decide there's nothing else going on here, nothing happening deeper into the grove. Maybe they turn away, just a few short steps from discovering the true heart of God being poured out. Just a little ways away from the real Jesus.
Because we were sleeping. Because we weren't awake to tell them to take those next few steps. Because we didn't call them deeper into the garden. Because we didn't point them toward Jesus.
It's so easy for us to say that Jesus can handle it. That He, out of all others, is uniquely qualified to take care of things. And that is both true...and not true. There's work for us to do. There's work that only we can do (empowered, of course, by the Holy Spirit). There are persons all around us who will never hear the whisper if we are not awake to shout it for them. If we are not alert to tell them that just around the next corner, just a few more faithful steps away, God Himself is pouring out His heart for them. Beads of His sweat are hitting the ground as His broken heart bleeds through His very pores. Two, three, four more steps into the depths of the garden is the heart of God.