Do you believe that exercise is good for you? That we should really all do it? That you would be healthier, happier, and live a more productive life if you exercised and ate a healthier diet? Has a doctor or someone trained in nutrition ever suggested that you diet or exercise? Prescribed it even? Do you actually exercise every day? No? WHAT? But you know you need to! If you absolutely know that exercising is what you should be doing, then why aren’t you doing it?
Sometimes KNOWING what we should do, and actually doing it are two completely unrelated things. It isn’t that we are bad people; it is just that our weaknesses get in the way. Life gets busy and we have trouble following through.
By the time we get to this story in the Bible, being a follower of Christ had become a bit more difficult. Jesus had come under attack. His approach was being questioned by people of great importance. Just prior to going into the garden, Jesus and his followers had eaten a meal where Jesus had given almost coded warnings. He spoke of scary stuff. Betrayal. Death. Being separated. Dying. The disciples didn’t really understand what was going on, and they were starting to be concerned for their own safety. They believed that Jesus was the Son of God, and they knew that they should follow him. But now Jesus had taken them into a dark garden and told them to “just keep watch.” Plus, it had been a long day. SEVERAL long days, actually, and they were physically tired, and they all knew how long Jesus’ prayers could be! They were just supposed to sit and WATCH? Maybe just a little nap wouldn’t hurt.
We all have reasons why we don’t exercise. I have very legitimate reasons to NOT start that exercise program that I have been meaning to start for the last two years. It isn’t my fault really. I can’t help it. I just don’t have time. I have to go somewhere later and I can’t get all sweaty. My allergies, knee joints, asthma, tennis shoes, boyfriend, son, friends, pastor, heartburn, blisters, etc…. are bothering me! I don’t have proper clothes. It is too hot to go walking. It is too cold to go walking. If I just had a quiet treadmill in my house. I hate just walking on a treadmill at home; it is so boring!
We don’t just do this with exercise. I will start reading my Bible tomorrow. I will just skip church this one Sunday. I will start going to a Bible study next semester. I would volunteer for teaching Sunday school but I just don’t like children, the elderly, Church people in general! I will pray twice as long in the morning because I am just so tired tonight.
We struggle to interpret and understand exactly what it is that God is saying to us. The disciples didn’t have that problem. They had been studying under Jesus and had been taught how to live and what to do by Jesus himself. And on this particular night, they had Jesus Christ himself standing before them saying “I WANT YOU TO DO THIS!” They knew what Jesus wanted them to do; Jesus had made the instructions simple and short, “Stay here and keep watch!” Simple And Easy! And yet, they failed to complete the assignment Jesus had given them. When Jesus returned and found them sleeping, he said, “Could you not keep watch with me for ONE HOUR?” And he gave them another chance. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” And still, they failed. When Jesus returned a second time, they were sleeping again.
We all do this. I have already had one donut so I might as well have two. It will take so long to see the results, so what’s the point? I will eat whatever I want today, and tomorrow I won’t eat anything. For the disciples, they were scared. They didn’t really understand what was happening or the importance of the night. They almost slept in self-defense. We make excuses to feel better about what we choose not to do. “It’s not my fault. I can’t help it. I’ll just sleep.”
And this was with Jesus himself, the big guy, standing right in front of them and saying THIS IS WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO. If the disciples themselves, those personally trained by Jesus, couldn’t do what they knew was right, what was required of them, with Jesus himself standing physically in front of them plainly spelling out what it was they needed to do, if they couldn’t follow through and do the right thing, what hope is there for us to interpret scripture and prayer in our chaotic broken world and ever figure out how to follow God’s plan?
If the doctor who told you to exercise was standing beside you watching you eat the donut, they might just reach out and slap it out of your hand. Yell at you. Kick you in the shin. And then handcuff you to the treadmill until you put in five miles. At church, we send you two bulletins, we email you and post announcements on Facebook, and sometimes even visit your house to offer you opportunities to join Bible study, volunteer to serve, or just attend church. But after finding the disciples sleeping the second time, Jesus took a different approach. He didn’t yell. He didn’t send them back for more training. He didn’t give up and tell them that he hoped they had kids of their own one day who wouldn’t do what they were told. Jesus did something remarkably effective. He simply said, “Rise! Let us go.”
Jesus’ answer on how to deal with disciples who continued to fail in completing the assignment they had been given, who were not doing what they had been told to do, what they knew they needed to do, was simple. No yelling. No accusations. No punishments. No excuses. Just Rise! Let us go.
The answer is really simple for us too. Just go.
Put on whatever tennis shoes are in the house and get on the treadmill. Just stand on it if that is all you can do, but Rise and go.
Walk outside and to the end of your driveway. Turn around and come back. It may not be much, but it is more than you did yesterday. Rise and go.
Put down the half eaten donut the moment you realize you didn’t really need it. Half a donut off your diet is better than three donuts off your diet any day! Rise and go.
If you slept in and didn’t make it to Sunday school, show up for service only. Any worship and fellowship is better than none. Rise and go.
If you forgot to read the Bible yesterday, or last week, or last year, pick it up and read one verse. Tomorrow you can ready two. Rise and go.
Say you will take a turn teaching a children’s Sunday school class, cooking for the homeless, attending a small group. You may not love it and no one will force you do do it again if you hate it, buut what if God’s blessing is waiting for you there, and you can’t see it because you won’t rise and go.
We are not perfect. And if the very disciples of Jesus couldn’t overcome their weaknesses to do as Jesus told them to do, we are certainly going to be weak and fail as well. But Jesus doesn’t say we have to be perfect. When it comes to following his plan, he only had one requirement.
Rise! And go!
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, “Stay here while I go and pray over there.” 37 When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. 38 Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.”39 Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”
40 He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter,“Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? 41 Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.” 42 A second time he went away and prayed, “My Father, if it’s not possible that this cup be taken away unless I drink it, then let it be what you want.”
43 Again he came and found them sleeping. Their eyes were heavy with sleep.44 But he left them and again went and prayed the same words for the third time. 45 Then he came to his disciples and said to them, “Will you sleep and rest all night? Look, the time has come for the Human One to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up. Let’s go…