Matthew 26: 46a Rise! Let us go!
My favourite movie genre is sports movies based on real life stories – stories which typically depict people doing extraordinary things, and overcoming extraordinary challenges. These stories inspire us to overcome, to rise again when we fall. I also enjoy watching inspirational videos posted online and if you are a runner, it is likely that you have watched a video about a University of Minnesota runner, Heather Dorniden. In 2008, in the final heat of the 600 metre (3 laps) at the Big Ten Indoor Track Championships, Heather had just taken the lead nearing the end of the second lap but then tripped and fell. The 600m race is an almost all-out sprint so within seconds she was easily 15 metres behind, a gap that is just too large to make up on an elite field with only a lap (200m) left. But I guess someone forgot to tell Heather.
Seconds after falling you see Heather remerging in the video picture at the bottom of the screen and much to the shock and delight of the commentators and the fans, she begins to close the gap on the other three runners. With 100m left she catches the third runner, with 30m left she catches the second runner and with a final burst of speed Heather catches the lead runner at the line. She had won. It was one of the gutsiest runs I have ever seen.
If you read today’s scripture in context you will see that it is set in Jesus’ darkest hours. This is when Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane knowing that his time of suffering and spiritual warfare was at hand. Referring to the same time, in Mark 14:34 Jesus says: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”. In this darkest of hours he had one request of his disciples, “keep watch”. This concept of keeping watch would be well known to the disciples. You would take turns sleeping knowing that others were awake guarding the camp from dangerous animals or even bandits in the night. Falling asleep at watch was the gravest of actions. We hear in verse Matthew 26:40 that Jesus returned and found them sleeping and again asked them to “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation”. A while later Jesus returned to again find them sleeping. To have done this once to Jesus was devastating, but to have done it twice was outright treacherous.
There is a great deal we could study and say about the disciples here relating to prayer, being on guard spiritually, but I simply want to focus on Jesus next words. There is no doubt that these men, especially a warrior like Peter, would have felt devastated that they could not physically keep their eyes open even “for one hour” (vs 40). But to me, the most powerful words come from Jesus in verse 46 “Rise! Let us go!”.
Like the disciples we are human and frail and we will fall, and we will fail Jesus. But then what? Do we stay down; do we stay in a place of regret, depression and remorse? No we repent (sincere sorrow for sin and turning back toward God) and then we rise. God has much too much for us to do as we work together to advance His Kingdom, and remaining on the ground only benefits the enemy Satan. So rise, and rise up quickly when you fall!